News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.

Mission

The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

Genetic Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders

By Elise B. Robinson, Benjamin M. Neale, and Steven E. Hyman | Current Opinion in Pediatrics | September 18, 2015

Abstract:

Purpose of review: The recent explosion of genetic findings in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) research has improved knowledge of the disorder’s underlying biology and etiologic architecture. This review introduces concepts and results from recent genetic studies and discusses the manner in which those findings can influence the trajectory of ASD research.

Recent findings: Large consortium studies have associated ASDs with many types of genetic risk factors, including common polygenic risk, de novo single nucleotide variants, copy number variants, and rare inherited variants. In aggregate, these results confirm the heterogeneity and complexity of ASDs. The rare variant findings in particular point to genes and pathways that begin to bridge the gap between behavior and biology.

Summary: Genetic studies have the potential to identify the biological underpinnings of ASDs and other neuropsychiatric disorders. The data they generate are already being used to examine disease pathways and pathogenesis. The results also speak to ASD heterogeneity and, in the future, may be used to stratify research studies and treatment trials.

Read the full article here.

Steve Hyman on Translational Neuroscience

Hyman_150x150Steven Hyman is a co-editor of the new book, Translational Neuroscience: Toward New Therapies, published by the MIT Press. This volume, composed of insights from expert contributors, takes a look at the current state of translational neuroscience, challenges it faces, and effective ways forward. In overview:

Today, translational neuroscience faces significant challenges. Available therapies to treat brain and nervous system disorders are extremely limited and dated, and further development has effectively ceased. Disinvestment by the private sector occurred just as promising new technologies in genomics, stem cell biology, and neuroscience emerged to offer new possibilities. In this volume, experts from both academia and industry discuss how novel technologies and reworked translation concepts can create a more effective translational neuroscience.

The contributors consider such topics as using genomics and neuroscience for better diagnostics and biomarker identification; new approaches to disease based on stem cell technology and more careful use of animal models; and greater attention to human biology and what it will take to make new therapies available for clinical use. They conclude with a conceptual roadmap for an effective and credible translational neuroscience—one informed by a disease-focused knowledge base and clinical experience.

Dr. Hyman is also a featured contributor to the new book, Free Will and the Brain: Neuroscientific, Philosophical, and Legal Perspectives, edited by Walter Glannon and published by Cambridge University Press. His chapter, “Neurobiology Collides with Moral and Criminal Responsibility: The Result is Double Vision”, falls under Part V of the book, dealing with the legal implications of neuroscience, and including a chapter from Dr. Stephen Morse.

Order Translational Neuroscience: Toward New Therapies and Free Will and the Brain today!

Steve Hyman assumes Presidency of Society for Neuroscience

Hyman_150x150Congratulations to Steven Hyman, MD, who became President of the Society for Neuroscience, the world’s largest organization of brain and nervous system scientists and physicians, at the Society’s annual meeting, on November 19, 2014, in Washington, DC.

Steven E. Hyman is former provost and Distinguished Service Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard University. A 1980 graduate of Harvard Medical School, Hyman pursued basic neurobiological research, focusing on drug addiction and the molecular origins of mental illness. By 1994, he became the first faculty director of Harvard University’s Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative, a multidisciplinary effort to study how nervous system disease relates to human behavior. Shortly thereafter, the director of the National Institutes of Health recruited Hyman to lead the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). But in 2001, Hyman left the NIMH to become the University’s provost, a position he held until 2011.

A faculty member of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and director of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, Hyman’s career has been a rare combination of neuroscience and academic leadership.

Dr. Hyman was elected President-elect last year, and will hold the role for 2014-2015. He took over from past President Carol Mason, and Hollis Cline was voted President-elect.

 

CLBB leads in special issue on “Neuropsychiatry”

CLBB faculty and staff are significant contributors to an in-press special issue of Current Opinion in Neurobiology on Neuropsychiatry. CLBB faculty and psychiatric genetics pioneer Steven Hyman, along with Raquel Gur, is co-editor of this special issue. The also issue includes a paper co-authored by Justin Baker, CLBB associate director, on the use of fMRI in understanding the neurodevelopment of psychosis.

View the issue in-press, and stay tuned for its publication in February 2015.

Spark for a Stagnant Search

The New York Times | Carl Zimmer and Benedict Carey | July 21, 2014

One day in 1988, a college dropout named Jonathan Stanley was visiting New York City when he became convinced that government agents were closing in on him.

He bolted, and for three days and nights raced through the city streets and subway tunnels. His flight ended in a deli, where he climbed a plastic crate and stripped off his clothes. The police took him to a hospital, and he finally received effective treatment two years after getting a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

“My son’s life was saved,” his father, Ted Stanley, said recently. When he himself was in college, he added, “those drugs didn’t exist; I would have had a nonfunctioning brain all the rest of my life.”

The older Mr. Stanley, 84, who earned a fortune selling collectibles, created a foundation to support psychiatric research. “I would like to purchase that happy ending for other people,” he said.

Late on Monday, the Broad Institute, a biomedical research center, announced a $650 million donation for psychiatric research from the Stanley Family Foundation — one of the largest private gifts ever for scientific research. Continue reading »