Innovation and Priorities
Psychiatry - Computational Neuroscience and the Quantitative Sciences
The field of psychiatry and behavioral science faces an exceptionally important challenge. Mental disorders represent the leading cause of years of life lost due to disability and premature mortality in economically-established countries, and they are the second-leading cause throughout the world. In light of its overall impact on human health, mental disorders historically have received insufficient scientific attention. And indeed, decades of research attempting to elucidate biologically valid brain disease constructs based on a descriptive clinical taxonomy have been unsuccessful.
It is now broadly recognized that a major research paradigm shift is required and is, in fact, underway in Stanford's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. This paradigm shift emphasizes the identification of typical and atypical mental states (and the dynamic shift between these states) based on the collection and simultaneous analysis of multi-dimensional data: genomic, imaging, epigenetic, biomarker, behavioral, environmental. In addition, it is essential to develop novel quantitative research strategies to optimize understanding from data derived from research - ideally, minimally burdensome investigation - involving potentially vulnerable study populations.
Stanford’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, because of its robust commitment to human wellbeing and advancement of basic, translational, and quantitative sciences, has been at the forefront of this paradigm shift. Accelerating quantitative science and computational neuroscience has been elevated as a key strategic priority of the Department. The explicit goal of this approach is to identify transformational models of disease that can advance fundamental knowledge and inform new and more effective strategies for prevention and intervention. A second and equally important goal of this approach is to advance understanding of the brain itself, its capacities and strengths, in order to foster brain health and human resilience.