Neural Circuits as Substrates of Mental Illness and Targets for Therapeutics

Over the past two decades, neuroimaging studies have defined a set of distributed brain systems that contribute to cognition, emotion, mood, and other mental processes. Perturbations in these circuits have been identified in different ways across psychiatric disorders. The challenge ahead of us is how to use these insights to: 1) understand the nature of neural circuit deficits in mental illnesses and their relevance for existing treatments, and 2) develop novel circuit-based therapeutics.

In this webinar, Dr. Etkin discussed work in the lab defining the neural circuit abnormalities associated with psychiatric disorders as a whole, as well as specific abnormalities associated with particular mood and anxiety disorders, as well as subgroups within them. Dr. Etkin then examined the mechanisms of current medications, psychotherapy, and brain stimulation treatments within the context of a circuit-based understanding of these psychiatric disorders.

Lastly, Dr. Etkin described new methods for direct and non-invasive probing and manipulation of circuits, plus insights that these bring for the development of new circuit-targeting therapeutics. Together, these data suggest that we are now on the brink of innovations in “rational” circuit-based diagnosis and treatments for mental illness. Success down this path will take us beyond the use of symptom checklists for diagnosis and the one-size-fits all approach to treatment with the psychopharmacological and psychotherapeutic tools currently available.

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Webinar originally hosted Tuesday, April 19, 2016, at 12pm noon ET
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About Amit Etkin, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University

Amit Etkin, MD, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, and an Investigator in the VA Sierra-Pacific Mental Illness Research Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC) at the Palo Alto VA. Dr. Etkin received his MD/PhD at Columbia University studying with Nobel Laureate Dr. Eric Kandel, completed his psychiatry residency and concurrent post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford University with Dr. Alan Schatzberg, and joined the faculty at Stanford in 2009. He has been awarded the BRAINS (Biobehavioral Research Award for Innovative New Scientists) R01 Award from the National Institute of Mental Health and a Dana Neuroscience Scholar Award from the Dana Foundation. In addition, Dr. Ektin serves as chair of the Scientific Program Committee for the Society of Biological Psychiatry, is the Associate Editor at Neuropsychopharmacology, and is a member of numerous editorial boards in the area of neuropsychiatry, computational psychiatry, and mood disorders.

The overarching aim of the Etkin lab is to understand the neural basis of emotional disorders and their treatment, and to leverage this knowledge to develop novel treatment interventions.

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