Helen S. Mayberg, MD, Appointed Director of Newly Established Center for Advanced Circuit Therapeutics for the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Helen S. Mayberg, MD, a neurologist renowned for her study of brain circuits in depression and for her pioneering deep brain stimulation research, which has been heralded as one of the first hypothesis-driven treatment strategies for a major mental illness, has joined the Mount Sinai Health System as the founding Director of The Center for Advanced Circuit Therapeutics. The new center will advance precision surgical treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders through the rapid conversion of neuroscience and neuroengineering innovations that correct brain circuit abnormalities to restore mood as well as motor and cognitive functioning.
As a behavioral neurologist, Dr. Mayberg has established an international reputation for her pioneering research to map the brain circuits implicated in depression. Early in her career, she developed one of the first “network” models for mood disorders—incorporating fundamentals of neuroanatomy and brain connections with imaging technologies—to propose an alternative neurological view of this classical psychiatric condition that extended beyond the neurochemical models that had dominated for decades. This circuit approach has evolved over the years and continues to anchor many contemporary studies of mood disorders, including the development and latest refinements of deep brain stimulation, a procedure for treatment-resistant depression that involves placing electrodes deep in the brain and turning them on at an amplitude and frequency that disrupts the activity between various brain regions.
“Dr. Mayberg brings to Mount Sinai a research history distinguished by a translational and interdisciplinary focus that integrates imaging with clinical and surgical studies,” says Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD, Nash Family Professor of Neuroscience, Director of The Friedman Brain Institute, and Dean for Academic and Scientific Affairs at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Her research team will help Mount Sinai play a leading role globally in devising new and transformational treatments for depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders.”
Using positron emission topography (PET) scans and later, functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), combined with keen neuropsychiatric evaluation, Dr. Mayberg identified Brodmann area 25 (BA25), a brain area strategically positioned to impact the frontal lobes as well as deep regions in the amygdala, hippocampus, basal ganglia, and brainstem, which together regulate emotion, motivation, memory, self-reflection, sleep, and other basic drives, all of which can be disrupted in depressed patients. She found that the wiring of BA25 to these other regions proved critical to understanding the normal interactions of emotions and thought. Subsequent pivotal studies demonstrated that when BA25 was activated by intense sadness, higher centers in the frontal cortex shut down; similarly, when depression was treated, BA25 activity was reduced and frontal regions returned to normal functioning. While at the University of Toronto in the early 2000s, Dr. Mayberg led a research team that tested the first use of deep brain stimulation of BA25 in patients who had become unresponsive to all available antidepressant treatments. The surgical technique uses activation of electrodes placed in the brain to adjust and correct the abnormal communication between BA25 and other regions of the brain.
“Dr. Mayberg is a spectacular recruit to the Mount Sinai Health System,” says Dennis S. Charney, MD, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and President for Academic Affairs for the Mount Sinai Health System. “Our culture is rooted in innovation and a passion for pushing the boundaries of knowledge. Under Dr. Mayberg’s leadership, The Center for Advanced Circuit Therapeutics will challenge existing limitations of science and medicine to help create and discover new treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders that were never before thought possible.”
Dr. Mayberg received an MD from the University of Southern California. She trained at the Neurological Institute of New York at Columbia University and was a post-doctoral fellow in nuclear medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine. Immediately prior to joining Mount Sinai, Dr. Mayberg was Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Radiology and held the inaugural Dorothy C. Fuqua Chair in Psychiatric Neuroimaging and Therapeutics at Emory University School of Medicine.
“Dr. Mayberg is truly one of the disruptors who have helped rethink the way we study the brain mechanisms underlying major depression,” says Kenneth L. Davis, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Mount Sinai Health System. “Under her leadership, we will bring together Mount Sinai’s core competencies in imaging, bioinformatics, and clinical trials to vigorously advance breakthrough, precision treatments for a disease that affects so many lives.”
As Director of The Center for Advanced Circuit Therapeutics at Mount Sinai, Dr. Mayberg will build a cross-disciplinary platform for collaborative translational research that will bring together clinical colleagues in neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry with experts from neuroscience, imaging, engineering, bioinformatics, neuro-engineering, and computational neuroscience to foster the development of new circuit-based strategies and delivery of state-of-the art individualized treatments for patients with advanced neuropsychiatric disorders.
“Our aim is to catalyze a clinical and scientific culture shift that challenges traditional approaches to diagnosis, treatment, and collaboration in service to the development of novel circuit-tuning strategies and delivery of more precise, individualized treatments for patients with advanced neuropsychiatric disorders, be it those for which brain stimulation therapies are already clinically available, like Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy or for more experimental applications such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and addiction,” says Dr. Mayberg. “The esteemed faculty at Mount Sinai put us in the perfect position to accomplish these breakthrough goals.”
A close partnership between Dr. Mayberg and Brian Kopell, MD, a pioneer of deep brain stimulation and Director of the Center for Neuromodulation within the Department of Neurosurgery at Mount Sinai, will be paramount to the success of the new Center. Dr. Mayberg will also establish ties between the Center and the many basic and clinical researchers across the Mount Sinai Health System focused on neuropsychiatric disorders. In particular, she will work closely with experts from the Movement Disorders Program; the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program (MAP); the Translational and Molecular Imaging Institute; The Friedman Brain Institute; and many departments and divisions across the Icahn School of Medicine and within the Mount Sinai Health System.
About the Mount Sinai Health System
Mount Sinai Health System is one of the largest academic medical systems in the New York metro area, with more than 43,000 employees working across eight hospitals, over 400 outpatient practices, nearly 300 labs, a school of nursing, and a leading school of medicine and graduate education. Mount Sinai advances health for all people, everywhere, by taking on the most complex health care challenges of our time — discovering and applying new scientific learning and knowledge; developing safer, more effective treatments; educating the next generation of medical leaders and innovators; and supporting local communities by delivering high-quality care to all who need it.
Through the integration of its hospitals, labs, and schools, Mount Sinai offers comprehensive health care solutions from birth through geriatrics, leveraging innovative approaches such as artificial intelligence and informatics while keeping patients’ medical and emotional needs at the center of all treatment. The Health System includes approximately 7,300 primary and specialty care physicians; 13 joint-venture outpatient surgery centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and more than 30 affiliated community health centers. We are consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report's Best Hospitals, receiving high "Honor Roll" status, and are highly ranked: No. 1 in Geriatrics and top 20 in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Neurology/Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Pulmonology/Lung Surgery, Rehabilitation, and Urology. New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked No. 12 in Ophthalmology. U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” ranks Mount Sinai Kravis Children's Hospital among the country’s best in several pediatric specialties.