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Dr. Michael Travis has spent the last 15+ years working to better integrate neuroscience into medical education and has recently spurred a collaborative effort to do just that. Dr. Travis worked with colleagues who share his philosophy from Columbia, Yale, and Brown to create the National Neuroscience Curriculum Initiative (NNCI). This NIH-funded effort brings together clinician educators from across North America to help develop and disseminate teaching resources intended to improve clinical neuroscience training in psychiatry. The NNCI’s guiding principles are to: maintain a patient-centered approach; use evidence-based principles of adult learning, eschewing traditional lecture formats in favor of innovative and experiential teaching and learning exercises; and create neuroscience-focused teaching materials that can be implemented by anyone, anywhere. More than 100 training programs use NNCI materials.

As a result of the NNCI’s work, Dr. Travis co-wrote a group of articles for JAMA Psychiatry along with Dr. Melissa R. Arbuckle, MD, PhD (Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center and New York State Psychiatric Institute), David A. Ross, MD, PhD (Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine), and several other colleagues.

A Viewpoint article “Integrating a Neuroscience Perspective Into Clinical Psychiatry Today” (published online April 2017) co-written with Drs. Arbuckle and Ross discusses how new tools and approaches in neuroscience have immensely improved the ability to understand the biological underpinnings of psychiatric illness. The editorial states that, as distinctions between “psychological” and “biological” fade, a new framework for drawing together the seemingly diverse perspectives of traditional biopsychosocial formulation emerges. “They [frameworks] ground psychiatric disorders and associated maladaptive behaviors in the context of a brain disease and away from issues of character and moral fiber that often drive the shame, blame, and stigma many patients face.” The importance of incorporating neuroscience teaching into psychiatry curricula is widely supported.

Dr. Travis also co-wrote the journal’s inaugural Education Review “An Integrated Neuroscience Perspective on Formulation and Treatment Planning for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder,” (published online March 2017) again with Drs. Ross and Arbuckle, along with Jennifer Dwyer, MD, PhD and Gerrit I. van Schalkwyk, MB, ChB (Department of Psychiatry and Child Study Center, Yale School of Medicine, Yale University) and Dr. Kerry J. Ressler, MD, PhD (McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School). The authors present a contemporary approach for incorporating a modern neuroscience perspective into an integrative case formulation for PTSD. The article presents key neuroscience “themes” most relevant for PTSD and highlights how biological, psychological, and social perspectives intersect with the current understanding of neuroscience. These perspectives contribute to an integrative, neuroscience-informed approach to case formulation and treatment planning to help bridge the gap between the traditionally distinct viewpoints of clinicians and researchers.

Drs. Travis, Ross, and Arbuckle also presented a Psychiatry Clinical Challenge for the journal. “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in a Young Adult Military Veteran” (published online April 2017) details the history, traumatic experiences, symptoms, and treatment of a man who had served in the military for four years and Iraq for six months and had been diagnosed with PTSD. Several treatments, including trauma-focused psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy are discussed. Given limitations some treatments present, expanding knowledge of the underlying biological mechanisms that contribute to the development of PTSD is critical to identifying and developing more effective treatments.