Depression Grand Challenge hosts Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science at UCLA, sets the stage for collaboration

September 6, 2018

On September 5, 2018, scientists and representatives from Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science visited UCLA to cultivate a relationship and potential collaborations in depression and neuroscience research. Scientists from both institutions shared scientific insights and information about ongoing research and breakthroughs during a daylong joint meeting titled, “The Neurobiology of Mental Health.” Please refer to the program from the joint meeting for information regarding featured speakers and discussion topics.

Later that evening, the DGC hosted a conversation for an external audience focused on the basic science of depression. Opening remarks were made by Nelson Freimer (DGC Director), followed by a panel discussion led by Jonathan Flint (DGC Executive Committee Member) with representatives from the DGC and the Weizmann Institute of Science.

The discussion kicked off with panelists sharing personal stories detailing their path to conducting research in neuroscience, and in some cases their interest in depression.

Their paths and entries into the topic were varied. For example analyzing sex differences in the brain to better tailor treatment (M. Oren-Suissa, Weizmann Institute of Science), understanding the interactions between emotions and cognitive processes (R. Paz, Weizmann Institute of Science), studying what “astrocytes”– an understudied component of the central nervous system that make up ~40% of our brain cells – do and how they work (B. Khakh, UCLA), and using fruit flies, “the little giant of genetics research”, to understand how chemicals that are related to depression regulate communication between brain cells (D. Krantz, UCLA).

These anecdotes were followed by a brief Q&A moderated by Larry Zipursky (DGC Executive Committee Member) with questions, such as how do we know flies experience depression and how the brain codes emotion. In closing the event, Dean Kelsey Martin (David Geffen School of Medicine) recalled the pathway to the day’s session, reflecting on the initiation of the DGC.