“I can’t adequately express my appreciation to the Foundation of Hope for their role in educating the public about the ravages of mental illness and for their steadfast and critical support of psychiatric research.”
—David Rubinow, M.D., Assad Meymandi Professor and
Chair of Psychiatry, UNC School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry
Since 1984, The Foundation of Hope for Research and Treatment of Mental Illness has awarded 128 scientific research grants totaling more than $5 million; subsequently, these funds have leveraged an additional $145 million from the National Institute of Health and other federal agencies.
The Foundation of Hope funds scientists whose projects explore the biological, neurological, and genetic bases of mental illness, and which forge paths to improved diagnosis and treatment. Researchers who apply for funding do so with projects that shed light on the causes of, treatments for, and even potential cures for, mental illness.
The projects we support focus on a variety of mental disorders, including but not limited to:
- Anxiety disorders
- Bipolar disorders
- Postpartum depression
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Social phobias
2016-2017 Research Grants
In May 2016, the Foundation of Hope awarded over $265,000 to seven investigators. These funds support efforts to discover more effective treatments of mental illnesses, including eating disorders, depression, and women’s mood disorders, as well as experiments that explore the effects of non-invasive brain stimulation.
Researchers will attempt to determine what relationship, if any, exists between the presence (or absence) of normal intestinal bacteria and symptoms of anorexia. Ten individuals suffering from Severe and Enduring Anorexia Nervosa (SE-AN) will receive weekly doses of either a prepared fecal microbiota mixture or a placebo, and the results measured over time. If a correlation exists, it may be possible to treat SE-AN sufferers with regular infusions of helpful gut flora.
There is some evidence to suggest that directly stimulating the brain with a targeted, low-level electrical current may yield positive effects on certain cognitive disorders. By extension, this study will attempt to learn whether non-invasive brain stimulation can be a successful method of treating schizophrenia in its earliest phases (most typically manifesting in young adults).
The human gastrointestinal system contains a vastly complex system of microbes. We know that the composition and interactions of these microbial communities impact our neurodevelopment, cognition, and emotional behavior, but how is still largely unclear. Researchers will study the interactions between gut bacteria, bacterial gene expression, the presence of stress hormones, and a number of other chemical and behavioral factors, in infants. If a pattern exists, the data could help identify risk factors for psychiatric illness, and lead to preventive therapies and treatments.
Owing largely to a steep drop in estrogen production, perimenopausal women are 14 times more likely to experience symptoms of depression than premenopausal women. While estrogen therapy can alleviate symptoms of depression, it’s also associated with an increased risk of breast and uterine cancer, and so many women decline it. However, a promising new FDA-approved drug bolsters estrogen while mitigating cancer risks. Researchers will test this drug’s capacity to alleviate depression in women whose symptoms have manifested with the onset of menopause.
Single cell transcriptional profiling to identify novel neurocircuit targets for reproductive mood disorders
It’s known that reproductive mood disorders—like postpartum depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and perimenopausal depression—are largely caused by fluctuations of natural hormones like estradiol and progesterone. What is less well understood is how, or why, particular types of neurons in the brain respond to these hormones. Researchers will perform a detailed study of individual neurons reacting to a variety of hormonal conditions, in the hopes that we can design more targeted therapies for reproductive mood disorders.