The STARR News: November 2023
It's almost time for the The STARR Coalition's Annual Awards Celebration!

This year, we will be hosting the Awards Celebration on Friday, December 22nd via zoom. So save the date and join your friends and colleagues as we celebrate and say goodbye to 2023!

We will send out the calendar invite soon! If you want to make sure to get it, send me an email!
November is National Family Caregiver Appreciation Month, a month-long tribute to those individuals providing care-giving support to a family member or loved one with a chronic illness or disability.

There are over 53 million Americans who are unpaid caregivers to family, friends, and neighbors. 27% -- nearly one-third of adult caregivers are helping someone with a mental illness. Caregiving can often have a significant impact on the life of the caregiver in more ways than one. It can make maintaining your physical and mental health more difficult and may put a strain on work and social life.

For that and the stress of the situation, it’s especially important for caregivers to take care of their own mental health. Supporting caregivers with information and resources can help them maintain their mental health and better serve loved ones with mental illness.

MHA has created a series of online guides for caregivers:
You may be trying to help a family member who doesn't have access to care or doesn't want help. Or you may want to learn how to support and encourage someone who has been hospitalized or experienced a similar mental health crisis.

NAMI has developed a series of resources for caregivers in these situations:

The Caregiver Action Network supports caregivers across the healthcare spectrum and has spearheaded National Caregivers Month for years. This year's theme is #CaregiversConnect, highlighting the importance of connections. For a great infographic and tips for family caregivers, check out the Caregiver Action Network site.

Check out some great ideas for you to use to show your appreciation
 to the caregivers below!
November Spotlight Podcast:
Roselyn Coe
Family Caregiver

In honor of National Family Caregiver Appreciation Month, Mallory speaks with Roselyn, a certified mental health aide and family caregiver, for November’s Spotlight Podcast.

This month’s episode provides a glance into the life of a caregiver to a son living with paranoid schizophrenia. Roselyn grew up taking care of her Uncle, who was brain-damaged as a child and needed constant care and support. This background prepared her for later in life, when Roselyn’s own son was diagnosed first with ADHD, then bipolar disorder, then finally paranoid schizophrenia.

At a time when very little information was available for a family caregiver struggling with multiple diagnoses, changing medications, and pervasive stigma and lack of understanding of mental illness, Roselyn found support in her church, respite at the movie theater, and revitalization through walking. Now, Roselyn also finds an empathetic and understanding community in a Facebook group of other mothers of children living with schizophrenia.

CNS Healthcare lived out one of our core beliefs and values by serving others in all areas of our influence this past week. The team from our Site Support Office spent the day volunteering at United Against Poverty in Orlando, FL. Our team worked together to sort and stock the Member Share Grocery Program which serves 300 Central Florida individuals and families living in poverty on a daily basis. We had a fun day giving back and showing how much CNS Healthcare CARES for our community!
CenExel ACMR Principal Investigator, Jessica McCoun, M.D., was recently showcased on Atlanta & Company with 11Alive! During her appearance, Dr. McCoun provided insights into clinical research and the resources available at the CenExel ACMR site, specifically highlighting our pain management studies.

Check out Dr. McCoun's interview, at
This year, for the first time ever, all four of the Pillar Clinical Research sites supported the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Out of the Darkness Walks in Chicago, Little Rock, Bentonville, and Dallas!

This year’s walks were made extra special by the t-shirt artwork created by Emily Davis (daughter of Betty Davis from the Little Rock site).
The Pillar Clinical Research Chicago staff came out to support NAMI and those living with mental illnesses, and maybe even talk about clinical research at Chicago's 2023 NAMI Walk! The Pillar team came prepared with swag for the participants.

Caprice, Chase, Deven and Ted had a great time showing their community spirit!
ERG-Woodland International Research Group was busy in October! They started the month off with the Nami Walk, North Little Rock Unsheltered Fair, North Little Rock Employee Health Fair, and FIVE (5!) community events at the residential housing towers in Little Rock and North Little Rock. They are showing up in the new Mobile Health Unit to do outreach with the Jackson House in Hot Springs and the Travel Center in Little Rock.
CenExel ACMR and CenExel iResearch Atlanta were busy in October! Here are some of the events they participated in:
🏃‍♀️Atlanta OCD Walk, hosted by OCD Georgia, Inc.
🏃‍♀️NAMIWalks Georgia, hosted by NAMI Georgia and local NAMI affiliates
👨‍👩‍👧‍👦Fall Festival, hosted by Fulton County Division of Family and Children Services
CenExel ACMR and CenExel iResearch Atlanta are proud to support these Atlanta-based organizations and agencies doing such important work in their community!
CenExel iResearch Savannah staff were proud to support Savannah Pride, hosted by First City Pride Center, for a special 'Haunted Hostess City' celebration.

