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New Frontiers in the Neurobiology of Mental Illness

New Frontiers in the Neurobiology of Mental Illness

Friday, October 10, 2014

The New York Academy of Sciences

Presented By

Presented by the New York Academy of Sciences


One in four Americans suffers from mental illness such as schizophrenia, depression, fear and anxiety disorders, autism, and other psychiatric disorders. These numbers pose an enormous socioeconomic burden: adult suicide rates are rising steadily; many at-risk mentally ill patients experience homelessness and incarceration rather than hospitalization; and global costs of mental illness—which often affect otherwise healthy, working-age adults—are estimated to exceed US$16 trillion by 2030.

Today, prevention and better treatment of mental illness may finally be within reach due to recent breakthroughs in neuroscience—vastly improving our understanding of the genetic, epigenetic, molecular, and cellular mechanisms; structure; and neuronal circuitry underlying normal and pathological brain function. This conference will explore the translation of these findings into pharmacological, psychotherapeutic, and other interventions to improve mental health. A keynote lecture by The Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy will address strategies to simultaneously abolish the stigma surrounding mental illness in order to fully realize the new treatments’ potential.

Registration Pricing

Symposium registration is free. Although on-site registration may be possible on the day of the event, pre-registration is highly encouraged due to space limitations.

Platinum Sponsors

  • Janssen
  • Johnson & Johnson


* Presentation titles and times are subject to change.

October 10, 2014

8:00 AM

Registration and Breakfast

9:00 AM

Welcome Remarks
Brooke Grindlinger, PhD, The New York Academy of Sciences

9:15 AM

The Quest to Make a Real Difference: the Science of Mental Illness
Husseini Manji, MD, FRCPC, Janssen Research & Development, LLC

9:50 AM

Audience Q&A

10:00 AM

Holistic Care Approaches For Schizophrenia
John M. Kane, MD, The Zucker Hillside Hospital and Hofstra North Shore - LIJ School of Medicine

10:30 AM

Audience Q&A

10:40 AM

Networking Coffee Break

11:10 AM

The Development of Rapidly Acting Treatments for Severe Depression
Dennis S. Charney, MD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

11:40 AM

Audience Q&A

11:50 AM

Understanding the Social Brain in Autism
Fred R. Volkmar, MD, Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine

12:20 PM

Audience Q&A

12:30 PM

Networking Luncheon

1:45 PM

New Approaches to Treating Disorders of Fear and Anxiety
Barbara O. Rothbaum, PhD, ABPP, Emory University School of Medicine

2:15 PM

Audience Q&A

2:25 PM

Keynote Address
Mental Illness: The Civil Rights Movement of our Time
The Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy, Former United States Representative, Rhode Island; One Mind for Research; and Kennedy Forum

2:55 PM

Audience Q&A

3:10 PM

Closing Remarks

3:15 PM

Symposium Adjourns


Keynote Speaker

The Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy

Former United States Representative, Rhode Island
Co-Founder, One Mind for Research
Founder, Kennedy Forum

Representative Patrick Kennedy served 16 years in the US House of Representatives, and is predominantly known as author and lead sponsor of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. This dramatic piece of legislation provides tens of millions of Americans who were previously denied care with access to mental health treatment.

Now, Rep. Kennedy is the co-founder of One Mind for Research, a national coalition seeking new treatments and cures for neurologic and psychiatric diseases of the brain afflicting one in every three Americans. One Mind for Research is dedicated to dramatic enhancements in funding and collaboration in research across all brain disorders in the next decade. This historic grassroots endeavor unites efforts of scientists, research universities, government agencies, and industry and advocacy organizations not only across the country, but throughout the world. Rep. Kennedy is bringing everyone together to design the first blueprint of basic neuroscience, to guide efforts in seeking cures for neurological disorders affecting Americans.

Rep. Kennedy is the founder of the Kennedy Forum on Community Mental Health which served as a vehicle to celebrate the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's signing of the Community Mental Health Act, the landmark bill that laid the foundation of contemporary mental health policy and provided Rep. Kennedy with the platform to launch a bold, ongoing effort to advance the work President Kennedy began. The Kennedy Forum continues to advocate for mental health parity.

Rep. Kennedy has authored and co-sponsored dozens of bills to increase the understanding and treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders, including the National Neurotechnology Initiative Act, the Genomics and Personalized Medicine Act, the COMBAT PTSD Act, and the Alzheimer's Treatment and Caregiver Support Act.

