Researchers at Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania, Northeastern University, UCLA, and Washington University awarded grant to ascertain network mechanisms and analytics of emotional dysfunction

December 13, 2023

Leanne Williams, PhD

We are pleased to announce that Stanford Psychiatry’s Leanne Williams, the Vincent V.C. Woo Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, has received a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to analyze large datasets to understand the relationships between symptoms and brain networks across individuals.

Dr. Williams joins multiple principal investigators Dr. Yvette Sheline of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Susan Whitfield-Gabrieli of Northeastern University, Dr. Katherine Narr of UCLA, and Dr. Janine Bijsterbosch of Washington University for this study, in which they will use novel computational approaches to identify cohesive symptom/cognitive dimensions and subtypes across the continuum of anxiety and mood disorders in relation to the natural heterogeneity of brain network alterations. Project outcomes will provide a more unified understanding of brain dysfunction in people with different types of symptoms and are expected to guide more effective treatments tailored to specific people.

The study team will leverage multimodal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), clinical and cognitive data for 2,187 people across four Connectomes Related to Human Disease projects, as well as Human Connectome Project Aging and Development Lifespan and the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development studies, to address a major challenge in our field. Data-driven analysis approaches will be applied to determine similarities of brain network- symptom/cognitive dimensions and subtypes across adolescent and adults and their influence on antidepressant treatment outcomes.

“Preliminary data suggest these methods will advance our understanding of the links between brain network dysfunction and specific psychopathology across age and in relation to antidepressant response well beyond DSM diagnoses,” write the project investigators. “Successful completion of this project will deconstruct and validate the natural heterogeneity of brain circuit alterations underlying transdiagnostic disorders. The resulting brain-clinical phenotypes will yield a robust set of dimensional and subtype targets for future clinical and mechanistic investigations of heterogeneity in disorders across the lifespan. These phenotypes can also be used to inform precision medicine approaches to individualizing mechanistic and novel treatment studies.”

Dr. Williams is the founding director of the Stanford Center for Precision Mental Health and Wellness and of the Stanford PanLab for Personalized and Translational Neuroscience. Her research uses biotypes for more individualized diagnosis and for personalizing and tailoring the treatment of depression and related disorders. Recent publications related to this work include “Mapping Neural Circuit Biotypes to Symptoms and Behavioral Dimensions of Depression and Anxiety,” published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

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