Dr. Steven Hyman, MD,, the new director of the National Institute of Mental
Health (NIMH), outlined the priorities of this group of researchers whose
work has made such a difference to those with a brain disease and their
families. Dr. Hyman is a molecular biologist, as well as a psychiatrist. He
continued to see patients right up to April 15,1996, the day he started at
NIMH. Although the NIMH budget was not reduced, neither did they receive an
increase in funding. If one research project is begun, another must be
dropped. Consequently, NIMH is structuring their research into brain
disorders into the following categories:

1- Genetics: For a genetic predisposition to become a brain disorder there
must be a isecond hit,i such as anoxia, an infection, a pre-natal accident.
Scientists must learn what changes a genetic marker to a disorder. NIMH
will collaborate with the National Gnome Project to use large cohorts to
identify vulnerable genes. The key question is iHow do genes set up
vulnerability and from where does the esecond hiti come?i

2- Fundamental neuroscience: This is the understanding of neurons, receptors
and the iarchitecturei of the neuron. This is research within the nerve

3- Human neurobiology: Using an increasingly sophisticated array of imaging
technologies, researchers can begin to understand how a brain functions in a
living person.

4- Clinical and service research: According to Dr. Hyman, NIMH has to
reconsider its clinical research on people. Scientists there must work on
medications that make a difference to people now.
Dr. Hyman is prepared to let major brain disorders guide NIMH research, not
the agendas of researchers who have been funded in the past. His closing
words at the NAMI conference (1996) were that separating mental illness from
the brain is an historical accident that occurred, in part, because of the
complexities of unraveling the causes of brain disorders. This is being
remedied. Now, it is nothing more than discrimination that keeps health
insurance from covering brain disorders on a par with other illnesses.

[excerpted from article by Sarah Chamberlain, Pres.of AMI-Vermont;#41;August

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