The iRS team also participated in the 2023 Walk to End Alzheimer's - Coastal Georgia last month. CenExel iRS was delighted to be part of the Savannah community that helped reach and exceed the Walk's donation goal!
Neuro-Behavioral Clinical Research hosted their annual community “Trunk or Treat” and had several hundred participants! The event gets bigger every year as Neuro-Behaviorial Clinical Research becomes a more familiar resource in the community!

NB-CR has been growing, also! Please join us in welcoming Jim, Craig, and Katie to the STARR community!
Jim Bentley
Community Outreach Coordinator
Ohio Center for Hope
Craig Smith
Recruitment & Administrative Coordinator
Neuro-Behavioral Clinical Research
Katie Glover
In-house lab technician
Neuro-Behavioral Clinical Research

to our friends at
People USA
for a phenomenal
Awards Celebration
and Annual Breakfast!
Parent Caregiver Story: Kimberly King

Many of you know Kimberly King of DBSA from the STARR Advocacy Board. Kimberly has a teenage son living with both ADHD and depression. Her story as a mom and a caregiver was featured in DBSA's Caregiver resource area and we wanted to share an except with you as part of National Family Caregiver Appreciation Month.

As a parent, Kimberly is son Jordan's strongest advocate, but that wasn’t always easy. Beyond dealing with her son's behavior, she found outside challenges navigating the journey with Jordan. According to Kimberly, the most significant was learning how professional and cultural biases can act as a barrier to accessing behavioral and mental health care in school, particularly in Black & Brown communities. This is true even when the student and teachers, staff, and/or administrators share the same cultural identity.

Kimberly frequently struggled to communicate her concerns to her son's teachers and school staff because many of them believed that since he didn’t fit the typical criteria of a person with an intellectual or visible physical disability, that some of the behaviors that he demonstrated in class -- zoning out, daydreaming, fidgeting, emotionally shutting down, lacking motivation, carelessly racing through or missing school assignments altogether -- were the results of him just being lazy, spoiled, or attention seeking. Such descriptors were often used in conversation with Kimberly in front of Jordan, which began to negatively impact his self-esteem, and likely contributed in part to him having suicidal ideation at age of 10 years old.

As a parent with a teen and aging parent to support, who also lives with generalized anxiety disorder, Kimberly stresses self-care as an essential part of her mental wellness strategy. Some of her daily rituals include meditation and breathwork, aromatherapy, listening to music and inspirational podcasts, and treating herself to monthly manicures and pedicures.

We are so grateful to Kimberly for sharing her story and for her work at DBSA and on the STARR Advocacy Board!

Check out the full story on DBSA's website HERE.

A fundamental aspect of the STARR Site Certification is community engagement and volunteering. The concept behind this is that as you forge relationships and cultivate a positive presence within the community, your work as a mental health researcher will become a more recognized and trusted resource within your community.

It's a win-win for the site and the community. But it goes beyond that.

When done right, corporate volunteering programs are a powerful tool for fostering happier, healthier workplaces while being a force for good at the local level. These programs correlate with numerous positive psychological outcomes at both the individual and the organizational level. Research shows that employees’ participation in company-led volunteer programs has positive personal and professional outcomes. Employees who volunteer at work report five times higher well-being and 89% increased job satisfaction.

Team Volunteering
Many community nonprofits need support for their holiday events. Check with your local nonprofits and put together a short list of options for your staff to do some team volunteering. It could be cleaning up and decorating a community park or packing backpacks for school children, there are many team projects that you can explore to boost morale and participation among your staff.
So, as we head into the holiday season, give some thought to how your site can spread some joy and make a positive impact on your community. Whether it's serving meals at local shelters, collecting and distributing gifts for underprivileged families, or assisting with holiday-themed events for children, volunteering helps those in need AND builds relationships and awareness of your research site AND brings a sense of fulfillment and warmth during the holiday season!

Rewiring the Brain: The Neural Code of Traumatic Memories - Researchers in Japan used a novel method combining optical and machine-learning-based approaches to identify the specific neurons encoding fear memory. The study detected a neural population that encodes fear memory, establishing a fear-memory neural network with ‘hub’ neurons that functionally connect memory neurons. There was also an associative connection between distinct networks (conditioned and unconditioned stimulus networks) discovered, proposing a new understanding of information processing that triggers a fear response. The study not only substantiates the principle that memories strengthen through enhanced neural connections but also pioneers the melding of optics and machine learning to elucidate the intricate dynamics of neural networks.

