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Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Global Leadership

View the video about the Department of Psychiatry and Behavior Sciences, or read some excerpts below.

The Medical University of South Carolina is one of the oldest medical schools in the United States.  The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences has 13 divisions, in which there is a commingling of research scientists and clinicians.  We are a very research intensive department that has world-wide impact in developing and disseminating new treatments.

"a very research intensive department that has world-wide impact"
Thomas Uhde, M.D. – Chairman
 Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
 Executive Director, Institute of Psychiatry

Translation of research into practice is incredibly important in developing innovative and new treatments.  There are two levels of translation at which the department has excelled. The first is translating basic science findings into the clinic . . . taking that molecule or that proof of concept into a clinical trial.  And, then, there is this whole area of taking things from an academic, rigorously controlled experiment – that sort of setting – out into practice in the community.

"translation of research into practice is incredibly important"
Kathleen Brady, M.D., PhD
Distinguished University Professor Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Associate Provost, Clinical and Translational Research
Director, South Carolina Clinical and Translational Research Institute

“We were a translational group before the word translational got hot,” notes Mark George.  “We take ideas from brain imaging and test whether those circuits or regions of the brain are active in a behavior.  Then we try to come up with new treatments based in circuits that we identify in imaging.”    The first and biggest success was in the area of treating depression.  MUSC did the first non-NIH TMS trial here 20 years ago.  We had the idea that transcranial magnetic stimulation could be used to treat depression and we did the first proof of concept study.  Dr. George’s idea then was that a non-invasive way of stimulating that doesn’t require anesthesia, doesn’t produce a seizure, and doesn’t have any cognitive side-effects would have clinical utility . . . and certainly it does.  There are currently about 40 different studies in progress.  We are not wedded to any single disease.  For any disease in the brain that we know the circuit – and can modify it – we go after it with non-invasive brain stimulation to come up with a new treatment.

"for any disease in the brain that we know the circuit – and can modify it – we go after it"
Mark George, M.D.
 Distinguished University Professor Psychiatry, Radiology and Neuroscience
 Director, Brain Stimulation Laboratory

We are trying to find a cure for narcolepsy.  One out of two thousand Americans suffers from this terrible, disabling disease that has no other treatment other than pharmalogical.  Similar to Parkinson’s Disease, narcolepsy is a neurodegenerative disease. We have models of narcolepsy in mice and are using molecular techniques and gene therapy to address this problem.  In the Sleep Molecular Laboratory, scientists are using a very sophisticated technique called optogenetics – the use of light to stimulate specific neurons. With a laser, we can stimulate the neurons that control sleep and put an animal directly to sleep at will.  

"with a laser we can stimulate neurons that control sleep and put an animal to sleep at will"
Carlos Blanco-Centurion, PhD
Assistant Professor, Sleep Molecular Laboratory

At the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, we have developed Web-based courses to train mental health providers how to deliver evidence-based treatments to their patients with psychological trauma. One of the courses already has learners in 71 different countries. The first one we did was Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy designed to provide training to those who provide services to children. We have one that is specific for working with combat-related veterans and active duty personnel, provided by the Department of Navy.  We have another called Helping with Heroes that is designed for those working with firefighters who have experienced trauma.

"one of the courses already has learners in 71 different countries"
Connie Best, PhD
 Professor Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
 National Crimes Victims Research and Treatment Center

So much of what has happened in psychology and psychiatry has been a one-on-one based intervention.  Multisystemic therapy really tries to look at the social environment – the family, the community – and it’s evidence based.  A lot of MUSC faculty volunteer their time, going overseas to Africa or Latin America to do work.  We have had a two-decade relationship with Muhimbili University in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania working closely with the department of psychiatry there.  We were interested in promoting the health and well-being of kids at high risk for a variety of conditions. That ultimately led to the development of all things a dance and drum troupe.  That was a direct extrapolation of the research coming out of multisystemic therapy. “I can guarantee you that no one was expecting the department to be engaged in developing a dance and drum troupe,” says Dr. Uhde. “Yet that troupe ended up having an impact on AIDS in Africa, because we learned that mode of communication is one of the most effective of transmitting information.

"a two-decade relationship with the department of psychiatry at Muhimbili University in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania"
Michael Sweat, PhD
Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Director, MUSC Center for Global Initiatives

In some respects the department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences is a very large department, but it is organized in smaller divisions.  And those smaller divisions bring people together from diverse scientific, and often cultural, backgrounds to create a unique culture of creativity that leads to innovative research.

We are literally changing what’s possible in the world of psychiatry.


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