Small Preliminary Trial of Psychoactive Drug Ibogaine Yields ‘Initial Evidence’ for Powerful Therapeutic Potential in Traumatic Brain Injury

January 25, 2024

In an exploratory and preliminary clinical test, a team of researchers at Stanford University has obtained “initial evidence” suggesting that a psychoactive compound called ibogaine, when co-administered with magnesium, “could be a powerful therapeutic” to safely treat a variety of psychiatric symptoms, including PTSD, major depression and anxiety, and suicidality, all of which may emerge following traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Ibogaine, derived from the root bark of a shrub, has been used for traditional religious and healing purposes in Africa for centuries. Sometimes called an atypical psychedelic, the Stanford researchers prefer to classify it as an “oneirogen,” based on a Greek word that describes its main psychotropic effect: therapeutic dosing leads to dreamlike states of consciousness that persist for several hours and sometimes even longer. Proponents of the compound say it facilitates self-reflection and self-evaluation. These are qualities that in recent years have been attributed to psychedelic compounds such as MDMA, psilocybin, and LSD. Like those agents, ibogaine since 1970 has been listed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule I compound, with no officially recognized medical use and with a “high potential for misuse.”

Read the full article at The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation »

Genetic “protection” against depression was no match for pandemic stress

But other factors appear to predict psychological resilience in study of first-year college students, adding to options for identifying anyone who might need more support under stress

December 16, 2023

Living through a historic pandemic while handling the stress of the first year of college sent one-third of students in a new study into clinical depression. That’s double the percentage seen in previous years of the same study.

And while certain genetic factors appeared to shield first-year students in pre-pandemic years from depression, even students with these protective factors found themselves developing symptoms in the pandemic years.

In fact, much of the overall rise in student depression during the pandemic was among young women with this kind of “genetic resilience.”

But the research has a silver lining.

By studying these students’ experiences and backgrounds in depth and over time, scientists may have discovered a way to go beyond genetics to predict which students might be more or less vulnerable to stress-related depression.

Read the full article at Michigan Neuroscience Institute »

White House presents Huda Akil, Ph.D., with National Medal of Science

October 24, 2023

Presented by President Joe Biden, this prestigious award recognizes Dr. Akil’s outstanding contributions to the “physical, biological, mathematical, engineering, or social and behavioral sciences, in service to the Nation.”

At the ceremony, Dr. Akil was praised for her dedication to advancing the field of neuroscience and her tireless efforts to help those with addiction and mental illness. Her work has led to breakthroughs in understanding how the brain works and has opened new avenues for treating these conditions. Her work also played a crucial role in combatting our nation’s opioid epidemic.

Dr. Akil is currently the Gardner C. Quarton Distinguished University Professor of Neurosciences, an MNI Research Professor, and a Professor of Psychiatry. She has spent most of her career at U-M building a wide-ranging research program with her scientific partner and husband, Stanley Watson, M.D., Ph.D., the Ralph Waldo Gerard Professor of Neurosciences, an MNI research professor, and professor of Psychiatry. Together, Drs. Akil and Watson led the Michigan Neuroscience Institute and its predecessor unit, the Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute, for 26 years.

Read the full article at Michigan Neuroscience Institute »

Dr. Huda Akil Receives 2023 Gruber Neuroscience Prize

Huda Akil, Ph.D., MNI Research Professor and Gardner C. Quarton Distinguished University Professor of Neurosciences (Department of Psychiatry) was awarded the 2023 Gruber Neuroscience Prize for her pioneering contributions to understanding the molecular, neural, and behavioral mechanisms of pain, stress, depression and substance abuse.

April 14, 2023

The prize comes with a gold medal and an unrestricted cash award. It is sponsored by Yale University’s The Gruber Foundation(link is external), a charitable organization that recognizes excellence in science by highlighting fields with the potential to create a better world.

Dr. Akil’s research centers around the biology of emotion. “What makes you feel bad, and what are the mechanisms in the brain that counter these feelings?” Akil said. “Understanding this has been my life’s work.” This included the discovery that the brain had a natural way to block pain. This was the first physiological evidence for the presence of endorphins in the brain and their potential role in pain, stress, addiction, and affective behavior.

“I’m deeply honored, grateful, and stunned to receive the 2023 Gruber Prize for Neuroscience, said Dr. Akil. “Thank you to my husband Stan Watson for being my partner in science and in life and to our trainees, the wonderful Wakils. Also, thanks to MNI and the University of Michigan for being a wonderful scientific home, along with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute for Mental Health, the Hope for Depression Research Foundation, and the Pritzker Consortium for supporting our research.”

Original article at Michigan Neuroscience Institute »

Researchers reveal possible molecular blood signature for suicide in major depression

New approach integrates blood and brain data to identify potential blood biomarkers

May 5, 2022

A University of California, Irvine-led team of researchers, along with members of the Pritzker Research Consortium, have developed an approach to identify blood biomarkers that could predict the suicide risk of major depressive disorder (MDD) patients.

The study, titled, “Identification of potential blood biomarkers associated with suicide in major depressive disorder,” was published in Translational Psychiatry.

Results from the study demonstrate non-preserved blood can be used to discover suicide specific biomarkers using a novel gene expression approach and a gene expression quantification approach less sensitive to the effects of RNA degradation (NanoString). In addition to identifying individuals at highest risk for suicide, the results can help researchers understand molecular changes in suicide victims.

“These blood biomarkers are an important step toward developing blood tests to identify patients with imminent risk of ending their lives,” said corresponding author Adolfo Sequeira, PhD, associate researcher in the Department of Psychiatry & Human Behavior at the UCI School of Medicine. “To our knowledge, this is the first study to analyze blood and brain samples in a well-defined population of MDDs demonstrating significant differences in gene expression associated with completed suicide.”

Read the full article at Science Daily »