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For 80 years we've provided the highest quality care to adults, children and adolescents; we conduct pioneering research; we educate professionals in the field; and we serve our community.
MGH Psychiatry's 80th Anniversary
The story of the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry is the story of the best of modern psychiatry.
The department includes more than 60 specialty clinical and research programs that address virtually every aspect of psychiatric disorders - the brain diseases also known as mental illness - including depression, schizophrenia, and a host of other disorders such as anxiety, panic, attention deficit, bipolar, obsessive compulsive, and post-traumatic stress. All are complex, painful, often debilitating conditions that alter the perceptions, feelings and behaviors of those who suffer.
“Psychiatry is a field of brain study and repair,” notes Jerrold F. Rosenbaum, MD, the department’s seventh and current chief of Psychiatry. “In decades past, the mind and body, or should I say mind and brain, were seen as different and distinct. Modern psychiatry sees them as one. Our organ of interest in psychiatry is the brain, and what a marvelously and infinitely complex one it is.”
The Department of Psychiatry serves patients, families and the community by vigorously pursuing a four-part mission:
Jerrold F. Rosenbaum, M.D.
Maurizio Fava, M.D.
John B. Herman, M.D.
Jonathan E. Alpert, M.D., Ph.D.
Gregory L. Fricchione, M.D.
Timothy E. Wilens, M.D.
Sabine Wilhelm, Ph.D
Joy B. Rosen
Laurie Ansorge Ball
The Department of Psychiatry offers an exceptional depth and breadth of patient services including: emergency and urgent care; general and specialty outpatient care for adults, children and adolescents; a 24-bed inpatient unit; psychological and educational assessment services; dedicated psychiatry services for both medical and surgical inpatients and outpatients; an addictions program; a neurotherapeutics service, and forensic psychiatry services.
The department’s more than 600 affiliated psychiatrists and psychologists are uniquely trained as clinicians, researchers and teachers, and include some of the field’s most accomplished and recognized specialists, particularly in psychopharmacology, cognitive-behavioral therapy and behavioral medicine. They are able to achieve extraordinary treatment results because of the research that underlies their expert care, and the patient concerns that drive the research questions they study. For its exceptional results in patient care, the MGH Department of Psychiatry has consistently earned top rankings in psychiatry every year since 1996 in the annual “America’s Best Hospitals” survey by US News & World Report.
The integration of patient care and clinical research has been a hallmark of the Department of Psychiatry for more than 30 years. The department’s clinical research programs began with small scale studies by psychiatrists and psychologists seeking to provide new treatment options for their patients.
Today, the department has the largest clinical research program in the hospital, with studies at the forefront of neuroscience, molecular biology, and genetics. Thanks to tools such as neuroimaging, genetics and genomics, Department of Psychiatry researchers are beginning to map the pathways through which brain biology interacts with life circumstances and events to produce psychiatric illnesses. This research is making it possible to pinpoint affected areas of the brain; understand inherited risk factors and the role of environmental stress; develop more effective psychotherapies, medications, and neurotherapeutic treatments; and ultimately to prevent these illnesses from occurring by intervening early.
To address the serious shortage and availability of expert psychiatric care, each year the Department of Psychiatry trains 100 adult and child psychiatry residents, psychology interns, and clinical fellows to become leaders in their areas of specialty. Another 40,000 psychiatrists, non-psychiatric physicians and other health professionals are reached through the MGH Psychiatry Academy, a comprehensive program of web-based seminars, satellite symposia, teleconferences and live symposia. In addition, the department educates professionals in education, law, the military and the clergy who carry their enhanced understanding of the discipline of psychiatry out into their work with affected individuals and their families.
To address the mental health needs of people in Mass General’s neighborhoods who suffer from severe and persistent mental illness, substance use disorders, poverty, immigration challenges, homelessness and multiple traumas, the Department of Psychiatry partners with local organizations through its Division of Public and Community Psychiatry. The department also offers free patient and family education programs in Boston through its Psychiatry Academy. To serve the hospital’s global neighbors, the department was the first hospital department in the United States to establish a division of global psychiatry. The Chester M. Pierce Global Psychiatry Division addresses the acute shortage of mental health professionals in developing countries through training and service opportunities.
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An analysis of medical records data from three Massachusetts health care systems finds no evidence that prenatal exposure to antidepressants increases the risk for autism and related disorders or for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
A clinical trial of an experimental drug for treatment-resistant major depression finds that modulation of the endogenous opioid system may improve the effectiveness of drugs that target the action of serotonin and related neurotransmitters.
The weight gain that can result from quitting smoking does not eliminate the reduction in cardiovascular risks associated with smoking cessation among patients with serious mental illness, at least not during the first year.
A study from Massachusetts General Hospital researchers finds that the brains of young adult marijuana users react differently to social exclusion than do those of non-users.
Repeat intravenous treatment with low doses of the anesthetic drug ketamine quickly reduced suicidal thoughts in a small group of patients with treatment-resistant depression.
A team of surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital announced today that they have performed the nation's first genitourinary reconstructive (penile) transplant.
Investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital have found that dopamine signaling within the cerebral cortex can predict changes in the extent of communication between key brain networks during working memory.
A new study of Tourette syndrome (TS) led by researchers from the University of California at San Francisco and MGH has found that nearly 86 percent of patients who seek treatment for TS will be diagnosed with a second psychiatric disorder during their lifetimes, and that nearly 58 percent will receive two or more such diagnoses.
Amid reports that rank today’s teens as the most stressed generation in the country, a study from the Benson-Henry Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital offers hope for helping high school students effectively manage stress and build long-term resiliency.
A national school-based mental health program that is now reaching almost one quarter of all elementary school students in Chile appears to have produced significant improvements in both behavioral and academic outcomes, such as attention problems and school attendance, among participating students.
A study co-led by an MGH investigator finds that opinions about facial attractiveness are shaped more by personal experience than by genetics.
A small clinical trial of a novel antidepressant that stimulates neurogenesis—the production of new brain cells—shows that the compound appears to be safe and may be effective against depression
Extended treatment with the smoking cessation drug varenicline significantly improved the ability of individuals with serious mental illness to maintain abstinence from tobacco after a standard 12-week course of treatment.
A year-long study has found that pregabalin – FDA-approved to treat nerve pain and seizures – was effective in reducing symptoms of restless leg syndrome and, with long-term treatment, was less likely than pramipexole – which activates the dopamine neurotransmission system and is FDA approved for RLS treatment – to cause worsening of symptoms.
A program of cognitive behavioral therapy that addresses both mood and diabetes self-care led to improved blood sugar control and produced faster relief of depression in patients with poorly-controlled type 2 diabetes.
A meta-analysis of studies that investigated measures designed to improve health professionals’ interactions with patients confirms that such efforts can produce health effects just as beneficial as taking a daily aspirin to prevent heart attack.
Even casual use of marijuana appears to cause significant structural changes in key brain structures of young adults, a new study finds. Researchers from MGH and Northwestern University have found differences between casual users of marijuana and non-users in the size, shape, and structure of brain regions involved with motivation, emotion and reward.
Previous studies that have suggested an increased risk of autism among children of women who took antidepressants during pregnancy may actually reflect the known increased risk associated with severe maternal depression.
Although cannabis – commonly known as marijuana – is broadly believed to be nonaddictive, a study by MGH investigators found that 40 percent of cannabis-using adolescents receiving outpatient treatment for substance use disorder experienced symptoms of withdrawal, which are considered a hallmark of drug dependence.
The One Fund Boston, Massachusetts General Hospital and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary today announced the creation of the One Fund Center, a collaboration that will offer ongoing care to those affected by the often invisible, yet persistent, injuries sustained in the Boston Marathon bombings.
MGH investigators have identified changes in the metabolic activity of a key brain region in patients successfully treated for depression with psychodynamic psychotherapy and found evidence that metabolism in a different structure might predict which patients are likely to respond to that form of therapy.
An MGH study has found that a month-long, 12-step-based residential program linked to community-based follow-up care, enabled almost 30 percent of opioid-dependent participants to remain abstinent a year later. Previous research revealed that 83 percent of those who entered an office-based opioid treatment program had dropped out a year later.
Investigators working to unravel the impact of genetics versus environment on traits such as obesity may need to consider a new factor: when individuals were born. A multi-institutional research team has found that a previously reported correlation between a specific gene variant and the risk of obesity primarily affects those born after 1942.
In a novel investigation in which physicians underwent brain scans while they believed they were actually treating patients, researchers have provided the first scientific evidence indicating that doctors truly can feel their patients’ pain – and can also experience their relief following treatment.
An analysis of the medical records of more than 38,000 patients by MGH investigators clarifies the contribution of citalopram and other antidepressants to lengthening of the QT interval, an aspect of the heart's electrical activity that – when prolonged – may increase the risk of dangerous arrhythmias.
Adding the dietary supplements folate and vitamin B12 to treatment with antipsychotic medication improved a core symptom component of schizophrenia in a study of more than 100 patients.
A new study published in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds that Google searches for information across all major mental illnesses and problems followed seasonal patterns, suggesting mental illness may be more strongly linked with seasonal patterns than previously thought.
An international research consortium led by investigators at MGH and the University of Chicago has answered several questions about the genetic background of obsessive-compulsive disorder and Tourette syndrome, providing the first direct confirmation that both are highly heritable and also revealing major differences between the underlying genetic makeup of the disorders.
The initial assessment of a blood test to help diagnose major depressive disorder indicates it may become a useful clinical tool. A team including MGH researchers reports that analyzing levels of nine biomarkers accurately distinguished patients diagnosed with depression from control participants without significant false-positive results.
Resident physicians' participation in a brief training program designed to increase empathy with their patients produced significant improvement in how patients perceived their interactions with the residents.
Massachusetts General Hospital has moved into the number one spot on the 2012-13 U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Hospitals” list.
Specially designed comprehensive behavioral therapy is more effective than sessions offering patient support and education in helping adults with Tourette syndrome manage their tics – sudden, repetitive motions or vocalizations – according to a new study.
