Monday, December 03, 2012

Day 2 of ACNP by Guest Blogger Dr. Judith Kastenberg

Moviedoc wants to know don't the neuropsychopharmacologists tweet their sessions?  They do.  Today, I tweeted psychiatry Grand Rounds at Johns Hopkins on Neuropsych testing (#jhhgr) and tomorrow I'll be tweeting a CPT seminar from 6-8 pm (#cpt)
Okay, let me move over and let Dr. Kastenberg blog.  She even sent pretty pictures.  
ACNP Day 2

This morning’s plenary lecturers showed how nerve cells in the brain are connected to one another and how those disruptions in those connections can help us understand disease processes.

We know that neurons communicate with one another by spitting chemicals into the space between them that act at specific receptors.  Those chemicals are called neurotransmitters.  Our current models of mental illness suggest that disruptions in this pathway - such as the wrong amount of a neurotransmitters or the wrong shape of a receptor – are the source of the problems.  And medications that treat mental illnesses typically restore balance to that system.

But this research looks at where the neurons are in the brain.  Where do they travel?  How do they organize within the brain?  How do messages get from one part of the brain to another part far away?  And does the structure of these pathways explain their functions?

Scientists now can image many of these pathways and the images look both structured and complex.  This one by Van J. Weeden at MGH by represents a huge wiring diagram. 

This one by Edward Bullmore at The University of Cambridge looks like a complex airline flight path map.

These maps beg more questions.   How do disruptions in the connections lead to diseases like schizophrenia?  An illness might result not only from changes in neurotransmitters, but also from connections that are disorganized, over traveled or under traveled.
Note from Dinah: This looks like something Roy would draw on his iPad.