IMH Marshall Fellows Program

 

The UBC Institute of Mental Health (IMH) Marshall Scholars and Fellows Program in Mental Health supports the training of young investigators in translational research in order to create vital training opportunities and research capacity in mental health.

 

Inspired by Sunny and Stewart Marshall’s vision and commitment to advance mental health research, the IMH Marshall Scholars and Fellows Program invests in promising young scholars who will contribute to advancing understanding and treatment of psychiatric disorders.

Annually, the IMH in partnership with the UBC Department of Psychiatry invites applications from qualified candidates for Scholar and Fellow awards which are supported by the Marshall Scholars and Fellows Program in Mental Health. The program funds stipends of $75,000 per year for each Fellow and $25,000 per year for each Scholar, for up to two years.

 

FELLOWSHIP AWARDEES

DR. KOMAL BHARTI
FELLOW

Dr. Bharti’s study will build upon on a recent CIHR-funded project in the NINET lab, which aims to investigate an association between the neural correlates of functional disturbances in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC ) and subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC ) of major depressive disorder (MDD) and the heart rate variability (HRV) via a combined “TMS-fMRI-HRV” study. She will investigate the dynamic interaction and relationship between the functional connectivity (FC) in the brain and high frequency heart rate variability (HF HRV) in MDD patients, and develop a neuroimaging pipeline to examine the dynamic temporal interaction between FC during rTMS and HRV, providing an overview of dynamic functional interaction and interplay between HF HRV and functional association between the DLPFC and the sgACC with an approximate estimation of patients who respond in treatment-resistant depression and show symptom improvement.

Supervisor: Dr. Fidel Vila-Rodriguez

 

 

DR. K CHITHRA
FELLOW

As cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown to be a safe medication with few adverse effects in bipolar depressed patients and likely has antidepressant effects, Dr. Chithra’s project will to test CBD as a treatment for the depressive phases of bipolar disorder (BD) in a randomized clinical trial. This pilot study will be used to assess the feasibility and safety of CBD and to gauge signal for efficacy of CBD. In this study, Dr. Chithra will divide the participants into two groups, one of which will receive daily capsules containing CBD, while the other will receive matching placebo capsules for 8 weeks. The aim will be to determine if improvement in depression is greater in the CBD group vs placebo group. As all participants will continue using their usual medication during the study, the findings will open up possibilities to investigate adjunctive CBD for the treatment of acute bipolar depression in large multicentre trials.

Supervisor: Dr. Lakshmi Yatham

 

 

DR. HEATHER PALIS
FELLOW

In her second year as an IMH Marshall Fellow, Dr. Palis will continue to pursue studies to advance the health and well-being of people who use substances and are involved in the criminal justice system. Her project is utilizing the BC Provincial Overdose Cohort (BC-ODC), a linked administrative health and corrections dataset, to ascertain the effects of the health services transfer on reincarceration and overdose among persons with psychiatric disorders and criminal justice system involvement (CJSI). Her study’s objectives include describing the epidemiology of polysubstance use and overdose among people with psychiatric disorders, identifying trends of: a) health services utilization; b) reincarceration; and c) non-fatal and fatal overdose before and after the transfer among persons with CJSI involvement with and without psychiatric disorders, and identifying health services utilization characteristics that have a protective effect on risk of reincarceration and fatal and non-fatal overdose among people with psychiatric disorders.

Supervisor: Dr. Amanda Slaunwhite & Dr. Tonia Nicholls

 

DR. NICOLE SANFORD
FELLOW

In her second year as an IMH Marshall Fellow, Dr. Sanford will continue to build upon prior research that has established that major psychiatric disorders, notably schizophrenia (SCZ), bipolar disorder (BD), and to a lesser degree major depressive disorder (MMD), are associated with accelerated brain aging, reflected in a higher Brain age gap estimation (BrainAGE) in patients as compared to healthy individuals. Her project is targeting the two most significant unanswered questions with regards to accelerated aging in major psychiatric disorders: namely, how early it can be detected and what are the key environmental drivers. Addressing these key issues is the crucial first step towards early detection of accelerated aging and effective intervention to minimize modifiable risk factors.

