Robert D. Beech PhD, MD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Addictions Psychiatry; Bipolar Disorder; Molecular Neuroscience
Our laboratory is interested in the roles of transcription factors and adult neurogenesis in the neurobiology of psychiatric disorders. We are approaching this question in two related ways. First, in the clinical arena, we are conducting microarray studies to look at changes in expression of growth factor-related genes in peripheral blood of patients being treated with antidepressant medications. Current theories regarding the mechanism of action of both mood stabilizers and antidepressants suggest that the effects of these medications are medicated by the induction of specific genes in the brain. However, the relationship of these changes to disease-state and treatment-response remains unclear because the tissue of interest (the patient's brain) is not, under normal circumstances available for study.
An emerging alternative is to look for biomarkers in a surrogate tissue such as blood since the signaling pathways affected by these medications are present in a wide variety of peripheral tissues, including blood. The long-term goal of this project is to identify molecular biomarkers that are predictive of changes in mood-state and/or positive treatment-response to aid in the treatment of mood disorders including depression and bipolar disorder. A second area of interest involves animal studies aimed at understanding on the role of adult neurogenesis in psychiatric disorders. Patients with major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia have all been found to have decreased hippocampal volumes, suggesting that decreased hippocampal cell number may be a common endophenotype in multiple mental illnesses.