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Precision Mental Health Moves Forward

By June 16, 2020No Comments
When NAMI Montana originally asked Montana State University to create a research center, we had two very long-term project requests to move the needle forward for mental health care in Montana for the coming decades.

​(1) Improve the mental illness diagnostic process, so more people get the right care at the right time.
(2) Automate portions of the electronic medical record system to help relieve the administrative burden of providing clinical care.

MSU has had a team of researchers working on the second objective. They have a patent-pending machine learning program (Curavoice) that is undergoing further testing and improvement this summer.

They’ve also also had some significant advances in the first objective, but those have more nuance and tendrils than a specific internal research team working on a specific project.
The publication the recent article in Nature Biotechnology provides good entry point to understand those efforts. The article describes how researchers have been able to identify a biological signature using noninvasive electroencephalography (EEG) to identify which people with depression will respond to the medication. You can read two great descriptions of that article at this link and this link.

Senior authorship of paper is shared by Amit Etkin MD, PhD shares senior authorship of the paper with Madhukar Trivedi, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas-Southwestern. Wei Wu, PhD, an instructor of psychiatry at Stanford, is the lead author. 
Both Dr. Etkin and Dr. Trivedi have been valuable friends of the CMHRR’s efforts. Dr. Etkin presented his research at MSU in April of 2019. Dr. Trivedi partnered with the CMHRR to bring the Youth Aware of Mental Health program to the United States in 2016.

Dr. Trivedi was also kind enough to present to my work group of the Creating Options for Veterans Expedited Recovery Commission in March of 2019. (COVER Commission) Both Dr. Trivedi and Dr. Etkin were featured in the final COVER Commission Report to Congress and the President published in January of this year.  

The insights gained from working with these researchers and others helped guide NAMI Montana’s advocacy in the bipartisan “Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act.” Specifically, Section 305 of the bill to identify and validate brain and mental health biomarkers. The bill passed out of the Senate Veterans Committee in January and is waiting to be heard on the Senate floor.

While we are excited to be part of the greater movement, the CMHRR has never forgotten the original request by NAMI Montana to ensure that Montanans are able to participate in this wave of critical research.

The 2015 Montana Legislature’s Montana Research and Economic Development Initiative funded a CMHRR effort to ensure that MSU researchers had access to cutting-edge EEG equipment to analyze brain function.

One example of this research is Cara Palmer PhD‘s Sleep Lab. Dr. Palmer and her team use EEG to help better understand how sleep patterns shape daytime emotional and social experiences in ways that make us more or less susceptible to mental health problems. 
We are really excited to be part of this critical worldwide research to improve the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions through better understanding of the brain.

We are excited to see what the next decade holds.

Thank you,
Matt Kuntz, J.D.
Executive Director

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