Psychiatric disease

Researching Resiliency

Though it’s one of the most common psychiatric disorders in terms of lifetime prevalence, the root causes of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are still dimly understood. For a start, we still don’t know why after a traumatic event, some people develop PTSD and others don’t.

Take, for instance, the mental-health epidemic that roiled New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Researchers tracked 532 low-income mothers who lived in the area during Hurricane Katrina. Four years after the disaster, about 33 percent of participants had PTSD symptoms. But the majority did not.

A Research Breakthrough in Schizophrenia

In 2013, Steven McCarroll, the director of genetics at the Broad Institute’s Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, was heading to a friend’s New Year’s Eve party when an email from a graduate student in his lab, Aswin Sekar, popped up on his phone. It contained a simple graph. Sekar had been toiling away at a particularly knotty genetic problem. But when McCarroll opened the message, “it was immediately clear looking at the plot that he had solved it,” he recalled.