The Laboratory of Translational Psychiatry utilizes clinically relevant animal models of psychiatric pathology combined with data from human subjects to better understand the neurobiology underlying psychiatric pathologies. Ultimately, we seek to develop lines of investigation with high potential for translation into treatments for psychiatric patient populations.
In the modern practice of psychiatry the existing treatments for psychiatric pathologies are inadequate for many of our patients. As a practicing psychiatrist I have been fortunate to share in the sense of relief that patients feel when the appropriate treatment is found, finally bringing relief of their symptoms and restoring their life to a semblance of normalcy. Unfortunately, I have also felt the frustration of so many for whom this relief remains elusive. A major difficulty in developing new treatments for patients with psychiatric disease is rooted in our incomplete understanding of the brain and its function. The neurobiology of behavior is tremendously complex, and involves interplay of neural circuits, glial function, endocrine and immune function among others. Work in the laboratory is focused on clarifying the underlying molecular causes of mental illness, while always keeping in mind the ultimate goal of improving the health and well being of patients with mental illness.
Our current lines of research focus on the role of neuroimmune interactions and the gut microbiome in the development and propagation of addictive disorders, depression, and autism spectrum disorder. In recent years it has become clear that brain-immune system interactions in psychiatric pathology are more complex and important than previously understood. As one of the key effectors of immune system development and function the gut microbiome is a key player in these interactions via the so-called gut-immune-brain axis. While modulators of inflammation or the gut microbiome have not yet been translated into tractable treatment strategies for patients, we believe there is tremendous therapeutic potential of immunomodulatory agents and these lines of research will seek to clarify how they may be utilized.