Iowa Neuroimaging Consortium

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  • Psychiatry Research Teams

    Novel Phenotyping and Integrative Neuroscience Group

    Nancy Andreasen, MD, PhD

    Nancy Andreasen, MD, PhD

    The Novel Phenotyping and Integrative Neuroscience group emphasizes the use of multimodal approaches for identifying more biologically-based or mechanistically-based definitions of psychiatry disorders, with an emphasis on psychotic disorders. The recent publication of DSM-5 has highlighted the ongoing problems that psychiatric research has had in achieving this goal.

    The current challenge for refining definitions of clinical phenotypes in psychiatric disorders is to modernize approaches to phenotype definition so that they parallel the advances occurring in other medical specialties, most of which use multifactorial approaches to phenotype definition that encompass a broad range of symptomatic, biological, and genetic features. The success of the Human Genome Project and related projects (e.g., the Hapmap, the development of publically available bioinformatics resources) have conceptually revolutionized thinking about the ways in which the search for phenotypes must be guided. It has created a new discipline that is sometimes referred to as “phenomics.”

    Traditional psychiatric disease definitions have taken a narrow approach and relied almost exclusively on symptoms. On the other hand, phenomics takes a broad approach to defining the concept of the phenotype. That is, the phenotype includes not just clinical symptoms and other “behavioral” measures, but also morphological, biochemical, and physiological characteristics. It stresses the importance of collecting these broadly-defined phenotypic measures on individuals at a series of different levels—clinical symptoms and behavior, cognitive systems, neural circuits/networks, tissues, molecules, and genes. What will eventually emerge from a phenomic approach is a more valid and etiologically-based definition of disease phenotypes that may be quite different from those created by using the clinical level alone, as has been the tradition in psychiatry for the past century. Our group has been pursuing this approach for many years and has had extensive experience in integrating the study of clinical descriptors with other biological measures gleaned from fields such as imaging and genetics. Our goal is to explore the power of using a series of biological measures—genotypes, molecular and cellular measurements, neural circuits and systems—in order to identify novel phenotypes that will have improved predictive validity for selecting treatments or predicting outcomes.

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    SINAPSE

    Dr. Hans Johnson, PhD

    Hans Johnson, PhD

    Hans Johnson, PhD., is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and directs the SINAPSE (Scalable Informatics, Neuroimaging, Analysis, Processing and Software Engineering) lab. The SINAPSE lab is involved in several imaging and informatics projects that focused on developing the tools necessary to monitor, manage, and foster collaborative data sharing for large-scale multi-site projects. We have experience supporting large multi-site projects like NeuroNext clinical trial initiative, 11 site function Biomedical Informatics Research Network (fBIRN), and the NIH funded 28-site longitudinal PREDICT-HD study. The SINAPSE team provides expertise in Biomedical, Electrical, and Computer Engineering to provide a solid foundation for achieving the research objectives of accelerating brain research through development of automated software processes.

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    Cognitive Brain Development Laboratory

    Daniel O'Leary, PhD

    Daniel O'Leary, PhDThe Cognitive Brain Development Laboratory is focused on identifying trajectories of normal and abnormal brain development, especially in relation to drug and alcohol use and major psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. The laboratory uses state-of-the-art functional imaging tools such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as well as advanced structural imaging protocols in conjunction with cognitive tests, personality assessments, and genetic measures. The laboratory director, Daniel O’Leary, PhD, is a cognitive neuroscientist who has a long history of researching relationships between brain development and cognitive functions, both in normal children and adolescents and in children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia. He is currently using brain imaging techniques along with behavioral assessments to better understand why 13- to 18-year-old children of alcoholics have a much greater than normal risk of developing alcohol problems. He is also using these techniques to conduct a longitudinal study of cognitive brain development in college students in relation to health behaviors and alcohol use. The Co-Director of the laboratory, Jatin Vaidya, PhD, completed a doctoral degree in psychology and a research fellowship in neuroimaging at the University of Iowa. His research focuses on neurobiological processes that relate to developmental changes in emotional and motivational functioning. Dr. Vaidya is currently involved in a number of projects specifically focused on adolescent development that aim to a) better characterize which emotional and motivational traits show the greatest degree of change during this time period and b) how changes in the brain’s reward and behavioral regulation system impact high risk behavior and drug use in adolescence.

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    Molecular Psychiatry

    Dr. John Wemmie, MD, PhD

    John Wemmie, MD, PhD

    The Molecular Psychiatry Division was created to combine cutting edge neuroscience, genetic, and pharmacological approaches so that we can better understand brain function and behavior. Its laboratories, faculty, and students are united by the common goals of finding the molecular causes of psychiatric illnesses including schizophrenia, autism, depression, bipolar affective disorder, and anxiety disorders. These efforts are aimed at developing better treatments for these complex and often devastating disorders. Division Head, John Wemmie, MD, PhD, professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Iowa, is interested in the role of brain pH and acid-sensing ion channels in brain function and behavior. This work has led to the discovery of critical roles for brain pH in synaptic plasticity, anxiety, and depression-related behaviors in mice. Current projects include investigating the synaptic mechanisms for acid-sensing ion channel action and also translating these discoveries to human behavior and brain function. For example, his laboratory is using non-invasive pH-sensitive magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the roles of brain pH in psychiatric illnesses such as panic disorder and bipolar affective disorder.

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