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Faculty Profile: Sachin Patel, MD, PhD, chair and the Lizzie Gilman Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Sachin Patel, MD, PhD, is chair and the Lizzie Gilman Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Joining Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in January, Patel is also psychiatrist-in-chief at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Norman and Ida Stone Institute of Psychiatry. An internationally recognized physician-scientist in the field of psychiatric neuroscience, Patel’s work combines cellular, molecular and behavioral neuroscience research with clinical expertise in psychiatry and addiction medicine.

 

What are your research interests?

We are interested in understanding how environmental and social stress affects brain structure and function that ultimately leads to the development and exacerbation of mental illnesses. We are particularly interested in how the brain’s “endogenous cannabinoid” signaling system, which is the target of cannabis constituents like THC, regulates stress adaptation and how understanding the role of this system in stress response physiology could reveal new cannabinoid-based approaches to the treatment of mental illnesses such as PTSD and depression.

What is the ultimate goal of your research?

The ultimate goal of our research is to define novel signaling systems and molecules that mitigate the adverse effects of stress on brain function and promote resiliency. Identification of such novel targets could lead to the development of mechanistically innovative drug treatments for a broad range of major mental illnesses affected by stress.

How did you become interested in this area of research?

My interest in stress neurobiology arose early in my academic career when I recognized that almost all forms of mental illness and many physical illnesses are strongly affected by stress. Disorders such as depression, schizophrenia and substance use disorders are all worsened by stress exposure. People under stress are also more susceptible to cardiovascular disease and infection. Therefore, understanding the biological mechanisms by which stress is translated into increased susceptibility to mental and physical illnesses could have broad impact on human health.

How is your research funded?

Our research is primarily supported by the National Institutes of Health, but has been funded by industrial and non-profit partners, as well.

Where have you recently published papers?

Our most recent publications have appeared in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, Nature Neuroscience, Neuron, eLife, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Who inspires you? Who are your mentors?

Inspiration for our work comes from those developing novel technologies for investigating brain and behavior relationships in model systems. Incorporating novel technological approaches enables creativity and innovation in the way we ask questions and can answer them.