Shifting the trajectory of therapeutic development for neurological and psychiatric disorders - Clinical trials for central nervous system disorders often enroll patients with unrecognized heterogeneous diseases, leading to costly trials that have high failure rates. A review of the potential of emerging technologies and datasets to elucidate disease mechanisms and identify biomarkers to improve patient stratification and monitoring of disease progression in clinical trials for neuropsychiatric disorders shows that greater efforts must be centered on rigorously standardizing data collection and sharing of methods, datasets, and analytical tools across sectors. To address health care disparities in clinical trials, diversity of genetic ancestries and environmental exposures of research participants and associated biological samples must be prioritized.

Zoom Conversations vs In-Person: Brain Activity Tells a Different Tale - A new study reveals a significant disparity in neural activity during face-to-face conversations compared to Zoom interactions. Using advanced neuroimaging, researchers at Yale found that in-person interactions produced increased neural activity linked with gaze time, pupil dilation, and enhanced face processing ability, reflecting greater arousal and social cue exchange. Current digital representations of faces did not access the brain’s social neural pathways as effectively as the live interactions, which suggests that online faces, with present technology, don’t engage our social neural circuits as effectively.

High-Sugar Diets May Fuel Brain Decline - Research suggests a high-sugar diet leads to insulin resistance in the brain and may heighten the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. The study reveals that this insulin resistance impairs glial cells’ ability to clear neuronal debris, a crucial process for preventing neurodegeneration. These findings connect diet-induced insulin resistance to an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases, offering new insights for preventive therapies.

Which brings us to this item:

GLP-1 Drugs Similar to Ozempic May Improve Brain Function and Help Prevent Neurodegeneration - While we already know that GLP-1 agonists like liraglutide, Ozempic, and Wegovy are effective in treating obesity, new studies suggest that the glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor may have putative neuroprotective agents, improve neuronal function, and potentially slow down the underlying disease processes.

Addressing Global Environmental Challenges to Mental Health Using Population Neuroscience: A Review - A research strategy enabling population neuroscience to contribute to identify brain mechanisms underlying environment-related mental illness by leveraging innovative enrichment tools for data federation, geospatial observation, climate and pollution measures, digital health, and novel data integration techniques is described. This strategy can inform innovative treatments that target causal cognitive and molecular mechanisms of mental illness related to the environment. An example is presented of the environMENTAL Project that is leveraging federated cohort data of over 1.5 million European citizens and patients enriched with deep phenotyping data from large-scale behavioral neuroimaging cohorts to identify brain mechanisms related to environmental adversity underlying symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, and substance misuse. This research could lead to the development of objective biomarkers and evidence-based interventions that will significantly improve outcomes of environment-related mental illness.

Oral Contraceptives’ Effect on Brain’s Fear Center - Researchers in Canada investigating the effects of COC use, as well as the role of body-produced and synthetic sex hormones on fear-related brain regions, the neural circuitry via which fear is processed in the brain. They discovered that oral contraceptives may thin the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) in women, potentially influencing emotion regulation, especially fear responses. The study examined both current and former users of combined oral contraceptives (COCs), finding that the cortical thinning appears to be reversible after discontinuing use. The findings suggest that COCs might pose a risk factor for emotion regulation issues during active use, but further research is needed to explore long-term impacts, especially in adolescents whose brain development may be sensitive to hormonal interventions.

New Gene Link to Treatment-Resistant Depression - Researchers at the Fujian Medical University discovered a gene, LHPP, that interacts with stress and plays a pivotal role in treatment-resistant Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) using an animal model. The study underscores the intricate dance between genetic risks and environmental factors in the onset of MDD. In stressed mice, an increase in LHPP expression worsened depression-like behaviors.

Curbing Overthinking in Teens Alters Brain Connectivity - A new study from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine, University of Utah, and University of Exeter (UK) substantiates previous research that rumination (overthinking) can be reduced through an intervention called Rumination-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (RF-CBT). This treatment method, originally designed for adults with recurrent depression, has been adapted for younger individuals. Using fMRI, the study also observed associated changes in brain connectivity. These findings offer hope in mitigating the long-term mental health impact on adolescents, especially amidst global challenges like the pandemic.

Novel Schizophrenia Insights from Brain Organoids and Genes - Researchers leveraged cutting-edge technology to gain insights into schizophrenia’s neurodevelopmental origins. The researchers grew brain organoids from patients’ skin cells, finding persistent axonal disruptions in those with schizophrenia. In another study, researchers zeroed in on a schizophrenia risk gene, CYFIP1, revealing its potential role in brain immune cells called microglia and their influence on synaptic pruning – a crucial process for brain health. These studies emphasize the importance of non-neuronal cells in understanding and potentially treating neuropsychiatric disorders.

Xanax’s Efficacy Questioned - Researchers have discovered discrepancies in the efficacy of alprazolam (Xanax XR), a widely prescribed benzodiazepine sedative, when analyzing both published and unpublished clinical trial data. The new review found that only one of the five FDA-reviewed trials showed a clearly positive outcome. Through a meta-analysis, it was unveiled that publication bias might have overstated the drug’s effectiveness by over 40%. Erick Turner, the senior author, emphasizes the need for caution when prescribing this medication, especially for first-time users.