Two papers that will appear in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, both receiving advance online release, may help identify gene variants that contribute to the risks of developing obsessive-compulsive disorder or Tourette syndrome.
With the discovery that the unconscious mind plays a key role in the placebo effect, researchers have identified a novel mechanism that helps explain the power of placebos and nocebos.
Researchers using a new approach to identifying genes associated with depression have found that variants in a group of genes involved in transmission of signals by the neurotransmitter glutamate appear to increase the risk of depression.
A new study finds differences in how participation in Alcoholics Anonymous helps men and women maintain sobriety. For men, avoiding companions and situations that encourage drinking had more powerful effects, while increased confidence in the ability to avoid drinking in response to feelings of sadness or depression was more important for women.
Participating in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress.
An MGHfC study published in the March 2011 Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine shows that Massachusetts' new court-ordered mental health screening and intervention program led to more children being identified as behaviorally and emotionally at risk.
The positive effects of mindfulness meditation on pain and working memory may result from an improved ability to regulate a crucial brain wave called the alpha rhythm, which is thought to "turn down the volume" on distracting information.
A subgroup of adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also exhibit excessive emotional reactions to everyday occurrences, and this combination of ADHD and emotional reactivity appears to run in families, an MGH study finds.
An analysis of more than 10 years of data confirms that ADHD alone significantly increases the risk of future cigarette smoking and substance abuse in both boys and girls.
Many of the nation’s top experts in mental health care for veterans gather in Boston to assist community-based healthcare professionals to effectively identify and treat returning veterans who suffer from psychological and physical wounds of deployment.
Clergy members and spiritual leaders of all denominations are invited to attend an innovative symposium that focuses on understanding and guiding the recovery of veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as their families.
New tool is designed to help pediatricians and other clinicians identify and address the signs of deployment-related stress among children and families.
Among the many ways that participation in Alcoholics Anonymous helps its members stay sober, two appear to be most important – spending more time with individuals who support efforts towards sobriety and increased confidence in the ability to maintain abstinence in social situations.
Changing the words used to describe someone struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction may significantly alter the attitudes of health care professionals, even those who specialize in addiction treatment.
One of many reasons that attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings helps people with alcohol use disorders stay sober appears to be alleviation of depression. A team of researchers has found that study participants who attended AA meetings more frequently had fewer symptoms of depression – along with less drinking – than did those with less AA participation.
This May, some 3,500 Red Sox fans will be able to know the thrill of running across home plate at America’s Most Beloved Ballpark, while at the same time raising funds to support services for local veterans with deployment-related stress disorders and traumatic brain injuries.
Local company teams up with Mass General and Red Sox Foundation to support veterans.
In a study appearing in the journal PLoS ONE, MGH scientists describe finding mathematical patterns underlying the way individuals unconsciously distribute their preferences regarding approaching or avoiding objects in their environment.
Adding cognitive behavioral therapy – an approach that teaches skills for handling life challenges and revising negative thought patterns – to pharmaceutical treatment for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder significantly improved symptom control in adult patients.
The Massachusetts General Hospital School Psychiatry Program announces the creation of an educational curriculum to help teachers train their students' brains. Doctors say such efforts could curb bullying by helping students develop core social and emotional skills.
A treatment model designed to accommodate the beliefs and concerns of Chinese immigrants increased the percentage of depressed patients entering treatment nearly sevenfold.
A new study will measure the ability of probiotic bacteria GanedenBC30 (Bacillus coagulans GB1-30, 6086) to help people diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and major depressive disorder (MDD).
Among patients with depression, the presence of symptoms associated with bipolar disorder does not appear to be associated with treatment resistance, according to a study from MGH investigators. However, many patients with depression also report psychotic-like symptoms, such as hearing voices or believing they are being spied on or plotted against, and those patients are less likely to respond to treatment.
A new study shows that, as attendance at AA meetings increases, so do the participants' spiritual beliefs, especially in those individuals who had low spirituality at the beginning of the study.
Although many people affected by the economic downturn could benefit from mental health treatment and services, two factors typically discourage them from seeking help: the stigma often associated with mental health conditions, and the feeling of not knowing how to find the right mental health care providers, information, and services. A web site (www.moodandanxiety.org) recently re-launched by Massachusetts General Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry addresses both of these issues.
Improving the environment in which rats are reared can significantly strengthen the physiological process of wound healing, according to a report in the open-access journal PLoS ONE. MGH researchers found that giving rats living in isolation the opportunity to build nests led to faster and more complete healing of burn injuries.
An international research consortium has discovered that many common genetic variants contribute to a person’s risk of schizophrenia and are also involved in bipolar disorder.
The Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital today will announce a multifaceted initiative aimed at helping veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq who are affected by post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
More than half the internists responding to a survey indicated they rarely or never discussed sexual problems with their patients who had survived cancer.
Women participating in the Women's Health Initiative study who reported taking an antidepressant drug had a small but statistically significant increase in the risk of stroke and of death compared with participants not taking antidepressants.
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