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Distinguished NIMH Scientist Richard Jed Wyatt Dies

Press Release

Schizophrenia researcher Richard Jed Wyatt, M.D., Chief, Neuropsychiatry Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, died June 7, 2002, at the age of 63, after a long bout with cancer.

"Although we now take for granted that schizophrenia has a biological basis, Richard was one of the early pioneers in the Intramural Research Program who championed this view and brought research on schizophrenia into the lab," observed NIMH Scientific Director Robert Desimone, Ph.D. "He was the prototypical translational researcher, and he trained and mentored many of the leaders in this field.

After joining the NIMH Intramural program as a clinical associate in l967, Wyatt broke with his psychoanalytic training to eventually create a model program in biological psychiatry research. He first served an apprenticeship in the laboratory of soon-to-become Nobel Laureate Julius Axelrod Ph.D. Wyatt then moved to NIMH's former research center at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, where he worked for most of his career, authoring some 800 scientific publications and 6 books. His interest in the course and causes of schizophrenia led to wide-ranging studies on mood disorders, Alzheimer's disease, brain grafts for Parkinson's disease, neurochemistry, sleep and neuroplasticity. More recent projects focused on early intervention in psychotic illnesses.

Wyatt's work served as "a critical early beacon," illuminating the path for a younger generation of neuroscience-minded psychiatry researchers, said former NIMH Director Steven E. Hyman, M.D., at a day-long "Neuroscience and Psychiatry" symposium held in Wyatt's honor May 30, 2001. NIMH schizophrenia researcher Daniel Weinberger, M.D., who worked with Wyatt for many years at St. Elizabeths, recalled that "he created a supportive environment where scientists of many disciplines and stripes literally worked at the same bench, all focused on a common goal: to understand the biology of schizophrenia."

"The broad spectrum of approaches that Richard brought to the study of schizophrenia—neuropharmacology, neuropathology, brain imaging, animal models—are the same approaches that researchers are still using today," noted Desimone.

Among many awards and honors, Wyatt received the Stanley R. Dean Research Award from the American college of Psychiatrists, the McAlpin Mental Health Research Achievement Award from the National Mental Health Association, and the Silvano Arieti Award for Schizophrenia Research from the American Academy of Psychoanalysis.

Wyatt also co-produced (with his wife, Kay Jamison, Ph.D.) a series of programs about manic depressive illness and creativity that aired on public television. In his cover story in the Washington Post Health section, Feb 13, 2001, Wyatt related some of his experiences battling cancer for the third time.

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About the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): The mission of the NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery and cure. For more information, visit the NIMH website.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit the NIH website .