Molecular Imaging and Neuropathology

The Molecular Imaging & Neuropathology Division uses a multidisciplinary translational research approach to psychiatric research in order to examine the biological substrates of mental illness with emphasis on mood disorders and suicidal behavior. The research spans the spectrum from basic cell biology to in vivo imaging, molecular genetics, and even treatment trials. Research within the Division is supported principally by National Institutes of Health and including a recently awarded Conte Translational Neuroscience Center for the Study of Suicide Behavior, the only such Federally funded suicide research center in the country. The Molecular Imaging & Neuropathology Division includes the Moody Center for the Study of Early Onset Bipolar Disorder, headed by Maria Oquendo. This center seeks to use functional MR and genetics to detect early onset bipolar disorder as a step towards preventative interventions. The Statistics and Data Management Group of the Molecular Imaging & Neuropathology Division (M.I.N.D.) provides data entry and retrieval services and statistical consulting to investigators in M.I.N.D.

The specific research areas include neuroanatomical mapping, quantitative morphometric and gene expression studies and postmortem brain studies of psychiatric disorders. Recent efforts include a program of research to study the mechanisms by which genes and environment interact in the genesis of psychopathology. Whole genome studies of mood disorders and suicidal behavior are being conducted. Treatment studies focus on prevention of suicidal behavior and the use of biomarkers to predict antidepressant treatment response. The biomarkers are from brain imaging studies and genetics. Most of the external research funding for the Division comes from the National Institutes of Health. In addition to carrying out research, the Division provides neuropathology services to the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH), and is a resource for suicide prevention expertise.

The Neuropathology Group within the Division maintains an archival collection of brain tissue critical to carrying out research that, for example, helps elucidate the triggers for suicide in some depressed individuals, identifies neuropathology associated with cognitive deficits in schizophrenia and determines the cytoarchitectonic and neurochemical and epigenetic changes in mood disorders.

The Brain Imaging Group conducts functional and structural brain imaging studies in animals and human subjects. This subdivision develops novel PET ligands for monoamine receptors, enzymes and transporters, and also amyloid protein and peptide receptors. It studies disease processes, effects of gene variants and childhood adversity on brain biology in mood disorders, anxiety disorders including PTSD and suicidal behavior, biologic predictors of antidepressant treatment outcome and the use of biomarkers for studies of drug effect and the relationship of drug actions to occupancy of the sites of action.

For more information about research studies in our division offering free treatment, please visit our site: M.I.N.D. Clinic for Mood and Personality Disorders.

Head of Research Division

J. John Mann, MD, Chief