Precision Mental Health and Wellness

Precision Mental Health and Wellness has launched to accelerate the translation of neuroscience breakthrough into clinical practice.  Dr. Williams and her team aim to revolutionize our approach to treating depression, anxiety and mood disorders, by identifying underlying brain circuitry malfunctions in each person and guiding personalized treatments that correct them. We are targeting malfunctioning brain circuitry with advanced imaging technology.

The Challenge

Depression impacts at least 1 in 10 people and is now our number 1 cause of disability and lost hope globally. Each year in the US, the loss in productive lives due to depression is a staggering $50B. Currently we rely on a “trial and error” approach to treatment that, despite our best efforts, leaves most patients suffering for years, leading to chronic disability, treatment resistance, and all too often suicide. Worldwide, there are 1 million suicides per year.

It is imperative that we change this situation.

While there are many effective treatments for depression, guessing who will respond to which treatment is all too often a shot in the dark. Depression is a catch-all diagnosis that lumps together patients experiencing a wide range of symptoms with different underlying brain dysfunction. We require a greater understanding of how malfunctioning brain circuitry causes specific symptoms in each patient, and, in turn guide treatments that correct these underlying malfunctions.

The Innovation

To meet this challenge, Dr. Williams and her PanLab team has developed a model that uses neuroscience breakthroughs to define more precise subtypes for depression and anxiety. She is pioneering functional MRI (fMRI) technology to visualize brain circuitry in action, revealing specific types of depression, called “biotypes”. Each biotype is defined by the disruption of distinct neural networks and predominant symptoms of anxiety, stress and fear, rumination, and loss of motivation and cognitive control.

This model is a foundation for tailoring interventions to the right person at the right time. Dr. Williams and her team are performing the world’s first neuroscience-informed translational trials, using imaging to define precise biotypes and using biotypes to guide treatments for depression. She pairs each biotype to specific treatments, including typical antidepressants, new targeted pharmacotherapies and neurostimulation techniques. Leveraging expertise in neuroscience, mental health, neuroimaging, and computational analysis, she is refining her precision mental-health approach to improve patient outcomes. Biotypes are continually refined to consider personal variations, using genetic, life experience, social and clinical information.