Brain Research (copy)

A Laureate Institute of Brain Research assistant gives a test to a subject during a brain scan. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World file

Tulsa’s Laureate Institute for Brain Research has been awarded an $11.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to help researchers predict and treat mood and anxiety disorders.

Known as a Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence award, it is the largest grant awarded to the institute to date.

“We are thrilled with the NIH Center of Excellence award,” said Dr. Martin P. Paulus, scientific director and president of Laureate.

“This funding makes possible the collaborative advancement of mental health research for the benefit of all Oklahomans while also laying the groundwork for pivotal future funding in mental health science.”

Laureate serves as the administrative leader of a program named Neuroscience-based Mental Health Assessment and Prediction (NeuroMAP) and results from a collaborative effort with the University of Tulsa and the University of Oklahoma.

NeuroMAP, under the direction of Paulus, will focus on mood and anxiety disorders, which are more disabling than any other mental health condition.

Treatment currently is based on trial and error, and understanding of these disorders is in its infancy.

“Just like blood pressure and cholesterol levels in medicine, identifying objective measures that can predict treatment response and clarify the contributing factors to mood and anxiety disorders can transform how psychiatry is practiced,” officials said in a news release.

Laureate uses a “molecules to symptoms” approach focused on “feeling good,” “feeling bad,” and “brain-body integration” to build computational models aimed to help patients understand how and why they feel depressed or anxious and what interventions might help them feel better, according to the release.

Those interventions could include “magnetic stimulators” using certain types of medical equipment, behavioral therapy and medication, Paulus said in a telephone interview.

“What we are trying to do is determine what type of intervention will work for you,” he said.

The long-term objective of the award is to attract mental health researchers who will develop neuroscience-based predictors of risk and outcome, as well as improved treatments of psychiatric disorders.

A key component of the grant is mentorship to guide junior investigators’ research progress and writing.

“Creating new teams of scientists provides new opportunities to make significant discoveries in mental health research that will change people’s lives,” Paulus said.

“Each step of the way, research scientists will have more senior scientists to weigh-in on processes and analysis,” he said. “There will be resources the researchers can tap into to help strengthen their writing and planning.

“There will be milestones and benchmarks built into the five-year period to support these scientists. There is nothing like this in mental health research in Oklahoma.”

The grant also means many more Tulsans will have opportunities to participate in a variety of studies, including but not limited to those examining eating disorders, substance abuse, depression, anxiety and PTSD, officials said.

The Laureate Institute for Brain Research was founded by the William K. Warren Foundation in 2009.

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Michael Dekker


Twitter: @michaeldekkerTW

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