US mental-health agency’s push for basic research has slashed support for clinical trials

Jun 13, 2017

By Sara Reardon

Roy Perlis is done with clinical research. The psychiatrist at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has led about 20 clinical trials on depression and other mood disorders over the past two decades. But he has given up seeking grants from the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) — the world’s biggest funder of mental-health research — since it began promoting a new way to investigate mental illness. The agency urges researchers to study the biological roots of disease, rather than specific disorders.

This shift has been having profound impacts on mental-health research in the United States, but the magnitude of the transformation is only now coming to light. An analysis by Nature suggests that the number of clinical trials funded by the NIMH dropped by 45% between 2009 and 2015 (see ‘Rethinking mental-health studies’). This coincides with the agency’s launch, in 2011, of the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) — a framework for research on the mechanisms of mental illness. The NIMH’s roll-out of RDoC included asking researchers to focus more on the biological bases of behaviour — such as brain circuitry and genetics — than on the broader symptoms that clinicians typically use to define and classify mental illness.

The NIMH’s embrace of fundamental research has infuriated many clinical researchers, who see it as an attempt to invalidate their methods — and say that there is scant evidence to support the idea that using RDoC will lead to greater insight or better treatments for mental illness. Many of these researchers also note that NIMH funding for clinical trials has declined steadily over the past decade, adding to the perception that the agency now favours research that uses the RDoC framework.

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5 comments on “US mental-health agency’s push for basic research has slashed support for clinical trials

  • I wonder if this as is a further example of the Republican’s and Trump’s “liberation” of the “right” of the mentally unstable to buy guns, or support for the NRA gun-lobby?

    A US Republican politician and aides have been shot during baseball practice in Virginia, US reports say.

    Police in the upmarket Washington DC suburb of Alexandria said they were investigating a “multiple shooting” and a suspect was in custody.

    Fox News said House of Representatives Majority Whip Steve Scalise and aides have been hit by gunfire.

    Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, texted Fox News to say that Mr Scalise had been shot in the hip and would survive.

    Mr Lee said the shooter had used a long gun and was dead.

    There seems to be some conflict of accounts as to the shooter’s state of health!

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  • In contrast to Trump’s fixation on citizens’ “right” to carry guns, I see Australians take a more rational view about reducing gun crime!

    Australians have handed in nearly 26,000 firearms in the nation’s first gun amnesty since its landmark response to a mass shooting in 1996.

    The amnesty began on 1 July to help counter a growing terrorism threat and an influx of arms in the country.

    It is illegal to own an unregistered firearm in Australia.

    Those caught outside the amnesty period face fines of up to A$280,000 (£172,000, $225,000) and up to 14 years in jail.

    The current programme, running until 30 September, means Australians can surrender unregistered firearms and related items without fear of prosecution.

    Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the “great result” so far would make the nation safer.

    Police estimate there are as many as 260,000 illicit guns in Australia, with some used in organised crime as well as recent terror incidents.

    Australians turned in 643,726 firearms in 1996 and 1997 following the killing of 35 people in the Tasmanian town of Port Arthur – the nation’s worst and most recent mass shooting.

    The incident also led to a ban on semi-automatic and automatic weapons in the country.

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  • Alan4discussion #1
    Jun 14, 2017 at 8:22 am

    I wonder if this as is a further example
    of the Republican’s and Trump’s “liberation”
    of the “right” of the mentally unstable to buy guns,
    or support for the NRA gun-lobby?

    As ye sow so shall you reap! – Especially in states with lax firearms laws, or poor enforcement!

    Las Vegas concert gunman Stephen Paddock was a wealthy former accountant who seemed to be living a quiet retirement in a desert community.

    The 64-year-old, of Mesquite, Nevada, had a pilot’s and hunting licence and no criminal record, said authorities.

    But one former neighbour said Paddock was a professional gambler and “weird”.

    There was reason to believe the man police identified as the Las Vegas killer had a history of psychological problems, a US official told Reuters news agency.

    Police are working to establish the motive behind a mass shooting which left at least 59 dead and another 527 injured at a Las Vegas concert.

    Gunman Stephen Paddock, 64, opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel towards an open-air music festival on Sunday evening.

    Police found 23 guns in his hotel room, as well as “in excess of” 19 firearms and explosives at his Nevada home.

    Investigators have found no link to international terrorism, despite a claim from so-called Islamic State. Some investigators have suggested psychological issues, but there is no confirmation of this.

    Las Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said when police searched the property after the attack they found 19 “additional firearms, some explosives and several thousand rounds of ammo, along with some electronic devices we’re evaluating at this point”.

    Officers also found ammonium nitrate in Paddock’s car. The explosive found in his home was tannerite, the sheriff said.

    There is a second house in northern Nevada which Swat teams are due to check for booby-traps before carrying out a search , Sheriff Lombardo said.

    David Famiglietti of the New Frontier Armory told the BBC that Paddock had purchased firearms at his store in North Las Vegas in the spring of this year, meeting all state and federal requirements, including an FBI background check.

    However, the shotgun and rifle Paddock bought would not have been “capable of what we’ve seen and heard in the video without modification,” Mr Famiglietti said.

    Of course unlike foreign government advisors, according to the US gun lobby, stockpiles of weapons and ammunition accumulated by the mentally ill, have nothing to do with mass shootings.

    The NRA and gun manufacturers’ answer to shootings, is to sell more guns to everybody so the “good gunmen”, can “defend themselves” from the “bad gunmen”!
    I suppose there could also be a market for bullet-proof vests for those likely to be caught in the cross-fire!

    After all! Business is business, and profit is profit!

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  • Trump and all of the American gun nuts are already squawking loudly about how crazy that shooter was to deflect from the fact that this place is loaded with guns and with people who don’t hesitate to use them. A lone wolf who went crazy. An immoral gambling addict, etc. The anti guns bunch are completely depressed about this. It just seems hopeless from over here.

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