Stockbridge, MA - January 13, 2017 - The Austen Riggs Center has received a major grant from philanthropists Bill and Deborah Ryan to launch a research program, MRI-based Characterization of Complex Psychopathology. This program will explore how complex psychiatric disorders might be characterized in greater detail, with a view toward opening the door to a better understanding of each patient's mental illness and their response to psychotherapy.
This research project is timely in that it builds upon recent developments in the mental health research landscape. A national research initiative called the Human Connectome Project (HCP) is assembling a database of brain images, physiological recordings, and biological material from volunteers from the general population who don't have a mental illness diagnosis. HCP is making its findings widely available for research studies and provides a reference database for the "normal" brain. Simultaneously, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which funds HCP, is supporting research to explore the validity of a new model for mapping out individual differences in mental function, called the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) Matrix, or RDoC. Today, patients are diagnosed based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), which outlines specific conditions as individual entities. RDoC is more of a dimensional system that views normal and pathological functioning along a set of continua or dimensions.
These developments provide a great opportunity to think about mental illness characterization in new ways, and the Austen Riggs Center is uniquely positioned to do this type of research. Our patients come to us with complex psychiatric disorders and we offer a treatment program of great depth and breadth. Through this project, Riggs will unite its sophisticated clinical evaluation with contemporary neuroscience and dimensional tools, with the goal of studying the "brain-mind connection" and developing better characterizations of psychiatric disorders.
Austen Riggs Center Medical Director/CEO Andrew J. Gerber, MD, PhD, principal investigator on the project, states, "We are very grateful to Bill and Deborah Ryan for their foresight and generosity, and extremely excited about this project and its potential to contribute to the body of knowledge on the brain-mind connection, and ultimately to the understanding the underpinnings and treatment of psychiatric disorders."
Bill and Deborah Ryan are Berkshire County residents with a deep interest in advancing research on mental illness. Bill has been a member of the Austen Riggs Center Advisory Council since 2012. As Bill and Deborah state, "We have great respect for the work done at the Austen Riggs Center and for Dr. Gerber's vision, and are pleased to be able to support this exciting new research program."
About the Austen Riggs Center
Austen Riggs Center, a leading psychiatric hospital and residential treatment program, has been serving adults since 1919. Within a completely open setting, patients are provided immersion in an intensive treatment milieu that emphasizes respectful engagement. Individual psychodynamic psychotherapy is provided four times a week by doctors on staff.
The Austen Riggs Center is located in Stockbridge, MA. For more information about its services, please call  298.5511 or  517.4447 or visit http://www.