DocTalks: Psychiatry and Precision Medicine

In a panel discussion, Columbia faculty share insights into how precision medicine can be applied to the treatment of psychiatric disorders.

November 23, 2015

Clinicians face a huge challenge when it comes to understanding and treating brain disorders, particularly psychiatric illnesses, which are difficult to diagnose. For most disorders, accurate biological tests are not available, and doctors must rely on signs, symptoms, and patient history to make the call.

One promising avenue for improving diagnosis and treatment is precision medicine, which tailors therapy to individual patients. To explain how precision medicine can be applied in psychiatry, experts from Columbia University Medical Center described their efforts and the underlying vision in a panel discussion titled “The Brain Revolution: Precision Medicine in the Treatment for Brain Disorders.”

DocTalks - October 27, 2015

The Oct. 27 panel discussion–part of the DocTalks series, in which CUMC faculty share their expertise–was moderated by Jeffrey Lieberman, MD, the Lawrence C. Kolb Professor and Chair of Psychiatry, and featured Columbia faculty David Goldstein, PhD, Sander Markx, MD, Blair Simpson, MD, PhD, and Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, MD.

Among brain disorders, the best candidates for precision medicine are conditions that are strongly genetic. Autism, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are currently the focal points of Columbia research. Of patients who are screened, a subset may have a genetic cause that clinicians can target.

Precision medicine, Dr. Lieberman says, “offers the possibility of ‘peeling the onion’: dissecting psychiatric disorders into much more precise categories that pertain to that individual” and mapping their progression. “And as you can imagine it’s a much more precise way of diagnosing and a much more efficient way of determining what treatment patients should receive.”

Precision medicine is a University-wide initiative at Columbia. More about precision medicine at Columbia University Medical Center can be found here.