Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Business of the Brain

"For the first time in all of history we have identified causes of these illnesses, not just made observations of what they look, sound or feel like, but actually discovered the basic causes of mental illness -- which are these genetic discoveries."
"This is a real dramatic sea change in knowledge, and it will lead to a whole new approach to treatment. It will change the way we treat these conditions because we will now have the opportunity to treat them based on causes, not just based on appearance or symptoms."
Daniel Weinberger, director, Lieber Institute for Brain Development
bipolar depression
kimber7433 - bipolar depression

"What we have been doing isn't working, and now the question is, 'How do we fix this? What do we need for diagnostics, what do we need to do for therapeutics?' And when we actually have something to deliver then I will say we are at a turning point. But right now we are still at that point of saying, 'My goodness, we have a problem and we have to fix this."
"When you get checked out for chest pain, they do a combination of tests and put them all together in a risk calculator ... We put them together and say 'This is what you got and this is what you need.' ... We don't do that today with mental illness, and that is where we have to go."
Dr. Tom Insel, National Institute of Mental Health director

"We absolutely need the partnership with business, and I am not saying it will be nice to have; it's a need."
"What we have come to learn is that schizophrenia, bipolar, depression and the whole list of these illnesses are not some psychodynamic Freudian disorders. These are as organic as the neurologist treating the brain disorder."
"The inconvenient truth that ... treatment in 2014 ... is not more effective -- albeit safer -- than in 1955 is obviously embarrassing and not defensible."
"The heaviest hitters in the drug industry have left ... but we in academia are partly to blame because we haven't given them new targets to explore."
Roger McIntyre, psychiatry and pharmacology professor, University of Toronto

The holy grail in the medical community of neuroscientists is the discovery of a "cure" for depression and other forms of mental illness. A disease that has been gaining momentum, appearing poised to be represented as one of the most serious, largest global public health challenges. Well, of course there are other issues plaguing society and overtaking its health care systems; the growth globally of obesity with all the allied health complexes that morbid obesity causes.

But it is the festering and growing incidence of mental illness that has brought about a lightbulb-awareness-alliance between business and science that is now making waves. The current medical triad of of research, funding and regulatory models have maxed out, as science is now charting its way into knowledge of how the brain works, held in respectful anticipation as having the potential to turn psychiatry on its head.

This week has been declared Mental Illness Awareness Week, an event organized by the Canadian Alliance in Mental Illness and Mental Health.  Mental illness has come a long way in a relatively few short years, from being a secretive, hushed topic of fearful conversation, to making its debut as a fact of life for many people who are no longer willing to keep it under wraps. They need help, they want help, and they want it now. And their families, co-workers, friends and acquaintances are right behind them, encouraging and cheering them on.
Cathi Falconwing

The broad coalition of care providers and organizations embraced by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health sturdily represents the interests of people suffering with mental illnesses, and they're busy lobbying Members of Parliament to make an effort to improve access to care, services and any needed support for those living with mental illness. Mental Health International is working toward an international "business and science" partnership for the purpose of finding that elusive cure.

"We have to explicitly say we are going for the cure ... Mental health advocates have been too timid to fight for a cure for fear of creating false hopes, and what we are saying is it is time to do that. We have had enough advances to say a cure is a plausible dream", explained Mental Health International's Bill Wilkerson. The clues to causes of mental illness can be read in inherited genes now that research has identified in the human genome that specific genes represent risks for mental illness.

While not necessarily causing depression or schizophrenia, they link to a predisposition, the risk factor which when combined with environmental risks could lead to mental illness. With the dawning recognition of the plasticity of the human brain where new links and channels and skills are possible to engage other parts of the brain to perform tasks that an injured part of the brain no longer can, the potential is enormous. It is known by scientists that mental illness is initiated during childhood, before actual symptoms appear.
Tumblr Gets Deep (21 Pics) |

No blood or saliva tests or X-rays are capable of diagnosing these biomarkers to recognize predisposition, not yet. What is happening is that neuroscientists and general practitioners are now "personalizing" treatment for those in their care suffering mental illness with the use of individual genetic data that give indication which drugs will work and which will not. Ketamine, an anesthetic, has demonstrated promise in easing depression and even suicidal thoughts, in a matter of hours, besting antidepressants taking weeks and months to work and then only for some patients.

The part that business can play is forthright and indispensable; helping to invest in research so that science can set achievable goals to turn advances into new treatments. Business, according to Dr. Weinberger, the world's leading expert on schizophrenia, brings discipline, flexibility and a "bottom line" sensibility lacking within the public sector and academia.

Pharmaceutical companies have all but abandoned mental illness, with no new drugs in the offing, and they're skittish to dedicate new costly-to-produce time, energy and profit to the search for newer, more effective formulas in the pharmacopoeia of mental illness, to hope to achieve equilibrium through chemical intervention. Dr. Anthony Phillips, chief neuroscientist at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research explains that the world's scientists are making inroads collaborating in network projects on Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, traumatic brain injury and other mental illnesses.

The business world's enlistment is a natural in the search for a mental health cure. After all, we are in a knowledge economy in the 21st Century where "brain capital" is key to innovation and creativity and advancement into newer levels of technological possibility and inventiveness. Discoveries take brain power, and a healthy mind is the key. Which equates to good sense in the drive toward a "business and science" alliance.

Science Can Be An Asshole

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