UC San Francisco receives $20 Million gift from Dolby for depression center and research
Could depression be eased by fixing the brain’s flawed electrical circuitry?
A $20 million gift from the family of audio pioneer Ray Dolby to UC San Francisco will help find an answer, through research at the new Dolby Family Center for Mood Disorders.
Drugs and other therapies can help many of the millions of Americans who live with depression. But some people struggle with severe symptoms that are beyond the reach of current remedies.
The gift, announced Tuesday, builds on the Dolby family’s 2015 investment in mood disorders research at UCSF. Ray Dolby’s wife Dagmar and son David also have donated $21 million for Alzheimer’s disease support at the California Pacific Medical Center, where Ray received care in his final days.
Dolby grew up in Redwood City and graduated in 1951 from Sequoia High School, where he was the student projectionist. He worked at Ampex Corp. while earning his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Stanford University. He went on to invent the Dolby sound system and helped develop the video tape recorder, founding San Francisco-based Dolby Laboratories in 1976. His influence also extended to film. The family lived in Pacific Heights.
“This is an extremely generous gift that really is a game-changer for research on mood disorders,” said Dr. Andrew Krystal, vice chair of research in UCSF’s Department of Psychiatry.
“Depression is a problem that affects people’s lives in a pervasive way,” he said. “When severe, it leaves people essentially nonfunctional.”
The goal of our new research is to develop a new personalized approach to treating major depression that involves identifying the circuitry dysfunction in the brain, and then targeting treatment directly, said Krystal.
There has been much recent research into the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalograms (EEG) to identify regions of the brain that seem involved in regulation of mood.
UCSF wants to start a first-of-its-kind clinical trial in early 2019 that studies the circuits that connect regions of the brain that seem important for how it works – and are thought to play a role in depression.
An intricate network of electrodes will be surgically implanted on the surface of the patients’ brains, allowing Krystal and his team to determine which circuits are involved in mood – and whether electrical stimulation of these circuits could lift spirits.
Other teams have reported that stimulation can improve symptoms for disorders like epilepsy and obsessive compulsive disorder, with some success.
During treatment, patients’ moods improved. That led to testing brain stimulation for depression.
“It’s unique, because you measure something and then treat it by specifically targeting a dysfunctional circuitry, when you need to – rather than treating everything, all the time,” said Krystal.
“The Dolby gift supports what we learned about this circuitry dysfunction,” he said. “We can identify the circuitry in each individual and then target electrical treatment to fix the circuit dysfunction.”
It’s a novel approach and very expensive, because different regions of the brain may be involved in different people — but now possible because of the Dolby funding.
The team also aims to identify specific brain biomarkers — reflecting the activity of inflammatory, neurotransmitter, neurotrophic, neuroendocrine and metabolic systems — to aid diagnosis and treatment of depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
Over the past two years, support from the Dolby family has enabled Krystal to build a research program focused on testing the hypotheses that mood disorders can be the first manifestation of dementia — and that the particular features of a patient’s mood disorder are specific to the type of dementia he or she may ultimately develop, according to UCSF. This work has the potential to improve care and also boost understanding of the changes in brain circuit function that seem linked to mood disorders.
The research will be conducted at the new Dolby Family Center for Mood Disorders, which “will build on our exceptionally strong basic neuroscience program by expanding cutting-edge research, growing our clinical and training efforts, and promoting innovative and collaborative science,” said UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood.
This content was originally published here.