Center Units and Directors
VISN 22 MIRECC Core Units
Clinical Neuroscience and Genetics Unit (CNGU)
Co-Directors: David Braff, MD and Gregory Light, PhD
The Clinical Neuroscience and Genomics Unit (CNGU) advances our understanding of the neural and genomic substrates that contribute to outcomes in patients with psychosis.
Presently, most psychiatric treatments are implemented in the absence of knowledge about individual variation in important domains of brain function that influence therapeutic response and outcomes. This conventional approach to treatment is problematic, with incomplete responses occurring far too often resulting in substantial cost and demoralization to the patient, caregivers, treatment providers, and larger social system.
To improve the individual outcomes and societal impact of chronic psychotic illness, the CNGU aims to develop mechanistically informed, personalized treatments that 1) can be effectively delivered in “real-world” community settings and 2) informed by objective tests that reliably identify patients most likely to benefit from treatments.
Education and Dissemination Unit (EDU)
Director: Noosha Niv, PhD
The Education and Dissemination Unit provides the most current information related to mental health disorders and evidenced-based practices, especially as pertaining to severe mental illnesses. The goals of the unit are: 1) to disseminate the latest evidence-based practices and peer-reviewed mental health research to Veterans, family members and clinicians, 2) to address the education needs of VA clinicians in VISN 22, and 3) to support the VA Office of Mental Health in the national implementation of evidence-based practices.
Health Services Implementation Unit (HSIU)
Director: Sonya Gabrielian, MD, MPH
The Health Services Unit (HSU) conducts a program of research, quality improvement, education, and clinical care to improve health care access and outcomes of Veterans with serious mental illness. The HSU focuses on improving our understanding of problems with the quality of care and disparities in care, and on developing, implementing and evaluating interventions to improve the quality of care and functional outcomes. Projects partner with policy makers, clinicians, and individuals with mental illness, make use of informatics technology, and draw on implementation approaches to improve care for this vulnerable population.
Mental Health in Aging (MHA) Unit
Director: Lisa Eyler, PhD
The Mental Health in Aging Unit uses state-of-the art techniques to measure aging of the body and brain among Veterans with serious mental illness and to understand mechanisms underlying cognitive, behavioral, and functional changes across adulthood among patients with psychosis. We aim to understand aging in the context of serious mental illness through a comprehensive and integrated approach. Our studies involve measures of brain structure and function using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), blood-based biomarkers of inflammation and other biological systems, as well as continuous, mobile monitoring of behaviors like sleep and physical activity and in-the-moment emotions and interactions. Our observational studies help set the stage for individualized and whole-person interventions to improve functioning and promote recovery of Veterans with serious mental illnesses as they age.
Neuropsychopharmacology Unit (NPU)
Director: Susan Powell, PhD
Co-Director: Jared Young, PhD
The Neuropsychopharmacology Unit focuses on developing parallel behavioral paradigms in animals and humans for use in psychiatric drug discovery. We use behavioral measures and psychopharmacological manipulations in rodents and humans to examine the roles of neurotransmitters in behavior, to develop animal models of human drug effects, and to explore information-processing and cognitive deficits in psychiatric disorders. The goals of the unit include: (1) developing behavioral tasks in rodents relevant to cognitive, social, affective, and information processing deficits in serious mental illness; (2) advancing translational measures of EEG for use in rodents and humans during task performance; (3) understanding molecular mechanisms underlying severe mental illness using mouse models;(4) exploring the contribution of environmental risk factors to psychiatric illness and the implications for intervention; and (5) investigating novel therapeutics for serious mental illness in preclinical models.
The Treatment Unit conducts research with the goal of developing new interventions and helping Veterans with psychotic disorders to achieve better recovery. A special focus is on interventions for unmet treatment needs such as cognitive impairments and negative symptoms. The goals of the unit include: 1) identifying determinants of daily functioning for Veterans with chronic psychotic illness; 2) developing novel pharmacological and psychosocial treatments to improve functioning in Veterans with chronic psychotic illness; 3) identifying and resolving obstacles for intervention research in this area; and 4) providing training to reliability standards for diagnostic interviews and clinical symptom ratings.