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Higgins-Chen, Lin, O'Dell named recipients of Thomas P. Detre Fellowship Awards

June 10, 2019

Albert Higgins-Chen, MD, a second-year resident in the Yale Department of Psychiatry; Eric Lin, MD, a third-year resident; and Ryan O’Dell, MD, PhD, a second-year resident, have been named recipients of the 2018-19 Thomas P. Detre Fellowship Awards in Translational Neuroscience Research in Psychiatry.

The awards support translational research endeavors of residents enrolled (or interested in enrolling) in the Neuroscience Research Training Program in Psychiatry. Recipients are provided with up to $30,000 in support of their projects and training.

Higgins-Chen will use machine learning and network-based approaches to identify molecular mechanisms linking psychiatric disease to biological aging. The global burden of age-related disease, including dementia and cancer, is expected to dramatically increase in the next 30 years as the number of people over the age of 60 rises from 1 billion to 2 billion. People with mental illness are particularly vulnerable to the adverse biological and psychosocial effects of aging.

Higgins-Chen will develop novel measures of biological age in psychiatric populations using DNA methylation and gene expression data, and examine how psychiatric disease, medications, genetics, and social factors influence aging on a molecular level. This work will shed light on the unique risks that patients experiencing mental illness face as the population ages and suggest new ways to intervene to promote healthy aging.

Lin will study the adjunctive use of vitamin D (in its active form) to enhance stimulant medication effects for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) treatment. The pilot study will examine amphetamine-stimulated dopamine release relative to placebo on PET scans.

O’Dell will characterize the in vivo spatiotemporal distribution of synaptic density in a cognitively normal, middle-aged cohort with varying familiar and genetic risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). He also will study the spatiotemporal relationships between synaptic density and disruptions in the default mode network in this preclinical model of disease.

AD affects an estimated 5.8 million people in the United States. As the population ages, it is expected 13.8 million people could be afflicted with AD by 2050.

The Detre Awards were established in memory of Dr. Detre, an internationally renowned academic psychiatrist, esteemed Yale Psychiatry faculty member/alumnus, and Chair of Psychiatry, Vice Chancellor of Health Services, and Dean at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Submitted by Christopher Gardner on June 10, 2019