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Posts by Former NIMH Director Thomas Insel from 2012

Autism Progress

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Dr. Insel highlights key recent findings in research on autism spectrum disorders.

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The Top Ten Research Advances of 2012

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Dr. Insel describes his top picks in research advances for 2012.

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Roads Not Taken

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NIMH’s director talks about the need for research that explores the frontiers of science and funding efforts to encourage innovative research.

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From Practice to Research

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Dr. Insel introduces an innovative approach that one group is taking to speed up the dissemination of research results into clinical practice.

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A Decade of Perspective

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In looking back at ten years as NIMH director, Dr. Insel talks about the importance of rigorous science as the source of new, sometimes surprising, knowledge and ultimately, more effective means of prevention and treatment for mental illness.

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Words Matter

By Thomas Insel on

Some barriers to progress are simply linguistic. In mental health, we are stymied by our language. For example, terms like “depression” or “schizophrenia” or “autism” have achieved a reality that far outstrips their scientific value. Each refers to a cluster of symptoms, similar to “fever” or “headache.” Yet the field has imbued these “fictive categories” with biological meaning, which has precluded the development of biomarkers that might confer validity. Is PTSD – or autism – a “disorder” or an injury? We need a broad conversation to help us understand how our language may be holding us back, limiting not only our impact but our imagination.

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Junk No More

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If genes comprise only 2 percent of our DNA, what is the function of the remaining 98 percent?  A massive ENCODE project has revealed that nearly 80 percent of our genome is read out, or transcribed – much of it devoted to regulating the turning on and off of genes.  Yet, there are also vast stretches of non-coding RNAs, some unique to humans, especially regions that appear active for specifying brain development.  Differences associated with autism and mental disorders are in these areas previously considered “junk.” The new map pinpoints sites where proteins called transcription factors alter the timing and amounts of gene expression – mechanisms that are likely at the heart of mental disorders, whether they are mainly due to environmental stressors or genetic factors.

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Strategy on Suicide Prevention

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Dr. Insel provides context for a new National Strategy for Suicide Prevention

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Summer Science

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Numerous provocative advances in neuroscience were reported during the summer of 2012.

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A Promising Behavioral Treatment for Tourette Syndrome

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Dr. Insel describes a new behavioral treatment for a neurologically based disorder that has traditionally been difficult to treat. 

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Preventing Suicide, One Employer at a Time

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Dr. Insel discusses recent efforts made by the NFL and other employers to help prevent suicides, and the importance of suicide prevention research.

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Achieving an AIDS-free Generation

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NIMH research on HIV/AIDS will be well represented at the XIX International AIDS Conference, being held in the United States for the first time since 1990.

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The Pay-Offs of ARRA

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Experimental Medicine

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Dr. Insel discusses the crisis of medication development for mental disorders.

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Serving Those Who Served

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Serving Those Who Served

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Time Matters – Why We Care So Much About Data Sharing

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Dr. Insel discusses the dynamics of data sharing in research.

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Citizen Science

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Presentations at a recent meeting in San Diego showed how new technologies are being used to change the culture of science, empowering patients, and fueling innovative research approaches.

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The Future of Psychiatry (= Clinical Neuroscience)

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While fewer medical students are choosing psychiatry in the U.K., in the U.S. psychiatry is attracting increasing numbers of elite MD-PhD students who want to do research. These young scientists are committed to developing a new scientific basis for clinical care.

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The New Genetics of Autism – Why Environment Matters

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Dr. Insel discusses how new research may help tie together seemingly disparate findings in genetic vs environmental risk factors in autism spectrum disorders.

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Brain’s Wiring Revealed in HD

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Dr. Insel discusses new functional connectomes and developments in human brain imaging.

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Autism Prevalence: More Affected or More Detected?

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Dr. Insel discusses the CDC's latest report on autism prevalence.

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From Paresis to PANDAS and PANS

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Dr. Insel discusses the connection between mental disorders and infection in light of pediatric neuropsychiatric disorders PANS and PANDAS.

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Join the Revolution

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Dr. Insel discusses the state of science and math education in the U.S., scientific literacy, and Brain Awareness Week.

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Research Domain Criteria -- RDoC

By Thomas Insel on

The RDoC project is an experimental approach to classification of mental disorders that will serve as a framework for ongoing research.

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Spotlight on Eating Disorders

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National Eating Disorders Awareness Week starts February 26. Dr. Insel discusses some surprising facts about these disorders, which are among the most fatal.

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An Emerging Era of Big Data

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Dr. Insel discusses the emergence of “big data” and how open sharing of data could impact mental health research.

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The Long Paths to Breakthroughs

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Dr. Insel talks about how basic research can lead to potential treatments.

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Balancing Immediate Needs with Future Innovation

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Dr. Insel responds to discussion from the National Advisory Mental Health Council concerning the need to balance research funding for basic science and mental health services.

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We Are the Government

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NIMH’s “government bureaucrats” are really dedicated public servants devoted to good patient care, improved  treatments, and scientific discovery.

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Treatment Development: Where do we go from here?

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Dr. Insel discusses opportunities for treatment development.

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