Supervisor: Dr. Sophia Frangou

 

FELLOWSHIP AWARDEES

DR. RUIYANG GE
FELLOW

Dr. Ge’s research centers around the study of neuroimaging in healthy population and patients with psychiatric disorders. As evidence supports the notion that there is an association between rTMS treatment induced changes in brain function and autonomic nervous system, understanding this association is important for translational purpose because an avenue for identifying a functionally meaningful stimulation target for rTMS treatment is to probe the brain-heart connection. Dr. Ge's project aims first to interrogate the association between rTMS treatment induced changes in brain function and autonomic nervous system. The secondary aim is to test whether the fMRI data and heart rate varilability (HRV) metric serve as potential predictors for treatment response of the following 4-week rTMS treatment.

Supervisor: Dr. Fidel Vila-Rodriguez

(Dr. Ge was appointed as a Research Associate within Dr. Sophia Frangou's research group in January 2021)

 

DR. HEATHER PALIS
FELLOW

Dr. Palis is currently engaged in studies to advance the health and well-being of people who use substances and are involved in the criminal justice system. Her project will utilize the BC Provincial Overdose Cohort (BC-ODC), a linked administrative health and corrections dataset, to ascertain the effects of the health services transfer on reincarceration and overdose among persons with psychiatric disorders and criminal justice system involvement (CJSI). Her study’s objectives include describing the epidemiology of polysubstance use and overdose among people with psychiatric disorders, identifying trends of: a) health services utilization; b) reincarceration; and c) non-fatal and fatal overdose before and after the transfer among persons with CJSI involvement with and without psychiatric disorders, and identifying health services utilization characteristics that have a protective effect on risk of reincarceration and fatal and non-fatal overdose among people with psychiatric disorders.

Supervisor: Dr. Amanda Slaunwhite & Dr. Tonia Nicholls

 

DR. NICOLE SANFORD
FELLOW

Dr. Sanford's research seeks to build upon prior research that has established that major psychiatric disorders, notably schizophrenia (SCZ), bipolar disorder (BD), and to a lesser degree major depressive disorder (MMD), are associated with accelerated brain aging, reflected in a higher Brain age gap estimation (BrainAGE) in patients as compared to healthy individuals. Her project targets the two most significant unanswered questions with regards to accelerated aging in major psychiatric disorders: namely, how early it can be detected and what are the key environmental drivers. Addressing these key issues is the crucial first step towards early detection of accelerated aging and effective intervention to minimise modifiable risk factors.

Supervisor: Dr. Sophia Frangou

 

DR. GAYATRI SARAF
FELLOW

Dr. Saraf's current research investigates the role of increased inflammation in BD in reduced neuronal plasticity, neurite density and cognitive impairment. Brain inflammation can be assessed with Positron Emission Tomography (PET) by estimating the density of the translocator protein (TSPO), a receptor that is upregulated in the mitochondria of immune-activated microglia cells. However, as this has yet to be be evaluated in-vivo, her project will use PET imaging with 11C-PBR-28, a 2nd generation TSPO tracer, to assess brain microglial activation in patients with BD. The objective of this study is to understand the relationship between brain inflammation, brain microstructural changes and cognitive impairment in BD.

Supervisor: Dr. Lakshmi Yatham

 

 

 

DR. MELISSA WOODWARD
FELLOW

Dr. Woodward is currently researching the innovative use of of ultra-high-resolution retinal imaging using optical coherence tomography (OCT), which allows the direct quantification of retinal nerve fibers and microvasculature using a non-invasive, quick eye examination, in the early detection of pathologies
prominent in marginally-housed psychiatric populations.
The objective of her project is to carry out an investigation using OCT imaging of the retina in an impoverished population in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, in order to assess damage to the blood vessels of the retina and to see if this helps to explain the relationship between fentanyl use and clinical factors like impaired thinking abilities and psychiatric symptoms.