Use, Potential Use, and Awareness of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by Level of Psychological Distress - A team out of NYU assessed variations in use, potential use, and awareness of the 988 Lifeline among people with varying levels of psychological distress. In this cross-sectional study, use and awareness of the 988 Lifeline was significantly higher among individuals with serious and moderate psychological distress. Approximately 1 in 20 respondents with serious distress had used the 988 Lifeline, but only about one-third of these users were very likely to use it in the future.

The NIH Office of Data Science Strategy is seeking public input on the use of real-world data in biomedical and behavioral research. Real-world data (RWD) includes health-related information collected from sources such as electronic health records, medical claims, and digital health technologies. While RWD offers significant potential for research, its diverse sources and mechanisms of collection can pose challenges. A new Request for Information invites comments regarding challenges and opportunities for the collection, use, and sharing of RWD in NIH-supported biomedical and behavioral research. Comments must be received by December 14.
Provide Patients with Volunteer Opportunities!

Volunteering can be a powerful booster for emotional and mental health. When we help others, it leads to a sense of purpose and accomplishment. This, in turn, can reduce stress and boost your overall mood. Volunteering also provides opportunities for social interaction and building connections, which can combat feelings of loneliness or isolation. It's a natural mood-lifter, as it can increase feelings of happiness and satisfaction. Plus, knowing you've made a positive impact on someone's life can be a source of long-lasting joy and contentment.

Who needs this more than your patients?
You can provide a list of volunteer opportunities for your patients by reaching out to your local nonprofits and creating a short list of activities for your patients.

Don't forget to invite your patients to participate in your site's group volunteer activity!

Or check Volunteer Match to find appropriate opportunities in the community for your patients. There are bound to be a few!

It doesn't need to be in-person to help derive the benefits -- there are plenty of virtual volunteer opportunities for patients. The Crisis Text or Call Lines are always in need of virtual volunteers. NAMI is always seeking volunteers to share their stories, as well as providing peer support and facilitating local support groups.

As always, we are happy to help get your site engaged with your community, so don't hesitate to contact us for extra support!
Register now for ICER’s Schizophrenia Review: Voices for Patient Access Webinar on Tuesday, November 14th from 12-1 pm ET. Learn how the ICER Schizophrenia review could restrict patients’ treatment options & how you can weigh in. Hosted by ABC members, Alliance for Patient Access and Schizophrenia & Psychosis Action Alliance. 
Scientists from around the world will congregate at Neuroscience 2023 to discover new ideas, share their research, and experience the best the field has to offer. Dates: Saturday, November 11–Wednesday, November 15 in Washington, D.C. At Neuroscience 2023, you will have the opportunity to present research, network with scientists, attend session and events, and browse the exhibit hall. Virtual posters will be available Thursday, November 2–Friday, December 15.
The American Brain Coalition (ABC) is hosting their Annual Membership Meeting on Nov. 13th, from 2pm to 4pm at the Westin Washington DC Downtown Hotel. The ABC is a nonprofit organization comprised of the United States’ leading professional neurological, psychological, and psychiatric associations and patient organizations. Together, we seek to advance the understanding of the functions of the brain, and to reduce the burden of brain disorders through public education and advocacy. On behalf of all who live with neurological and psychiatric disorders, we invite organizations that share our concerns and goals to join us at our Annual Membership Meeting. Learn more here.
Brain & Behavior Research Foundation presents: Meet the Scientist Webinar - Pediatric PTSD: Neurobiology and Treatment being held November 14th at 2 pm ET.
Psychiatry Update Winter 2023, held Dec. 3-5 in Las Vegas, will explore the latest advances in the treatment and management of psychiatric disorders, as well as new developments in this field. The 2.5 day meeting provides sessions on the most up-to-date, clinically relevant information for the treatment of Major Depressive Disorder, ADHD, Schizophrenia, and Bipolar Disorder, along with interactive presentations, and networking opportunities. Learn more here.
Anxiety & Depression Association of America’s 2204 Annual Conference: Sex and Gender ~ Navigating the Biological and Social Constructs in Depression and Anxiety Disorders will be held April 11-14, 2024 in Boston, MA.
Thank you for reading!
If you have questions, comments, or would like to submit an item to be included in an upcoming newsletter, please email
Visit us on the web at
Like us on Facebook, connect with us on LinkedIn.
The STARR Coalition is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, our Tax ID # is 47-4634007.
Everything The STARR Coalition does comes from our stakeholders looking to make positive change. 

The STARR Coalition | phone: 501-725-8890 |