Rep. Kennedy is a winner of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Distinguished Service Award, the Society for Neuroscience Public Service Award, the Peter C. Alderman Foundation Humanitarian Award, Centennial Award from the Clifford Beers Foundation, the Autism Society of America Congressional Leadership Award, the Depression and BiPolar Support Paul Wellstone Mental Health Award, the Epilepsy Foundation Public Service Award and has been recognized by many organizations for his mental health advocacy. In 2014, he is being recognized by the Society of Biological Psychiatry, The Samaritan Institute, and The Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse (AMERSA).

He is also founder of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus and the 21st Century Healthcare Caucus, as well as an honorary board member of SAM-Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

Rep. Kennedy lives in Brigantine, NJ, with his wife, Amy, and their three children.


Dennis S. Charney, MD

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Dennis S. Charney, MD, is Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and President for Academic Affairs for the Mount Sinai Health System. He is also a world expert in the neurobiology and treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, making fundamental contributions to the understanding of the causes of human anxiety, fear and depression and the discovery of new treatment for mood and anxiety disorders.

Since Dr. Charney was named Dean in 2004, the Icahn School of Medicine has risen to, and has maintained, its strength among the top 20 institutions in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, and it currently ranks fifth in funding per faculty member from the NIH and other sources. With a long track record of strategic recruitments across the biomedical sciences and in genomics, computational biology, entrepreneurship, and information technology, Mount Sinai has cultivated a supercharged, Silicon Valley-like atmosphere in the academic setting. The Icahn School of Medicine is also consistently listed among the top 20 medical schools in the country according to U.S. News & World Report, and in 2009, it received the Spencer Foreman Award for Outstanding Community Service from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

John M. Kane, MD

The Zucker Hillside Hospital

John M. Kane, MD is Vice President for Behavioral Health Services of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System and Chairman of Psychiatry at The Zucker Hillside Hospital. He is Chairman of Psychiatry and Professor of Psychiatry and Molecular Medicine at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. Dr Kane received his BA from Cornell University and his MD from the New York University School of Medicine. He currently directs the NIMH-funded Advanced Center for Interventions and Services Research in Schizophrenia at The Zucker Hillside Hospital. He has been a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors for NIMH, and he has served on the council of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. He has chaired the NIMH Psychopathology and Psychobiology Review Committee as well as the Psychopharmacologic Drugs Advisory Committee of the Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. Kane is a recipient of the Arthur P. Noyes Award in Schizophrenia, the NAPPH Presidential Award for Research, the American Psychiatric Association Foundations' Fund Prize for Research, the Kempf Fund Award for Research Development in Psychobiological Psychiatry, the Lieber Prize for Outstanding Research in Schizophrenia, the Heinz E. Lehmann Research Award from New York State, and the Dean Award from the American College of Psychiatrists.

Husseini Manji, MD, FRCPC

Janssen Research & Development, LLC

Husseini K. Manji, MD, FRCPC is the Global Therapeutic Head for Neuroscience at Janssen Research & Development, LLC, one of the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical companies. He was previously Chief, Laboratory of Molecular Pathophysiology & Experimental Therapeutics, NIH, and director of the NIH Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program, the largest program of its kind in the world.  He is also a visiting professor at Duke University. Dr. Manji received his B.S. (Biochemistry) and M.D. from the University of British Columbia. Following residency training, he completed fellowship training at the NIMH and obtained extensive additional training in cellular and molecular biology at the NIDDK. The major focus of his research has been the investigation of disease- and treatment-induced changes in gene and protein networks that regulate synaptic and neural plasticity in neuropsychiatric disorders. His work has helped to conceptualize these illnesses as genetically-influenced disorders of synaptic and neural plasticity, and has led to the investigation of novel therapeutics for refractory patients. He has also been actively involved in the development of biomarkers to help refine these multifactoral diseases into mechanism-based subcategories to develop targeted therapeutics. Dr. Manji is a previous recipient of numerous research and clinical awards, including the NIMH Director's Career Award for Significant Scientific Achievement, the A. E. Bennett Award for Neuropsychiatric Research, the Ziskind-Somerfeld Award for Neuropsychiatric Research, the NARSAD Mood Disorders Prize, the Mogens Schou Distinguished Research Award, the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP)’s Joel Elkes award for distinguished research, the Canadian Association of Professors Award, the Brown University School of Medicine Distinguished Researcher Award, the DBSA Klerman Senior Distinguished Researcher Award, the American Federation for Aging Research Award of Distinction, the Global Health & The Arts Award of Recognition, and the NIMH award for excellence in clinical care and research.