Supervisor: Dr. William Honer

 

SCHOLARSHIP AWARDEES AND RESEARCH TITLES

ASHLEY BATTAGLINI

Intra- and Interpersonal Emotion Regulation in Major Depressive Disorder

ARIANA CAHN

Quantification of cortical thickness changes in bipolar disorder patients following first episode mania: A prospective study

MALLORY FLYNN

Estimating the True Incidence of Accidental Illicit Drug Overdose

TONY FONG

High Throughput Platform to Assess and Manipulate Cortical Circuits in Mouse Models of Depression

ALLISON GIESBRECHT

Understanding the Healthcare Access Experiences of Mental Health and Substance Use High Users of Healthcare

TRISTAN HYNES

Toward a Precision Treatment for Addiction: Focus on Dopamine Circuits and Sex

BONNIE LEE

The Impact of Motherhood and APOE Genotype on the Aging Brain

DAPHNE LING

The Neural Basis of Low-Dose versus Normal-Dose Psychostimulants on Executive Functions in Youth with Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder: A Randomised Controlled Trial

MELANIE LYSENKO-MARTIN

Neural and Behavioral Substrates of THC-Induced Impairments in Decision Making

ALEXANDER MORIN

Integrating transcription factor binding and perturbation data to understand gene regulation in the brain

RAE MORRIS

Mental Health Service Provision with Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Interpretive Description Study

SHAWNA NARAYAN

Exploring cultural responsiveness in e-mental health resources for depression and anxiety (CREDA)

MAYA NESBIT

Preclinical Study of d-govadine and its Effects on Corticostriatal Mechanisms of Amphetamine Addiction

BOAZ SAFFER

Identifying the Neurocognitive Mechanisms of Suicidal Behaviours in Emerging Adults

JEAN WESTENBERG

Rapid micro-induction of buprenorphine/naloxone for treatment of Opioid Use Disorder

DR. TRAVIS ELLINGTON HODGES
FELLOW

RESEARCH TITLE: Neural Mechanisms Underlying Sex Differences in Depression and Negative Cognitive Bias in Susceptible Populations

Travis is researching the neural mechanisms that underpin pessimistic thinking, a common aspect of depression. His research pays particular attention to how it differs according to age and sex.

He says, “We see lots of treatments based on research solely done in adult males. However, we’ve found in our lab that many treatments do not work the same in females, so we want to see if there are sex-specific effects on pessimism related to inflammation and the growth of new neurons in the brain. My background includes a lot of study in the different ways that stressors affect the adolescent brain, so my research as a Marshall Fellow will hopefully lead to multiple treatments tailored for groups susceptible to cognitive symptoms of depression, such as teenage girls.”

 

 

 

 

 

DR. EMMA MORTON
FELLOW

RESEARCH TITLE: Advancing the Science on Quality of Life in Mood Disorders: A Synergistic, Multi-Method Program of Research

Emma’s work investigates the growing evidence that people can have a good quality of life despite the symptoms they experience from mood disorders. She will look at large-scale data sets that have been collected through various UBC studies to determine how quality of life relates to other variables and how it responds to treatments.
A smartphone app will be created to enable people with bipolar disorder track their quality of life, and all of this data, along with other information such as screen time and physical activity will be analyzed using machine learning, which is a type of artificial intelligence that studies data to build mathematical models and make predictions. These will be used to direct people to strategies which might help improve their quality of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DR. KATERINA RNIC
FELLOW

RESEARCH TITLE: A Randomized Controlled Feasibility Trial of Cognitive Control Training for Major Depressive Disorder

Katerina’s work looks at how cognitive control—the brain’s ability to control the contents of its awareness at a given time—is involved in the onset of an episode of depression. People suffering from this illness have cognitive control biases, where they become stuck in a feedback loop of negative information. Katerina aims to create a novel cognitive control program to train depressed patients to inhibit this negative information and regulate their emotions. This training program will be something that is easily disseminated to clinicians, and even patients; they will be able to access it online, meaning that it has the potential to reach people in rural communities who don’t have access to care. It also has potential for patients who may not wish to use medication, such as pregnant women.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DR. GAYATRI SARAF
FELLOW

RESEARCH TITLE: Assessing Brain Synaptic Density in Bipolar Disorder: A Positron Emission Tomography study with 11C-UCB-J

We know that there is a change in the function and structure of the brains in bipolar suffers, but the information we have acquired is from post mortem studies. We do not know the distribution and density of synapses in the living brain, nor do we know the precise neurochemical and mechanisms behind bipolar disorder.

