A “Circuits-First” Approach to Mental Illness
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) to develop novel circuit-based therapeutics. I will discuss work in the lab defining the neural circuit abnormalities associated with psychiatric disorders as a whole, as well as specific changes associated with particular mood and anxiety disorders (and subgroups within them). I will then examine the mechanisms of current medication, psychotherapy and brain stimulation treatments within the context of a circuit-based understanding. Finally, I will describe new methods for direct and non-invasive probing and manipulation of circuits and insights that this brings 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 use of symptom checklists for diagnosis, and one-size-fits all treatment with the psychopharmacological and psychotherapeutic tools currently available.
Dr. Amit Etkin is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.
This event is open to the public.