Affective Neuroscience

Examples of pioneering research and practical application of Neuroscience of Mental Health:

Folic Acid Supplements in Suicide Prevention Efforts (Translational Neuroscience)

Suicide in the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the U.K. and a leading cause of death in the U.S. A study carried out at the University of Chicago may add Folic Acid Supplements alongside existing interventions, including peer and economic support, psychotherapy and medications like antidepressants and mood stabilisers.

Scientists have discovered a beneficial association between taking folic acid supplements (vitamin B9) over a 24-month period, and a reduction in suicidal events (defined as intentional self-harm and suicide attempts). If confirmed, folic acid supplements may be an inexpensive, safe and accessible intervention for reducing self-harm and suicide events and seeing a reversal in the suicide burden of disease (morbidity and mortality).

RESEARCH PAPER: Association Between Folic Acid Prescription Fills and Suicide Events

Blood Tests to Diagnose Psychiatric Conditions (Neuroscience Collaboration)

While current diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric conditions is based on longstanding diagnostic criteria (DSM-V or ICD-11) defining psychiatric symptoms and dimensions of particular conditions, there is no objective measure for diagnosis in clinical settings, such as blood tests. Researchers are asking if blood-based biomarker research might bring new possibilities for a more precision medicine in psychiatry approach to diagnosis and prevention?

A breakthrough piece of research by Stark Neuroscience Research Institute, Indiana University School of Medicine shedding light on the biological basis of mood disorders, have put forward promising blood tests that can distinguish severity of an individual’s depression or bipolar symptomology, and predict risk for progression of severity of these conditions at a later point. 

More recent studies has identified blood gene expression biomarkers that track suicidality, stress disorders, memory/Alzheimer’s disease and pain. 

Ultimately, such blood tests could also assist in tailoring individual options for therapeutic interventions in prevention.

RESEARCH PAPER: Precision medicine for mood disorders

Repurposed Drugs for Psychiatric Disorders (Neuro-molecular Psychiatry)

We know that neural communications (brain cells electrochemical messaging) in the brain and nervous system can become disrupted or dis-organised, due to exposure to persistent trauma from the environment. Such as in war zones or front line work in the NHS and emergency services.

Researchers asked, is it possible to enhance resilience to stress by adapting Ketamine (anesthesia agent used in controlling a temporary loss of awareness in surgery) as a  ‘buffer’ for stress-induced-responsive psychiatric conditions? Reducing the risk of acute syndromes turning to chronic conditions, including Generalised Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Major Depression Disorder.

Working in preventative pharmacology, the notion of re-purposing existing drug treatments for new therapeutic uses is compelling, and has changed thinking around what’s possible:

TED TALK: Could a drug prevent depression and PTSD? | Rebecca Brachman

RESEARCH PAPER: Can Ketamine Enhance Resilience to Stress