In addition to his neuroscience research, and biomarker and therapeutics development endeavors, Dr. Manji has also been actively involved in medical and neuroscience education undertakings, and has served as a member of the National Board of Medical Examiners (NMBE) Behavioral Science Test Committee, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Scholars Program Selection and Advisory Committee, and numerous national curriculum committees. He founded and co-directed the NIH Foundation for the Advanced Education in the Sciences Graduate Course in the Neurobiology of Neuropsychiatric Illness, has received both the NIMH Mentor of the year and NIMH Supervisor of the year awards, and the Henry and Page Laughlin Distinguished Teacher Award. He has published extensively on the molecular and cellular neurobiology of severe neuropsychiatric disorders and the development of novel therapeutics. He has been editor of Neuropsychopharmacology Reviews: the next generation of progress, deputy editor of Biological Psychiatry, associate editor of the journal Bipolar Disorders, and has been a member of the editorial board of numerous journals.

Dr. Manji has been inducted into the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine (IOM), has been elected Chair, Institute of Medicine Interest Group on Neuroscience, Behavior, Brain Function, has been a Councilor of both the ACNP and Society of Biological Psychiatry, co-chairs the NIH Biomarkers Neuroscience Steering Committee, chaired the ACNP’s Task Force on New Medication Development, has been named to the Board of the International Neuroethics Society, and is recent past president of the Society of Biological Psychiatry.

Barbara O. Rothbaum, PhD, ABPP

Emory University School of Medicine

Barbara Olasov Rothbaum, PhD is a professor in psychiatry and Associate Vice Chair of Clinical Research at the Emory School of Medicine in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and director of the Trauma and Anxiety Recovery Program at Emory. Dr. Rothbaum specializes in research on the treatment of individuals with anxiety disorders, particularly focusing on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She has authored over 200 scientific papers and chapters, has published 4 books on the treatment of PTSD and edited 2 others on anxiety, and received the Diplomate in Behavioral Psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology. She is a past president of the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS), is currently on the Scientific Advisory Boards for the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA), National Center for PTSD (NC-PTSD), McLean Hospital, and the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation (OCF), and the Board of Directors for ADAA, and is a pioneer in the application of virtual reality to the treatment of psychological disorders. She is a fellow of the American Psychological Association’s Division 56 (Division of Trauma Psychology) and was awarded with her collaborating team the 2010 “Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Practice of Trauma Psychology” for APA Division 56 and the Robert S. Laufer Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS). She is a member of the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Study on Assessment of Ongoing Efforts in the Treatment of PTSD. Her current NIMH grants focus on treating chronic PTSD in Iraq veterans using virtual reality exposure therapy combined with medication (d-cycloserine, alprazolam, or placebo), trying to prevent the development of PTSD in emergency room patients, and testing a CRF1 antagonist for the treatment of PTSD in females. Her outreach efforts with Veterans include BraveHeart: Welcome Back Veterans Southeast Initiative ( and initiating a clinician outreach and training program with the Georgia National Guard.

Fred R. Volkmar, MD

Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine

Fred R. Volkmar, MD is the Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Psychology and Director of the Yale University Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine.  He is also the Chief of Child Psychiatry at Yale-New Haven Hospital, New Haven, CT.  A graduate of the University of Illinois, where he received in undergraduate degree in psychology in 1972, and of Stanford  University, where he received his MD and a master’s degree in psychology in 1976,  Dr. Volkmar was the primary author of the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-IV autism and pervasive developmental disorders section.  He is the author of several hundred scientific papers and chapters, as well as a number of books including A Practical Guide to Autism (Wiley Press), Asperger’s Syndrome (Guilford Press), Health Care for Children on the Autism Spectrum (Woodbine Publishing), and the Handbook of Autism (Wiley Publishing) and Editor in Chief of the Encyclopedia of Autism.  He has served as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and the American Journal of Psychiatry, and is now Editor of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.   He has also served as co-chairperson of the autism/intellectual disabilities committee of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.   In addition to having directed the internationally known autism clinic, he was also director of the autism research program at Yale before becoming chair of his department.  Dr. Volkmar has been the principal investigator of several major grants including a CPEA (Collaborative Program of Excellent in Autism) grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and a STAART (Studies to Advance Autism Research and Treatment) Autism Center Grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.


The Quest to Make a Real Difference: the Science of Mental Illness
Husseini Manji, MD, FRCPC, Janssen Research & Development, LLC

