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Nestler delivers inaugural Heninger Lecture


Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD, second from right, Dean for Academic and Scientific Affairs and Nash Family Professor of Neuroscience, Professor of Pharmacological Services, and Professor of Psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, delivered the inaugural Heninger Lecture on January 10 at the Connecticut Mental Health Center. The endowed lecture was established to honor George Heninger, MD, center, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, who enjoyed a storied research and mentoring career in the Yale Department of Psychiatry and at the Connecticut Mental Health Center. Heninger and colleague George Aghajanian, MD, second from left, combined have contributed more than a century of service to the department and have made crucial discoveries that have advanced our understanding of and treatments for mental illness. Their mentees, including Nestler and Dennis Charney, MD, right, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and President for Academic Affairs for the Mount Sinai Health System, have become some of the most prominent leaders in psychiatry and neuroscience. John H. Krystal, MD, left, Chair of the Yale Department of Psychiatry and a collaborator with Heninger, Aghajanian, Nestler, and Charney, welcomed the standing room-only audience to the lecture and introduced Nestler. Watch the lecture

Study of veterans details genetic basis for anxiety, links anxiety and depression

A massive genome-wide analysis of approximately 200,000 military veterans has identified six genetic variants linked to anxiety, researchers from Yale and colleagues at other institutions reported Jan. 7 in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Some of the variants associated with anxiety had previously been implicated as risk factors for bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia. The new study further contributes the first convincing molecular explanation for why anxiety and depression often coexist. The co-lead author was Joel Gelernter, MD, Foundations Fund Professor of Psychiatry and Professor of Genetics and of Neuroscience. Read more  

Yale study: Ketamine disinhibits dendrites and enhances calcium signals in prefrontal dendritic spines

In a study published in Nature Communications, Alex Kwan, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, and his research team found that within an hour after a mouse received ketamine, there is a substantial increase in the amount of calcium that goes into the dendritic spines for neurons in the prefrontal cortex. Kwan and the researchers think the finding has implications for locating and evaluating new compounds that may also have rapid-acting antidepressant effects. "What we see here for ketamine may be the tip of an iceberg," he said. Read more  

'Safety Signals' may help slow down anxiety

For as many as one in three people, life events or situations that pose no real danger can spark a disabling fear. Cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressants help about half the people suffering from anxiety, but millions of others do not find sufficient relief from existing therapies. Researchers at Yale, including Dylan Gee, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology and co-senior author, and Weill Cornell Medicine report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on a novel way that could help combat such anxiety: When life triggers excessive fear, use a safety signal. Read more  

Nature honors Sestan for reviving pigs' brain function after death

Nenad Sestan MD, PhD, Harvey and Kate Cushing Professor of Neuroscience and Professor of Comparative Medicine, of Genetics and of Psychiatry, has been named as one of Nature's "Ten people who mattered in science in 2019." The journal recognized the work of Sestan and his lab team for "challenging thinking of the border between life and death by reviving the brains of pigs which had died hours earlier." The researchers reported April 17, 2019 in Nature that they had restored circulation and cellular function in severed heads of pigs obtained from a local meatpacking plant. Read more  

Jordan a panelist at 19th annual Power Day

Ayana Jordan, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, was a panelist at the 19th annual Power Day, an event held in November at Yale School of Medicine. Originally conceived as a way for medical and nursing students (physician associate students were added in 2018) to evaluate and reflect upon situations in which medical professionals exercised power well or poorly, Power Day has grown into a much-anticipated opportunity for inter-professional collaboration and relationship building. Over 250 students gathered for this year's event. Read more  

Radhakrishnan selected to receive ISCTM New Investigator Award

Rajiv Radhakrishnan, MBBS, MD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, has been selected for the 2020 International Society for CNS Clinical Trials and Methodology (ISCTM) New Investigator Award program. The competitive award includes fee-waived registration for the 16th Annual ISCTM Scientific Meeting, to be held Feb. 19-21, 2020 in Washington, DC. Accommodations and a stipend will be provided, and award recipients are assigned a senior mentor for the meeting and for pre-meeting consultation to develop a scientific poster. Read more  

Holmes named fellow of Association for Psychological Science

Avram Holmes, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology and of Psychiatry, has been selected as a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science (APS). APS is the leading international organization dedicated to advancing scientific psychology across disciplinary and geographic borders. Fellow status is awarded to APS members who have made sustained outstanding contributions to the science of psychology in the areas of research, teaching, service, and/or application. Fellow status is typically awarded for scientific contributions. Read more  

