In 2023, Rebecca won The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation’s Young Investigator Grant.
Below, Rebecca discusses how the grant and her trans-diagnostic approach to research will help advance a personalized-medicine approach to treating PTSD and co-morbid conditions.
What inspired you to apply for The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation’s Young Investigator Grant?
The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (BBRF) seeks to alleviate suffering caused by mental illness by supporting scientific research that has the potential to lead to breakthroughs in our understanding of the causes of brain disorders and develop new ways to treat them. As such, their mission aligns with our goals here at Cohen Veterans Bioscience, where our data science team is developing new approaches for the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD and TBI. The Young Investigator Grant supports researchers at the beginning of their careers, who are at the cutting edge of progress in brain and psychiatric research. I am very excited to have been awarded this opportunity, which will support my work into the transdiagnostic nature of PTSD through multimodal neuroimaging analysis over the next two years.
Tell us about your research proposal, Multimodal Analysis of Brain Connectivity in Psychiatric Disorders: A Transdiagnostic Approach:
My research proposal takes a trans-diagnostic approach to elucidate how trauma impacts brain function and connectivity in posttraumatic stress disorder. Given the complexity of PTSD presentation, the high comorbidity rate, and the overlap with depression and anxiety disorders on multiple clinical measures, it is essential to move beyond the clinical boxes defined in the DSM-5 to better capture the underlying biological etiology of the impact of traumatic experiences on brain function. My analysis aims to combine brain connectivity data from both EEG and fMRI to derive a modality-independent brain connectivity metric, which can be used to relate individual patients to various clinical and self-report measures, irrespective of their specific diagnosis. Ultimately, I will investigate whether differences in brain connectivity impact treatment outcome, with the goal of developing personalized medicine approaches to treatment recommendation.
How do you hope the grant will advance your research, and what impact will this research have on the neurobiological research field?
The young investigator award provides support for my research over a two-year period. The funding will allow access to essential computational resources for the processing and storage of neuroimaging and associated subject data, as well as advanced analysis. My goal is to elucidate alterations in brain function underlying symptom clusters that span PTSD, depression, anxiety disorders, and TBI, with the ultimate goal of improving treatment for these disorders. Understanding the biological basis driving symptom presentation is key for the development of novel therapeutics. Through this research, I hope to move the field closer to being able to group patients based on biological features as opposed to clinical diagnosis, that will allow for a more targeted therapeutic approach.
Cohen Veterans Bioscience is a non-profit 501(c)(3) biomedical research and technology organization dedicated to advancing brain health by fast-tracking precision diagnostics and tailored therapeutics.