The Menninger Clinic has announced a comprehensive neuroscience research study, MIND-MB, designed to improve the identification of anatomical, physiological and genetic abnormalities and risk factors of mental illnesses. The research aims to increase understanding of mental disease progression and factors that impact treatment response
A five-year research study, MIND-MB will create a databank of adult and adolescent brain scans, genetic samples and assessments from approximately 2,500 psychiatric patients suffering from multiple mental illnesses. Many studies utilizing the data are being planned. One of the first of these studies will analyze biomarkers of alcohol craving and relapse since there is a high prevalence of mental health problems related to alcohol use.
While most other studies eliminate people with more than one mental disorder, MIND-MB focuses on comorbidities, which Menninger experts say offers a better reflection of how psychiatric disorders actually occur. Research shows that 78 percent of individuals who have a mental illness have at least one additional psychiatric diagnosis. Since this study will involve patients with a wide range of psychiatric disorders, the MIND-MB databank will be an important resource and will eventually be available to other research centers doing similar work.
“Our goal for MIND-MB is to learn more about the specific connectivity of an individual’s brain and its relationship to genetics and clinical diagnosis, hoping that these findings will lead to new treatments and better outcomes,” said John M. Oldham, MD
, Menninger’s chief of staff and senior vice president. “The study is an ambitious one, involving multiple brain imaging techniques, genomic sequencing and a rich clinical database made possible by the translational research collaboration between Menninger and Baylor College of Medicine.”
To date, more than 75 percent of Menninger’s eligible patients have participated in the study, including adults and young adults, indicating patients’ willingness to contribute to the ongoing development of mental health treatment. When patients are admitted to Menninger, they are presented with the opportunity to volunteer to advance mental health research and treatment by participating in research such as the MIND-MB study.
MIND-MB will analyze five data sets: genetics, brain connectivity, brain activity, psychiatric diagnoses and treatment outcomes
Participating patients undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which gives a structural picture of the brain’s anatomy. Functional MRI (fMRI) is carried out as well, allowing researchers to analyze the brain’s regions and neuronal connectivity during brain activity. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is also conducted to analyze the nerve pathways in the brain. During the brain imaging process each patient participates in a “reward” test that examines brain activity when experiencing something pleasurable, which will determine how this activity varies among different patient groups.
A subset of Menninger patients will be rescanned approximately 21 days after the initial brain scans are taken, once comprehensive treatment is well underway. This comparison, using the fMRI, will allow researchers to see the difference in the patient’s brain activity after a standard length of treatment has been completed.
“We won’t wait until the end of the study’s fifth year to evaluate our results since millions of Americans are affected by psychiatric illness and our findings could foster new and better ways to alleviate that distress and suffering,” said Dr. Oldham, who is the immediate past president of the American Psychiatric Association. “One of the best ways to fight the stigma
that blocks far too many people from seeking help is to conduct applicable, realistic research that demonstrates mental illness is not a personal weakness and that remedies do work.”
Research and collaboration were announced last year as an emerging focus for Menninger when the hospital relocated to its new 161,000-square-foot Mental Health Epicenter
on 50 acres near the world-renowned Texas Medical Center.
“A year ago when we opened the Epicenter I said that it’s time to create the ‘MD Anderson of mental health,” said Ian Aitken
, Menninger’s president and chief executive officer, drawing a parallel to the advances made by the nation’s top-ranked cancer hospital. “I believe that MIND-MB puts that mission into action as Menninger and our colleagues at Baylor College of Medicine and elsewhere in the Texas Medical Center facilitate ideas, science and clinical care that will emanate into the global community, encouraging the public to be unashamed in seeking mental health assessment and treatment when necessary.”
Ranked fourth on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best hospitals for psychiatry, The Menninger Clinic houses five inpatient programs, inpatient and outpatient psychiatric assessment services as well as treatment for co-occurring addictions and eating disorders. Specialty treatment programs are available for adolescents ages 12-17, young adults, professionals in crisis and adults with longstanding symptoms.
The average patient stay is 45 days – longer than the five-to-seven-day average patient stays at acute psychiatric facilities. Menninger has found that this approach gives patients a chance to recover and a better opportunity to initiate lasting change, reducing the cost of recurring hospitalizations. Eight of every 10 Menninger patients suffer from more than one psychiatric illness and the majority of patients have been previously hospitalized multiple times in short-term treatment programs.