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Bruce M. Cohen, MD, PhD, director of McLean’s Program for Neuropsychiatric Research, Robertson-Steele professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and president and psychiatrist in chief emeritus of McLean, is the recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Psychiatrist Award for Research from the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society (MPS).
Cohen, whose career at McLean spans 40 years, was recognized for “his outstanding leadership in administration and research and his dedication to educating mental health professionals and the public about mental illness and its treatment,” according to the MPS.
Cohen and his team investigate the causes of psychiatric disorders by combining data from clinical, brain imaging, genomic, and cell model approaches to study schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Today’s new technology, such as genome sequencing, modern brain imaging, and the ability to grow brain cells in the laboratory, Cohen said, “is giving us leads we did not have 40 years ago. We are beginning to see consistent evidence on what underlies our susceptibility and resistance to illness.”
“One project we’re currently working on involves characterizing the amount of energy the brain is able to make and use. The brain requires more energy than any organ in the body, and anything that compromises this energy metabolism puts you at risk for all kinds of brain conditions. Another project focuses on abnormalities of glia, support cells, in the brain. It has long been known that they are altered in mood and psychotic disorders. We are finally able to study exactly what is wrong.”
With a long career helping people impacted by mental illness, Cohen, who sees patients and mentors younger staff every day, said his primary focus is to continue his research with colleagues. “I love working with individuals, but if you find some underlying causes of illness,” he said, “it can have far-reaching benefits for many people.”
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