De Aquino receives Patterson Trust Mentored Research Award

João P. De Aquino, MD, Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry and a graduate of the Yale Psychiatry Residency Program, has been chosen to receive a two-year Patterson Trust Mentored Research Award from the Robert Leet Patterson and Clara Guthrie Patterson Trust. The award will fund De Aquino's study, "Cannabinoid Modulation of Pain Sensitivity in Humans with Co-occurring Chronic Pain and Opioid Use Disorder." The study will examine the effects of oral delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main ingredient in cannabis, among people with both chronic pain and opioid addiction. Read more  

Seltzer honored with Outstanding Clinical Preceptor Award

Aaron Seltzer, LCSW, a clinical instructor in the Yale Department of Psychiatry, was honored in December with the Outstanding Clinical Preceptor Award for his work supervising Physician Associate (PA) students completing psychiatry rotations at Yale New Haven Hospital. In his role as preceptor, Seltzer serves as the primary clinical instructor for PA students as they complete their two-week rotations in the Behavioral Care Unit in the emergency department. He teaches them about psychiatric evaluations including suicide risk assessments and mental status examinations. Read more  

A challenging season for those with mental illness

Nii Addy, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, wrote in Newsday that the holidays are a time when people should watch for signs of mental illness and depression in friends and loved ones. "At this time of year, it's imperative that we look out for friends, family and community members who struggle with mental health," he wrote. "We can all watch out for signs of mental illness and depression in friends and loved ones - including excessive feelings of worry or sadness that interfere with everyday life, extreme changes in mood, or suicidal thoughts." Read more  

Male sexual assault: Hidden trauma

Why is male sexual assault largely overlooked and neglected by the public, survivors themselves, and some health care professionals? Joan Cook, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, spoke to Psychiatric Times in December after she gave a Grand Rounds lecture to the department and discussed the prevalence rate of sexual violence in boys and men. It is estimated that at least one in six boys by the age of 18 has experienced sexual violence, and one in four across their lifespan. Put another way, that's an estimated 25,000 victims in a football stadium filled with 100,000 men. Watch  

Why drinking can make you feel extra anxious over the holidays

Alcohol-infused cheer during the holidays can be accompanied by a painful aftershock, not only a hangover. Many people also experience increased levels of anxiety. One reason is alcohol can be stimulating. John H. Krystal, MD, Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Professor of Translational Research and Professor of Psychiatry and of Neuroscience at Yale School of Medicine, told the online news service Healthline this may be due to alcohol's ability to increase norepinephrine levels in the body. Norepinephrine is a chemical involved in our body's "fight or flight" response to fear or stress. Read more  

Biohaven Pharmaceuticals named Murphy's 'Innovator of the Month'

New Haven innovator Biohaven Pharmaceuticals, founded on research and intellectual property from CEO Vlad Coric, MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, was named "Innovator of the Month" in December by U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn. Biohaven focuses its work on neurological innovation and developing novel products that address some of the most disabling and devastating neurological disorders, such as migraine headaches, Alzheimer's disease, anxiety, and other neurological conditions that impact human health. Read more  

Tampi edits book 'Psychotherapy in Later Life'

Rajesh R. Tampi, MD, Professor Adjunct of Psychiatry, is the editor of the new book, "Psychotherapy in Later Life," published by Cambridge University Press. The publisher describes the book as a "practical how-to-guide for psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health workers on choosing and delivering evidence-based psychological therapies to older adults. It covers all the main evidence-based psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT)." Read more  

Department seeks proposals for annual Detre Awards

The Yale Department of Psychiatry is soliciting applications from trainees in its Psychiatry Residency Program for the 2020-21 Thomas P. Detre Fellowship Awards in Translational Neuroscience Research in Psychiatry. The awards will support the translational research endeavors of residents currently enrolled (or residents interested in enrolling) in the Neuroscience Research Training Program in Psychiatry. NRTP residents in PGY 1-3 are eligible to apply, as are residents seeking to be in the NRTP. As many as three awards of up to $30,000 per award will be funded. Read more  

Special Events

Call for Submissions: RebPsych 2020: Decolonizing Mental Health

The organizers of RebPsych 2020: Decolonizing Mental Health have issued a call for submissions to the conference, which will be held April 3, 2020. The conference asks what decolonizing mental health looks like today, and how we can build on past efforts. Organizers want to imagine the decolonization of the psychiatric profession as broadly as possible, and encourage submissions from a diverse array of participants, including health professionals, activists, community organizers, scholars, clients, patients, artists, students, and writers. Learn more  

Staff Connections


Employee Spotlight, a new feature in Psychiatry@Yale, will profile one Yale Department of Psychiatry staff member every issue. Featured this month is David Nestico, Project Coordinator in the Office of Education

Q: What is your role in Yale Psychiatry and what work do you perform?

