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Director’s Update: Bruce Cuthbert Named Head of NIMH’s Division of Adult Translational Research and Treatment Development

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Photo of Dr. Cuthbert

Dr. Bruce Cuthbert has been named Director of NIMH’s Division of Adult Translational Research and Treatment Development (DATR).  A former member of NIMH’s extramural program staff, Dr. Cuthbert returns to NIMH following four years as a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Minnesota.  He first came to NIMH in 1998, and was from 1999 to 2005 chief of the Adult Psychopathology and Prevention Research Branch.  More recently, he had been assisting the institute since August, coordinating a project to develop neuroscience-based criteria for studying mental disorders.

Dr. Cuthbert’s research is aimed at providing an understanding of how emotions, and disorders of emotional processing, originate in the interplay between the brain’s most basic motivational drives.  Measured differences in how individuals react to neutral and emotionally-charged images—in terms of, for example, startle reflexes, heart rate, brain activity, and verbal descriptions of emotional state—reveal how complex emotional responses are ultimately based in the brain wiring that implements fundamental survival-oriented drives.  A model of how motivational processes relate to emotion provides a way to understand comorbidity among anxiety, mood, and personality disorders, and to identify risk for these disorders.  Another goal is to develop diagnostic approaches that focus on symptoms that may be common to different conditions.

Dr. Cuthbert earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and psychophysiology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.  He served in the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps and was on the faculty for seventeen years at the University of Florida. He has also held guest professorships at the University of Giessen and the University of Tübingen in Germany.  He was elected president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research in 2004 and is a fellow of the Association for Psychological Science.

The Division of Adult Translational Research and Treatment Development (DATR) administers research programs aimed at understanding the pathophysiology of mental illness and hastening the translation of behavioral science and neuroscience advances into innovations in clinical care. The focus of DATR is to support research on the etiology and pathophysiology of mental illness in order to define predictors and understand the mechanism of treatment response; create and refine biomarkers, behavioral assessments, and phenotypic characterizations of disease; evaluate existing therapeutics for new indications; and hasten the development of more effective new treatments for mental illness.