Psychiatry Tech presents Future Of Mental Health #48: Genetics and the Complexity of the Human Brain

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Neurogeneticists are modern day astronauts, taking us into inner space instead of outer space to explore the undiscovered neurons and networks in our brains. They are utilizing advances in genome sequencing to better grasp the cause of brain and nerve disorders, both to improve treatment, and to reduce stigma around these conditions. 


“When I started out in the field and started my laboratory, we were stymied in terms of identifying genes with any confidence that were contributing to psychiatric disorders in childhood. And that’s despite tons of evidence that genes play a really important role in most of the disorders that arise in childhood. They’re not faint. They don’t dictate everything. But there’s tons of evidence that they play an important role. But it was a really hard problem. And we had not figured out–and frankly, we didn’t have the technology to reliably identify genes that were playing a major role in these disorders. And so I started a lab to see whether or not we could do that… after the turn of millennium, around 2007, 2008, we were one of the first labs to be able to identify with confidence, [a] specific gene playing a role in common forms of autism.” – Matthew State, MD, PhD


Matthew State MD, PhD is the Oberndorf Family Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences (DPBS), President of the Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics, and member of the Weill Institute for Neurosciences at the University of California, San Francisco. He is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and human geneticist.  Over the past 20 years, his laboratory has contributed to major advances in the genetics and biology of developmental neuropsychiatric disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Tourette disorder (TD). 


Under his leadership, the UCSF DPBS has championed collaboration across the neurosciences at UCSF and pursued a major expansion of research, clinical services and advocacy, including overseeing the construction of the Nancy Friend Pritzker Psychiatry Building and the Joan and Sanford I Weill Neurosciences Building. He has championed multiple initiatives at the intersection of mental health and diversity, equity and inclusion, human rights, homelessness, and climate change.


He has been the recipient of numerous awards including a Distinguished Citizen Award from the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, the Ruane Prize from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, and the Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health from the US National Academy of Medicine. He was elected to membership in the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) in 2013.


Join Marjorie Morrison and Patrick J. Kennedy for an in-depth discussion with Dr. State on our broken mental health system and how advances in genetics contribute to fixing it. 


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