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) aims to advance our understanding of the neurobiological substrates of psychotic illnesses that most strongly contribute to poor outcomes, and use this information to guide mechanistically informed, personalized treatments. Presently, most psychiatric interventions are implemented in the absence of knowledge about individual variation in important domains of brain function that might influence therapeutic response and outcome. This conventional approach to treatment is problematic, with treatment failure occurring far too often and incurring substantial cost to the patient, family, therapist and larger social system. To improve the individual outcomes and societal impact of chronic psychotic illness, the CNGU develops precision medicine trials for psychosis patients that are: 1) effectively delivered in “real-world” community centers; and 2) informed by objective, reliable, validated, and low-cost biomarkers for identifying patients most likely to benefit (or not) from treatments. Findings support large-scale biomarker-guided trials to prevent or ameliorate illness in high-risk cohorts or treatment refractory populations.
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.
The Health Services Unit conducts a program of research, education, and clinical care to improve outcomes of individuals with psychotic disorders. 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 results from implementation science to improve care.
Neuroimaging Unit (NIU)
Co-Directors: Gregory Brown, PhD and Lisa Eyler, PhD
The Neuroimaging Unit develops and uses state-of-the art magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to examine how psychosis affects the brain and to understand neural mechanisms underlying the cognitive and functional deficits of patients. From imaging of rodent models to study the effect of genetic manipulations on brain structure, to imaging of patients at rest and while performing complex cognitive tests, the Unit aims to translate basic science into insights about behavior. We have also worked to develop and test novel procedures to image neuroinflammation, analyze coordinated signals between brain regions in the absence of a challenge task, break down complex cognitive tasks into component parts using computational modelling, and to estimate "brain age" from multiple MRI measurements.
Neuropsychopharmacology Unit (NPP)
Director: Mark Geyer, PhD
Associate Directors: Jared Young, PhD and Susan Powell, 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.