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Research

 “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.

Foundation of Hope Funded Grants, 1985-2016.
Click to enlarge.

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:

  • Alcoholism
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Autism
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Depression
  • Postpartum depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Social phobias

Our Grantees

See a list of all of our grantees, 1985-present.

Learn more about our 2015-2016 grantees.

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.

Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D. | Award: $33,249

Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) for Severe and Enduring Anorexia Nervosa (SE-AN)

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.

 

 

 

Yuhui Li, Ph.D. | Award: $37,549

Establishing Network Targets during Development for Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation

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).

 

 

 

Rebecca Knickmeyer Santelli, Ph.D. and John Gilmore, M.D. | Award: $64,881

Identifying Key Metabolites in the Microbiome-Gut-Brain Axis During Infancy

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.

 

 

 

 

Crystal Schiller, Ph.D. | Award: $40,000

Effects of a Tissue Selective Estrogen Complex (TSEC) on Depression and the Neural Reward System in the Perimenopause

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.

 

 

 

stuberGarret Stuber, Ph.D. | Award: $45,000

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.

 

 

 

zerwaswatsonStephanie Zerwas, Ph.D. and Hunna Watson, Ph.D.| Award: $45,000

Predicting the Trajectory of Restrictive Eating in Childhood from Genetic Risk for Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness, and is also extremely difficult to treat—treatment typically relies on supportive therapy, with no actual medications designed to target the core biology of the illness. “Picky eating” in childhood can be a warning that anorexia will develop later in adulthood, but little is known about the genetic reasons for this behavior. This project will comb the comprehensive, long-term Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study for genetic and/or environmental clues that point to restrictive eating behavior, with the ultimate goal of preventing this devastating illness in its earliest stages.