GPS-based technology & Autism Spectrum Disorders

3 05 2015

Please find a link to my new post that discusses the potential benefits of GPS-based technology to the safety & wellbeing of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their family caregivers. Feel free to comment and share.

To read the article click Here

Employment: The Autism Advantage

3 04 2015

It is estimated that Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) affect 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boy and that for unknown reasons ASD prevalence figures are growing. This year World Autism Awareness day theme is “Employment: the Autism Advantage”. Here is a short article I wrote for this important day . I hope that you’ll find it helpful and relevant.

Images of psychiatry and psychiatrists

11 01 2015

By: Stuart H, Sartorius N, Liinamaa T, the Images Study Group. Acta Psychiatr Scand 2015: 131: 21–28


Objective: This study surveyed medical teaching faculty to determine
their attitudes toward psychiatry and psychiatrists.
Method: We conducted a multisite survey of a probability sample of
1057 teaching medical faculty members from 15 academic teaching
centers in the United Kingdom, Europe, and Asia stratified by early,
middle, and late career stage. The average response rate across
countries was 65%.
Results: The outstanding findings were that 90% of respondents
considered that psychiatrists were not good role models for medical
students, 84% thought psychiatric patients were unsuitable to be
treated outside of specialized facilities, and 73% thought psychiatric
patients were emotionally draining. We noted statistically significant
differences by country, gender, career stage, and specialty.
Conclusion: These results highlight why recruitment into psychiatry is
problematic in many countries and suggest that greater attention should
be given to improving the perception of psychiatrists as good role
models and the efficacy of psychiatric treatments
The full text of this interesting paper is available Here 

The Center Cannot Hold

14 10 2014

Yes, it is not a new book but in case you have not read it yet I want to recommend the book: The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness by Elyn R. Saks. Saks is an esteemed professor, lawyer, and psychiatrist and is the Orrin B. Evans Professor of Law, Psychology, Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences at the University of Southern California Law School, yet she has suffered from schizophrenia for most of her life, and still has ongoing major episodes of the illness. THE CENTER CANNOT HOLD is the eloquent, moving story of Elyn’s life, from the first time that she heard voices speaking to her as a young teenager, to attempted suicides in college, through learning to live on her own as an adult in an often terrifying world. Saks discusses frankly the paranoia, the inability to tell imaginary fears from real ones, the voices in her head telling her to kill herself (and to harm others); as well the incredibly difficult obstacles she overcame to become a highly respected professional. This beautifully written memoir is destined to become a classic in its genre.

In addition to this book you can find her lecture at TED:


Yom Kipur of the mental health community

12 10 2014



One of my first meetings when I arrived at NIMH 12 years ago was with board members of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). I asked them how NIMH could be helpful. One board member’s request was especially memorable. “Declare a day of atonement,” she suggested. When I saw this same board member last month at the annual NAMI meeting, we both recalled that 2002 meeting with a touch of regret. I wished I had had a better response to her request. And, as she said to me last month, “I wished I had asked for a week.”

As it turns out, Mental Illness Awareness Week this year began with Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Which begs the question: what do we (in the mental health community) need to atone for? There are so many answers. For some, it may be the culture of blame and shame perpetuated for years by clinicians who explained all mental illness as being caused by trauma and evil parents. For others, it may be the singular reliance on medication and modifying behavior rather than holistic care and the provision of skills. Others will name the paternalistic structure of mental health care, which can undermine rather than empower individuals and their families. The list goes on. Maybe it would take a week, not just a day, to capture the many complaints.

My own favorite atonement issue for Mental Illness Awareness Week this year is the lack of humility in our field. Mental disorders are among the most complex problems in medicine, with challenges at every level from neurons to neighborhoods. Yet, we know so little about mechanisms at each level. Too often, we have been guided more by religion than science. That is, so much of mental health care is based on faith and intuition, not science and evidence. On the plus side, we put a premium on listening and compassion. We help people to change through understanding. But not enough of our care has been standardized to a high level of quality, as expected in the rest of medicine.

On the research side, it’s easy to lose humility. The pace of discovery in genomics and neuroscience is ever more rapid—this week’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine  is a good example of how neuroscience is revealing the fundamentals of brain activity—in this case describing the brain’s “GPS” network. Advances in systems neuroscience, from dissecting circuits to human brain imaging, are unequivocally stunning. But, and this is a humbling caveat, we simply have not been able to translate this revolution in neuroscience to diagnostics or therapeutics for people with mental disorders.

Why the disconnect? Translation takes time. Translation requires replication, regulation, and ultimately reimbursement. Fundamentally, translation is really difficult. For instance, we have thousands of neuroimaging studies but none that has delivered a clinically useful biomarker. For NIMH this is a humbling realization—we still lack biomarkers to identify who should get which treatment. We still lack effective treatments for many aspects of mental illness.

So this year on Mental Illness Awareness Week, my call is for humility. We need to be aware that mental disorders are immensely complex—too complex for scientists, clinicians, patients, or families to solve alone. Prevention, recovery, and cure—the NIMH vision—need a collective effort. Beyond the day—or week—of atonement, we need a massive campaign to transform diagnosis and treatment.

Mapping the Mind: a conversation between LeDoux and Kandel Eric Kandel

22 08 2014

Here is a fascinating interview with Kandel, a Nobel laureate and professor of biochemistry and biophysics at Columbia University. In this conversation between LeDoux and Kandel you can learn how do our brains remember:



A Conceptual Framework for Understanding and Treating Trauma and PTSD in Persons with Serious Mental Illness

7 07 2014

Today I want to share two lectures by Prof. Kim T. Mueser, head of the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University. In the first speak Prof. Mueser discusses a conceptual framework for understanding trauma and PTSD among persons with serious mental illness. At the second lecture, Prof. Mueser reviews treatment of PTSD among persons with serious mental illness. I find this topic and these talks very interesting and I hope that you will find it relevant and helpful.