“From Molecules to Madness: Identifying Network-Level Signatures of Psychiatric Illness Risk”
Research in my laboratory focuses on discovering the fundamental organization of large-scale human brain networks. A core motivation that drives this work is the search for specific network-level signatures or “fingerprints” that co-vary with heritable behavioral variation in the general population and mark vulnerability for psychiatric illness onset. To date, research on the biological origins of psychopathology has largely focused on discrete illness categories. Although patient groups within this diagnostic system are treated as distinct entities, there are often murky boundaries between health and disease and across the disorders themselves. To establish the etiology of these complex syndromes, we must account for diagnostic heterogeneity, both relatively selective and disorder-spanning symptoms, and the dimensional nature of genetic risk. In this talk, I will present two converging lines of research from my laboratory that aim to identify neurobiological markers of psychiatric illness. First, I will discuss a recent effort to link individual variability across the collective set of functional brain connections with the nature and severity of symptom profiles across unipolar depression, bipolar depression, and schizophrenia. Second, I will present ongoing research that uses measures of post-mortem gene expression to examine the relative influence of inhibitory interneuron subtypes on brain function, cortical specialization, and human behavior. In doing so, I will highlight how this information can be leveraged to understand individual variability in the diverse processing capabilities of the human brain and associated vulnerability for psychiatric illness onset.