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BBRF Breakthroughs

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (BBRF) has recognized two Department of Psychiatry researchers as part of its Top 10 Advancements & Breakthroughs of 2016 by researchers supported by NARSAD grants.  

"The top 10 discoveries were selected because of their significant contributions to our understanding of brain and behavior disorders as well as potential new treatments," said Jeffrey Borenstein, MD, BBRF president and CEO. "We are proud to be able to say that NARSAD Grants support a broad range of the best ideas in brain research and that our grantees have taken substantial steps forward on the path to developing new treatments and finding cures for mental illness."

Holly Swartz, MD is the recipient of a NARSAD Young Investigator Award.  Her findings indicate that a brief course of psychotherapy benefits mothers with major depression and their children.  In an article appearing in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Dr. Swartz reported that children whose mothers have depression are more likely than others to develop childhood psychiatric illnesses, but that these offspring do better when their mothers are treated for depression and their symptoms improve. While similar past studies only involved women whose depression was treated with medication, Dr. Swartz’s project examined 168 mothers who participated in nine 45-minute psychotherapy sessions over three months. For one group, the therapy was specifically focused on the mother's relationship with her child; while a second group of women had a more general form of therapy. Treatments helped all mothers, but those children whose mothers were in the former group had fewer mental health visits and were prescribed fewer antidepressant medications during the study than children whose mothers underwent the general therapy. 

In a study of patients with treatment-resistant depression supported by her NARSAD Young Investigator Award, Lisa Pan, MD, found that treating metabolic problems improves symptoms of some patients with refractory depression.  Approximately two-thirds of participants had metabolic deficiencies that affect the brain's ability to produce neurotransmitters. Participants' depression symptoms declined significantly when these metabolic problems were treated and some of them reached remission. The most common metabolic deficiencies observed in participants was in levels of cerebral folate, which is treatable with folinic acid. Dr. Pan and her colleagues published their findings in an article appearing in the American Journal of Psychiatry.