From the Director: Groundbreaking Efforts, Empathetic Care

From the Director: Groundbreaking Efforts, Empathetic Care

Welcome, friends, to the winter edition of Hopkins Brain Wise. Let me update you on Roland Griffiths and Matt Johnson, whose work on the hallucinogen psilocybin was featured in this publication last year. Both figure prominently in a fascinating book that was on bestseller lists for several months recently, Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind, which explores the science of psychedelic drugs. Pollan dates the modern era of psychedelic research to Professor Griffiths’ groundbreaking 2006 paper. There are now two large-scale studies underway of psilocybin to treat depression. One of them just gained Breakthrough Therapy designation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which represents significant interest from the FDA in helping to facilitate the development pathway for this drug.

Another area we are pioneering is the use of virtual reality in behavioral therapy, as described in the Page 4 article on work by the very talented Joe McGuire. During my recent trip to the McGuire Lab, I donned goggles and was immersed in the astonishingly realistic virtual world the team creates, which opened my mind to the great potential of this approach to make a difference for young people suffering from anxiety.

This issue also features work from two of my close colleagues, Peter Zandi and Fernando Goes, both at the forefront of efforts to discover the causes of mood disorders. We are extremely fortunate to have the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, led by world-renowned psychiatric neuroscience researcher Dan Weinberger, here on our campus, as a generous partner in this work.

On the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center campus, we have one of the nation’s best community psychiatry programs, and you will read at right about a superb facet of it, the innovative Creative Alternatives, which serves the most severely and persistently mentally ill, not only directly treating their psychiatric disease, but also helping them with life skills and basic needs. I salute the tremendously dedicated staff there, who do whatever it takes to be responsive to patient needs.

Thanks to all of you for your interest in our work. My warmest wishes to you.