National Recovery Month: Drug and Alcohol Addiction

OBrien_Charles_featThe month of September is dedicated to raising awareness about recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. This month, we interviewed Dana Alliance member Charles O’Brien, M.D., Ph.D., who founded the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Addiction Treatment. For more than thirty years, O’Brien has worked to improve addiction treatment and has made many breakthroughs regarding the clinical aspects of addiction and the neurobiology of relapse.

In your opinion, what is the most common misconception about drug and alcohol addiction?

Most physicians learn very little about addictive disorders in medical school or residency. Rather than being considered a disease of the brain, most see it as bad behavior. They don’t know that there are FDA approved medications and that patients do respond to treatment, even though “cures” are rare.

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NIMH Director Thomas Insel Moves to Google Life Sciences

guest post by Kayt Sukel

800px-Thomas_Insel_NIMH_2011Earlier this week, the neuroscience community learned that Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), member of the Dana Alliance’s Executive Committee, and longtime champion of brain research, was leaving his post to take a new position at Google Life Sciences (GLS). Many reacted to Insel’s move with surprise, even shock. How could such an innovative researcher move to the private sector—and to a technology company at that?  But Insel says that technology players are going to play an increasingly important role in our understanding—and management—of mental health disorders. He spoke with the Dana Foundation about why understanding the brain has to be a team effort, the potential power of data analytics, and how all the players can work together to further our goals regarding mental health.

Many were surprised by the news that you are heading to GLS, as opposed to back to academia or to another government position. What drew you to the technology sector?

Insel:  Historically, we’ve seen pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology companies work in this space. But now, technology companies like IBM, Apple, GE, and Google are coming to the table with their own strengths. And that’s a good thing. The fact is, we’re all focused on the same ultimate goal:  What will it take to make a big difference for people with schizophrenia, autism, depression, Alzheimer’s, and other mental health disorders?  We haven’t been able to bend the curve, so far, with the kind of research we’ve historically done. So it became clear to me that we’re going to have to do something very different to make that difference. I can understand that some people get anxious when they see someone from NIH leave to join a tech company. But I’m excited about going to GLS, a place where they are very interested in trying something very different.

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Celebrate May with Healthy Vision

Photo courtesy of the National Eye Institute

Photo courtesy of the National Eye Institute

May is national “Healthy Vision Month,” so we spoke with Emily Chew, M.D. from the National Eye Institute (NEI) to learn more about visual impairment and what we can do to prevent it. As deputy clinical

director, Chew works one-on-one with patients and conducts research in diabetic eye disease and age-related eye diseases, among other ocular diseases.  Continue reading

Fear and Resilience in Brainwave’s “Capturing Conflict”

In 2011, photojournalist Lynsey Addario was covering the civil war in Libya when her team was “ripped out” of their jeep by Moammar Gadhafi’s troops. After enduring one week of being bound up, tortured, and continually threatened with execution, Addario and her teammates were released. Despite being kidnapped twice (once in Libya, once in Iraq), caught in an ambush in Afghanistan, and witnessing the destitution of famine and war, Addario exhibits not a single trace of trauma. What is it that makes some of us more resilient than others in times of extreme panic or fear?

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National Geographic Features Split-Brain Pioneer

For more than fifty years, DABI member Michael Gazzaniga, Ph.D., has been working towards fostering our understanding of the human brain. During the summer of 1964, he worked under neurobiologist Roger Sperry at the California Institute of Technology and contributed to a discovery that is now considered “legendary” in the field of brain science.

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