A: "My position is Projector Coordinator in the Office of Education; I work primarily with the Psychiatry residents. I provide administrative support for the residency program and assist with the coordination of a number of projects for the program. Some of the projects include residency recruitment, orientation and onboarding for new residents, the PRITE (resident in-training exam), resident didactics, visa processing, and submitting expense reports. I also provide administrative support to Dr. David Ross, one of the program's Associate Program Directors."

Q: What originally drew you to Yale?

A: "I was drawn to Yale after my wife (Shelly) was recruited to be the Lead Administrator in the Department of Ophthalmology here at Yale. Shelly and I had lived in the Burlington, Vermont, area and we relocated to the New Haven area in 2014 after Shelly accepted this position. I was very fortunate to be hired into Psychiatry and have worked in my current position for about five years."

Q: Before working at Yale, what was the most unusual or interesting job you've ever had?

A: "My most interesting job was when I worked for a luxury wristwatch retailer in Tysons Corner, Virginia (northern Virginia). I was fortunate to be sent on two trips to Switzerland to tour a few of the watch manufacturers' facilities. I worked on both the sales and service side of the business for this retailer. Some of the customers were very famous people (e.g., business executives, politicians, sports figures, actors and actresses). It was very fun and interesting."

Q: What is your favorite indoor or outdoor activity?

A: "Pickleball is my favorite sport to play, which is both an indoor and outdoor game. (Google it if you want to know what it is!) I started playing pickleball about four years ago and was hooked the first time I started playing it. I have gotten to meet a lot of nice people by playing the game, and am a volunteer Ambassador for the USA Pickleball Association. I even demonstrated the game to some Psychiatry residents last year, and would love to help promote pickleball at Yale!"

Q: If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

A: "I would like to learn how to be more handy at fixing things at home. What's crazy is that my father can fix just about anything and, for some reason, those skills were never passed along to me. I enjoy, and am pretty good at, assembling items from IKEA, but that's pretty much it."

Better sleep, better lives


Women's Health Research at Yale, with support from WHAM! Investigators Fund, has launched a new study on an intervention to provide strategies that optimize sleep and promote healthy aging in women. Specifically, for women 50 years and older, the study will assess whether the intervention can improve cognitive and emotional health and reduce brain and blood biomarkers that indicate elevated risk for Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (ADRD). Hilary Blumberg, MD, right, John and Hope Furth Professor of Psychiatric Neuroscience and Professor of Psychiatry, is the study's principal investigator. "Sleep irregularities are a leading reason why women report decreased quality of life - they can even lead to a level of despair that can increase risk for suicide," said Blumberg, who directs Yale's Mood Disorders Research Program. "On the other hand, more regular patterns of sleep reduce stress levels and improve emotional and cognitive health." Blumberg is pictured with Bernadette Lecza, left, and Erin Carrubba, center, members of her research team. Read more

New neuroscience center approved for Yale New Haven Hospital's Saint Raphael Campus


The New Haven Board of Alders has approved plans by Yale New Haven Hospital to build a new neuroscience center at its Saint Raphael Campus. The $838 million project also includes construction of an expanded emergency department and three new parking garages to accommodate patients and the hundreds of new employees who will work at the expanded campus. The new neuroscience center will create more opportunities for research and treatment of neurological disorders. Construction is expected to begin this summer with a target date of completion in late 2023. Read more

Psychiatry Grand Rounds

Friday, January 24, 2020; 10:15-11:30 am

Digital Phenotyping Pipeline

Justin T. Baker, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; Scientific Director, Institute for Technology in Psychiatry, McLean Hospital

CMHC Auditorium, 34 Park St.

Friday, January 31, 2020; 10:15-11:30 am

Understanding Microaggressions in Health Professionals' Learning Environment

From left, Darin Latimore, MD, Deputy Dean and Chief Diversity Officer, Yale School of Medicine; Dowin Boatright, MD, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Yale School of Medicine; Rosana Gonzalez-Colaso, PharmD, MPH, Assistant Professor in the Physician Associate Program, Yale School of Medicine

CMHC Auditorium, 34 Park St.

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