Steven Hyman Talks Drug Treatments for Mental Disorders

Dana Foundation Board member and Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives member Steven Hyman, Ph.D., was interviewed by the Boston Globe yesterday. In the Q&A, Dr. Hyman, who is the director of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute, discusses the state of neuropsychopharmacology and the challenges involved in treating mental disorders such as schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression.

From the interview:

Q. Why is it so difficult to make progress against these conditions?

A. The human brain is the most challenging object that human science has ever undertaken in its complexity, diversity person-to-person; it is relatively unique in nature and hidden inviolably behind a bony skull. When we see the human brain, it is indirectly through imaging. And animal models of human behavior, the classic rodent models, have been poor as real disease models. That’s one of the reasons the pharmaceutical industry is exiting [drug development for these conditions]. They don’t believe there’s an animal model of schizophrenia or depression that would predict the efficacy of a new class of compounds.

Q. So, what progress can you make at the Broad Institute, which is known for its expertise in genetics?

A. One of the clues to these disorders is that they run with great strength in families. You’ll have a family with schizophrenia, but there will be people in the family who also have mood disorders. What we are learning is that the genetic contributors to autism, to schizophrenia, to bipolar, to ADHD, to abnormal brain development, result from many, many different genes – maybe many hundreds of genes in aggregate. Many of these genes are shared across different diagnoses.

Click here to read the complete interview.

 –Ann L. Whitman

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