The Neurobiology of Mental Health

Intermediate—Fall

Mental illness is a major public health issue. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that anxiety and depression will globally represent the second-largest illness burden by 2020, placing great challenges on individuals, families, and society. To meet these challenges, psychologists and other mental-health professionals have been increasingly integrating theories and techniques from neuroscience with the study and treatment of psychological disorders. Such efforts have led to what is now being referred to as the field of “clinical neuroscience,” aimed at identifying the neurobiological foundations underlying psychological disorders. These approaches consider how genetics, hormones, and neural processes impact behavior and emotional functioning. Importantly, interactions between biology and culture, developmental stages and environment, will be considered. This course will begin with a historical overview of the growing field of clinical neuroscience. Then, foundations in neuroanatomy, neurochemistry, and neurodevelopment will be reviewed before approaching the neurobiological components of psychological disorders and interventions. Particular attention will be paid to schizophrenia, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug abuse, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Additionally, readings will cover brain research believed to promote resilience against the emergence of mental illness, such as adaptive coping strategies, hunger regulation, and the interaction between psychological and immunological functioning.