Oscar Marín. Image credit: David Tett
Last month we launched our new MRC Centre for Neurodevelopmental Disorders at King’s College London. The centre will be taking a wide-angle look at three very different, but linked, disorders: autism, schizophrenia and epilepsy. We spoke to its Director, Professor Oscar Marín, to find out more.
What do these disorders have in common?
Autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia and many forms of epilepsy are neurodevelopmental disorders. In other words, they all happen when the brain develops in a non-typical way. Changes in brain development, even when subtle, have long-term consequences on brain function. Read more
For world mental health day, Professor Sir Michael Owen, Director of the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, describes how genetics is changing the way we study psychiatric disorders – and our approach to biomedical research as a whole.
Image copyright: Mike Owen
We’re learning more and more about the genetics and biology behind psychiatric disorders, and one of the things this is telling us is that we need better diagnostic approaches.
In psychiatry we use diagnostic categories such as ‘schizophrenia’, based on clinical knowledge, to define sets of signs and symptoms in the clinic. This gives us an idea of what course the condition will take and its outcome. But these categories need to be more precise so the advances in understanding can be translated into better treatments.
A PET scan of a person who uses cannabis. The red areas show the highest levels of dopamine.
Can you learn anything about schizophrenia from scanning brains? Yes, says Michael Bloomfield, a researcher at the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre — it’s all about looking at the detail. Here he explains his work to mark Schizophrenia Awareness Week (11-17 November).
The first major revolution in the care of mentally ill patients occurred in the late 18th century. Philippe Pinel, working at the Salpêtrière Asylum in Paris, ordered the removal of chains from his patients, heralding the beginning of more psychological and humane treatments.
The second revolution came 100 years later when psychotherapy was first used, followed by a third in the mid-20th century with the discovery of psychiatric medicines.
We are now living in the midst of a fourth revolution: using modern brain imaging techniques to learn more about disease and develop new treatments. Read more