Gayatri’s work will leverage recent technological advances in positron emission tomography (PET) scans to reveal these secrets and track the progression of the disease over time. There are no previous studies in bipolar disorder that have looked at the density of synapses, so she hopes to gain a greater insight into what happens in the brain tissue of people living with the disease and leverage this knowledge into innovative clinical treatments.

 

DR. MELISSA WOODWARD
FELLOW

RESEARCH TITLE: The Age of Fentanyl – Overdose, Hypoxia and Microvascular Damage

Melissa is researching the innovative use of existing technology: eye scans. Her project will use retinal imaging similar to what an eye doctor would use. These high-resolution images give a more detailed picture of the retina and blood vessels, however. Any changes in them may indicate changes in the brain—there is lots of evidence that people with schizophrenia show differences in their retinas—and point to possible cardiovascular issues too.
Her doctoral work was about the impact of exercise on people with psychosis. People get overwhelmed by mental illness, and exercise is something that can greatly improve quality of life. Figuring out who needs early cardiovascular care in a cheap, effective way has significant clinical implications and can reduce the strain on healthcare budgets by allowing us to reduce the number of people undergoing MRI scans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SCHOLARSHIP AWARDEES AND RESEARCH TITLES

ARIANA CAHN

Quantification of Volumetric Brain Changes in Bipolar Disorder Patients following First Episode Mania: A Prospective Study

MAYA NESBIT

Preclinical Study of d-govadine and its Effects on Corticostriatal Mechanisms of Amphetamine Addiction

RAND EID

Microglia as Targets of Estradiol-Mediated Stress Resilience

MATTHEW NOSEWORTHY

Comparing the Cognitive Effects of Outdoor Versus Indoor Walking among Community-Dwelling Older Adults

TONY FONG

High Throughput Platform to Assess and Manipulate Cortical Circuits in Mouse Models of Depression

RACHAL PATTISON

Examining Mental Health Differences Among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Youth: A Mixed Method Approach

TRISTAN HYNES

Toward a Precision Treatment for Addiction: Focus on Dopamine Circuits and Sex

TRISTAN JOSHUA PHILLIPE

Sex Differences in Stress Habituation and Serotonin 1A Receptor Function

BONNIE LEE

The Impact of Motherhood and APOE Genotype on the Aging Brain

WANSU QIU

Effects of Maternal Postpartum Corticosterone and SSRI Exposure on Cytokine Profile and Microbiome in Dams and Offspring

DAPHNE LING

The Neural Basis of Low-Dose versus Normal-Dose Psychostimulants on Executive Functions in Youth with Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder: A Randomised Controlled Trial

JACOB STUBBS

Characterizing the Impact of Traumatic Brain Injury on the Mental Health and Brain Structure of Homeless and marginally House Individuals in a Community-Based Study

MELANIE LYSENKO-MARTIN

Neural and Behavioral Substrates of THC-Induced Impairments in Decision Making

BOAZ SAFFER

Identifying the Neurocognitive Mechanisms of Suicidal Behaviours in Emerging Adults

RAE MORRIS

Mental Health Service Provision with Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Interpretive Description Study

We are pleased announce the call for applications for the UBC Institute of Mental Health (IMH) – Marshall Scholars and Fellows Program in Mental Health for 2021-2022.The Institute of Mental Health (IMH) established the Marshall Scholars and Fellows Program in Mental Health to support the training of young investigators in translational research in order to create research capacity in mental health.

The IMH, in partnership with the Department of Psychiatry, is now inviting applications from qualified candidates for Fellowship awards, which will be supported by the Marshall Fellows Program in Mental Health. Please see the Application Guidelines for more detailed information regarding the requirements and criteria for this award. This year, in accordance with the original award funding plan, the program will fund stipends of $75,000 for up to five Fellows. The duration of funding is for one year only, however Fellows may have an opportunity to apply for a one-year extension of funding in the following year. Current Fellows in their first year of funding in 2020-2021 may apply for an extension in 2021-2022 for a second and final year of funding.

We encourage all qualified applicants to apply, and I would like to ask that this information be circulated widely.

Applicants must submit their applications online at https://ubc.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2cowRkRmDyApu2q by Friday April 30, 2021 (11:59 pm PST).

If you have questions or require further information regarding these awards, please contact Vicky Yau, Director, Administration, at vicky.yau@ubc.ca.