A host of cutting edge approaches — from genomics to data mining, proteomics to biomarkers, pathway modeling to protein engineering, neuroimaging to optogenetics — is revolutionizing the development of novel neuroscience treatments. Nevertheless, although we are in a golden age of neuroscience, more work is needed to advance the scientific breakthroughs into commensurate therapeutic advances.
Severe neuropsychiatric disorders are characterized by dysfunction in diverse biological systems, including the intricate network of limbic, striatal, and fronto-cortical circuits that mediate mood state, cognition, self-awareness, and insight. Compelling evidence suggests that impaired signaling pathways play a role in the pathophysiology of these disorders, and that mood stabilizers significantly affect signaling pathways regulating neural and synaptic plasticity. Abnormalities in cellular plasticity cascades likely also underscore the impaired structural plasticity seen in morphometric studies. These changes in structural plasticity appear to regulate both resilience and long-term course of illness. In the search for improved therapeutics to treat these illnesses, several promising synaptic plasticity and neurotrophic strategies are being investigated.
Equally important to these scientific advances, however, is the paradigm shift that must accompany future research. The move from a ‘diagnose and treat’ approach to a ‘predict and pre-empt’ model will become increasingly crucial. Relatedly, R&D organizations will need to develop novel solutions that encompass meaningful and measurable patient outcomes. These will undoubtedly involve holistic solutions of which medication is one component, but many other modalities & services are brought together to optimize outcome.

Holistic Approaches for Schizophrenia
John Kane, MD, The Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks, New York, United States, and Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, Hempstead, New York, United States

Schizophrenia is a complex and challenging illness. Despite advances in treatment, many patients struggle with significant deficits in psychosocial and vocational functioning; therefore, rates of recovery remain disappointingly low.
In addition, reducing the duration of untreated illness continues to remain an enormous challenge. Studies suggest that longer duration of untreated illness is associated with poorer response once treatment is initiated. Early effective intervention is believed to be an important strategy for enhancing long term outcome. The NIMH Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE) Early Treatment Program is a study designed to assess the potential impact of a multidisciplinary team-based approach to the treatment of first episode schizophrenia. We have designed and implemented a treatment program (NAVIGATE) which combines state-of-the-art psychosocial and psychopharmacologic treatment. In addition, we have demonstrated that such coordinated specialty care can be delivered in real world settings under usual reimbursement constraints. As part of this program, and another project funded by the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Innovation, we are also utilizing new technology to enhance disease management and personalized patient centered care. Clearly a holistic approach to schizophrenia is critical in improving the lives of those affected as well as their families. This research is a step in that direction.

The Development of Rapidly Acting Treatments for Severe Depression
Dennis S. Charney, MD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, United States

There is emerging evidence that the NMDA receptor antagonist, ketamine, is an effective, rapidly acting treatment for severe, treatment resistant depression. This presentation will review this evidence, with a particular emphasis on approaches to maintaining the antidepressant effects of ketamine. In addition, the evidence supporting possible anti-suicide effects of ketamine will be examined. A status report on the development of other rapid therapies for the treatment of depression will also be presented.

Understanding the Social Brain in Autism
Fred R. Volkmar, MD, Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine

In his initial (1943) description of autism, Leo Kanner emphasized extreme lack of social engagement as one of the two cardinal features of the condition. Although social difficulties remain essential diagnostic features, until the past decade relatively little work had focused on understanding the nature of neural aspects of social processing. Over the past decade this has changed dramatically with increased understanding of differences in face processing (using MRI and EEG techniques) and dynamic measures of social processing (eye tracking). This presentation will summarize selected aspects of social neuroscience in autism, with an emphasis on implications for treatment and understanding other aspects of autism’s neurobiology.

New Approaches to Treating Disorders of Fear and Anxiety
Barbara O. Rothbaum, PhD, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, United States

One psychotherapeutic intervention that is particularly useful for individuals with anxiety disorders is exposure therapy, which assists patients in confronting their feared memories and situations in a therapeutic manner. In this talk, we will discuss new approaches to treating anxiety and fear disorders. They will be divided into 1) medium of delivery of exposure therapy, 2) enhancing exposure therapy with pharmacological agents, and 3) timing of exposure therapy. A relatively new medium for delivering exposure therapy uses Virtual Reality (VR). Virtual environments exist for the fear of heights, flying, public speaking, and for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), among others. Results of a recently completed trial comparing VR plus d-Cycloserine (50mg), placebo, or alprazolam (.25 mg) for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will be presented. PTSD symptoms significantly improved over the 6-session VRE treatment across all conditions and were maintained. At post-treatment, the D-cycloserine group was the lowest on cortisol reactivity and startle response. Regarding timing, a randomized controlled study, based on translational models of the consolidation of fear memories, examining the effects of early intervention extinction training will be presented. Emergency department (ED) patients were randomly assigned to receive a 3-session exposure-based intervention beginning in the ED or assessment only. Those receiving the intervention reported significantly lower PTSD and depressive symptoms than the assessment group, and seemed to mitigate a genetic risk for PTSD.

Mental Illness: The Civil Rights Movement of Our Time
The Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy, Former United States Representative, Rhode Island; One Mind for Research; and Kennedy Forum

Former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, lead author of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, will talk about the opportunities he sees to guarantee the important advances now underway so that Americans are indeed able to gain access to effective and timely treatment and interventions for mental health conditions.

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