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Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit

Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit (NNT)

Mental illness impacts public health significantly, and treatment advances have stalled, compounding this public health problem. Indeed, irritability is one of the most common reasons that children present for mental health care, but few treatments are available. Developing mechanism-based interventions is essential given the prevalence of irritability, codified in the new DSM-5 diagnosis of Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder.

The goal of the Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit (NNT) is to leverage neuroscience and therapeutics to develop and test novel interventions for serious psychiatric disorders. Given the impact of development on later psychopathology, we apply our expertise to studies of children. Specifically, NNT aims to: (1) use neuroscience to identify treatment targets; and (2) develop innovative and scalable therapies based on the ability to engage these targets.

NNT utilizes a translational neuroscience model of irritability that articulates core pathophysiological processes (Brotman et al., 2017): (a) aberrant responses to frustration that are reinforced; and (b) ambiguous threat. This model of irritability emerges from imaging studies, demonstrating that the circuitry underlying aberrant frustration and threat responding involves perturbations in overlapping brain regions. While this research program currently targets pediatric and adolescent irritability, lessons learned in this area will inform complementary translational interventions and approaches for other pediatric conditions.