Guest Bloggers

  • Louisa Benton

    Executive Director

  • Steven P. Roose, M.D

    Professor of Clinical Psychiatry

  • Huda Akil, Ph.D

    DTF Chair

HDRF Hosts Fourth Annual Palm Beach Chairman’s Council Dinner with NFL Legend Joe Namath,
March 29, 2018

We held our fourth annual Palm Beach Chairman’s Council Dinner this past Sunday night at the beautiful Club Colette in Palm Beach.

It was a very special evening featuring NFL legend Joe Namath, who spoke about his recovery from brain injury and his commitment to neurological research.

We also gave a brief update on HDRF’s exciting progress through the collaborative research of the Depression Task Force.  They now have three specific compounds in pilot clinical trials that represent potential new categories of anti-depressants.

Tables were decorated with bright spheres of yellow roses to evoke the Foundation’s logo and its signature color of hope.  For a slideshow of the event, please click here.

We created the Chairman’s Council to honor donors who make annual gifts of $10,000 or more to HDRF’s advanced depression research.  Members of the Council participate in an active schedule of events and have insider’s access to HDRF’s team of psychiatrists and neuroscientists.  Please contact us if you would like to learn more.

The Palm Beach Daily News covered the event with a fun twist.  Please click here to read the story.

We thank our Chairman’s Council and each and every one of you who have supported HDRF’s unique research model.

Love and the Brain,
March 5, 2018

Human connection is good for the brain.


Happy March!  We mentioned at the start of the year that we’d share with you monthly tips on staying brain healthy.

So with spring just around the corner, we want to take this opportunity to talk about love and human connection.

Thanks to neuroscience research, we know our brains are healthiest when we feel connected with others.  That’s because social interactions actually boost chemicals in our brains that increase happiness and decrease pain and anxiety.

Conversely, loneliness can be very bad for our health.  Here are a few ways to trigger the system that works to make you happier*.  It all has to do with oxytocin, a brain chemical known as the “love hormone”:

  • Hugs and handshakes:  Touching is one of the main ways to release oxytocin.  Small touches like handshakes and pats on the back can work.  For people you’re close with, long hugs are particularly good.
  • Massage: Massage reduces pain because the oxytocin system activates painkilling endorphins.  Massage also improves sleep by decreasing the stress hormone cortisol.  So if you’re feeling out of sorts, get a massage.
  • Interact with friends: That doesn’t mean reading their posts on Facebook.  Make a plan — Do something fun! Studies show that individuals who interact regularly with supportive friends and family members are more resilient to stress.
  • Be around people: Sometimes when we’re low, making plans with other people can feel overwhelming.  In that case, it can help to go to a library or a coffee shop.  You don’t need to interact with others; just being in the same physical space can help.

Modern life can be frenetic, but spring is always a reminder to get out and smell the roses with people we hold dear.  Humans are a social species and our brains function best when we nurture and activate our social circuits.


*From The Upward Spiral by Alex Korb, PhD



Treating the Lifelong Harm of Childhood Trauma,
March 2, 2018

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris at The Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco.


We write to share a recent article in the New York Times about a talented young doctor who has taken the national stage to shed light on depression research and treatment.

Treating the Lifelong Harm of Childhood Trauma highlights the work of pediatrician Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, who is deeply concerned about the proven connection between childhood adversity and depression later in life.

Research shows how prolonged stress early in life can actually change our brains, making us more susceptible to depression as adults.  Now, Dr. Burke Harris calls for a national public health campaign to raise awareness about this reality.

We applaud Dr. Burke Harris for her activism and emphasize that our own Depression Task Force is at the forefront of this kind of critical brain science.  Indeed, Task Force member Dr. Eric Nestler spoke directly about the link between early life stress and depression at our November HOPE Luncheon Seminar.

To view Dr. Nestler’s illuminating talk, click here.

If you would like a copy of Dr. Nestler’s slides, please contact Anais Rivera at

The work of Dr. Nadine Burke Harris is just one example of how advances in depression research can improve treatment and bring hope to millions.  Thank you for your continued support of HDRF’s research mission.

Enhance Your Mental Wellness,
March 2, 2018

Three Ways to Enhance your Mental Wellness in the New Year

Did you know that neuroscience can enhance your emotional well-being?

We use this newsletter often to tell you what we know about depression. But the flip side of the coin is that research also teaches us a lot about mental wellness.

To kick off the New Year, we’re excited to announce a new e-newsletter series dedicated to your wellness. We’ll share with you the latest information about how positive life changes can lead to positive brain changes.

In the spirit of health and happiness for 2018, here are three ways* you can keep your brain healthy in the new year:

1) Regular Exercise

Just 15 minutes of exercise changes the electrical activity in your brain’s mood centers. Regular exercise makes your brain stronger and more resilient to stress by increasing nerve growth factors.

2) Better Sleep

Sleep cleanses your brain and enhances its function. Most people need about eight hours. Create a routine to wind down before going to bed; make your bedroom a work-free haven. No TV or computer screens!

3) Practicing Gratitude

Gratitude is scientifically proven to reduce anxiety, improve sleep, and increase the brain’s production of serotonin – an important neurostransmitter. Regardless of your life’s circumstances, the gratitude circuit in your brain can be strengthened. Make gratitude a daily part of your routine by taking a few minutes each day to write down three things you are grateful for.

We’ll start by saying we are grateful for you!

We appreciate your care and interest in the Hope for Depression Research Foundation. With your support, we’ll continue to make great progress in research in the year ahead.

HDRF Depression Task Force: Researchers’ Exciting New Findings,
October 5, 2017

Since 2012, the acclaimed researchers of HDRF’s Depression Task Force (DTF) have worked tirelessly to better understand the brain biology of depression in order to develop a new type of anti-depressant, one that works differently from the 20-plus drugs already on the market. Finding a new option is crucial, since 50% of patients do not respond fully to available anti-depressants.

We are delighted to announce that the Depression Task Force is closer than ever to achieving this bold goal: A recent major paper authored by the entire team reveals they have discovered novel, tangible approaches to new treatments, and they are ready to drive these discoveries from animal testing to clinical trials.

The article, “Treatment Resistant Depression: A Multi-scale, Systems Biology Approach,” appears online this month in the prestigious journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, and will soon be in print. Working together, the seven investigators of the DTF have found new candidate mechanisms for treatment in a relatively short amount of time. It is a brilliant example of collaboration across multiple laboratories and universities.

Here are the highlights:

  • They have identified a circuit deep in the brain that appears to play a key role in depression.
  • The circuit is not in just one area of the brain, but connects four hubs that regulate emotion.
  • Specific patterns of neurons within the circuit become over-active or under-active in depression.
  • They have started to map the genetic architecture of these regions, and identify how the architecture changes in depression.
  • As a result, they have identified not just precise micro-circuits, but underlying genes that seem to play a key role in depression.

To read the entire paper, please click here.

The publication marks an exciting five-year milestone for our research plan. The DTF is now preparing small, pilot clinical trials of potential therapies, entering into a more mature phase of drug discovery with a handful of promising molecular targets.

As clinical trials commence, the DTF will continue work to find a physical diagnosis for depression and identify different depression subtypes. It is not far-fetched to imagine that in the next decade we will see a whole new generation of treatments – be it drug, brain stimulation or psychotherapy — that work precisely where they are needed.

Yes, there is much hard work ahead. We can’t help but marvel at all that we’ve accomplished, and with your help, all that we will accomplish. Thank you as always for your support of our research mission.