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Meet the Scientists

Melvin G. McInnis, M.D., the Prechter Bipolar Research Program's Principal Investigator, is Thomas B. and Nancy Upjohn Woodworth Professor of Bipolar Disorder and Depression, and Professor of Psychiatry, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He is also Adjunct Associate Professor in Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. Since 2004, he has served in several roles at the University of Michigan, including Director of the Depression Section in the Department of Psychiatry, Associate Director of the university's Depression Center, and Chair of the Clinical Informatics Committee. He also established the University of Michigan as an active site in the National Institute of Mental Health's (NIMH) Genetics Initiative for Bipolar Disorder.

Dr. McInnis studied, interned, and was a clinical researcher at the University of Iceland Hospital in Reykjavik, Iceland. His residency was completed at Bethlehem Royal and Maudsley Hospitals at the University of London. He was a Fellow in Medical and Molecular Genetics at the Center for Medical Genetics at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Dr. McInnis has a long-standing history of research on psychiatric genetics, namely genetic linkages, expression, and patterns associated with depression, bipolar disorder, and Alzheimer's disease. He has served as Principal Investigator for several National Institutes of Health/NIMH-sponsored studies on bipolar disorder in the areas of genetic mapping, genetic susceptibility, and biochemical and genetic pathways, in order to better understand disease etiology. He is actively involved at the university in mentoring junior faculty and research staff on clinical translational research in bipolar disorder.

In addition to his clinical, research, and mentoring roles, Dr. McInnis is a reviewer for several major medical publications addressing genetics and/or psychiatry, including the American Journal of Human Genetics, American Journal of Psychiatry, and Psychiatric Genetics. In 2007, he was elected Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatry.

Margit BurmeisterMargit Burmeister, Ph.D. has been a member of Prechter team since its inception. She received her Ph.D. from the Biology faculty of Heidelberg University, Germany for work in Human Molecular Genetics performed at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL). After a postdoc with David Cox and Richard Myers at the University of California San Francisco on genetic mapping, she started her faculty position at the University of Michigan in 1991 in the Molecular & Behavioral Neuroscience Institute, and the departments of Psychiatry and Human Genetics. She is now also co-director of the Bioinformatics graduate program and a member of the Center for Statistical Genetics. Since starting her faculty position, she has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health and many private foundations. Notably, she has received twice a Young Investigator award and an Independent Investigator Award as well as recently a Distinguished Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders (NARSAD). She is on the board of directors of the International Society for Psychiatric Genetics, and has published over 100 peer reviewed publications, including many in the best journals such as Biological Psychiatry, Nature, Nature Genetics, Nature Genetics Reviews, Molecular Psychiatry, and Science.

She was recently honored with a Distinguished Professorship from the Bio-X Center of Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China and is involved in strengthening collaborations and education between the University of Michigan and this and other Chinese Universities.

Her research interest is in the genetics of bipolar disorder. While bipolar disorder has a clear genetic predisposition recognized by all, identifying the genes involved has been extremely difficult. Her emphasis is on multi-disciplinary approaches that require collaborations between clinicians, psychologists, geneticists, bioinformaticians and statisticians. Apart from bipolar disorder, she is using similar approaches in the genetics of deafness, ataxia, and alcoholism.

Vicki EllingrodVicki L. Ellingrod, Pharm. D., has been working with the Prechter research group for the last four years.  She received her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Minnesota and finished a post doctorial fellowship in psychopharmacology and pharmacogenomics at the University of Iowa. Currently Dr. Ellingrod is a professor in the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy and School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. She also directs the Clinical Pharmacogenomics Laboratory. Her research examines how differences in genes impact the occurrence of medication response or side effects. Specifically, she has been looking at how genes that break down folic acid within the body may be related to the occurrence of diabetes, weight gain, and cholesterol issues that can occur when antipsychotic medications are used. She has also been examining if supplemental folic acid can be used to prevent these side effects. In addition to this, Dr. Ellingrod is starting a new project that will determine how different medications used for the treatment of bipolar disorders interact with the body resulting in metabolism changes. This work might give us more insight into the mind, body, medication relationship. She also has an interest in examining how fatty acids such as omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids are related to the metabolic side effects seen with antipsychotic use. 

Simon EvansSimon Evans, Ph.D., has been working with the Prechter Bipolar Research Group since 2009. He received his undergraduate degree in Biology from Western Washington University in 1989 and his doctorate in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Oregon State University in 1999, having spent five years in the biotechnology industry between degrees. Dr. Evans came to the University of Michigan as a post-doctoral fellow in 1999 and joined the faculty in the Department of Psychiatry as an Assistant Research Professor in 2004. Dr. Evans is interested in the use of diet and nutrition for the treatment psychiatric illness, with a current focus on the role omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids play in bipolar illness, burden of disease and treatment response.

Paul Jenkins, Ph.D. joined the Prechter Bipolar Research Group in March 2015. He received his doctoral degree from the University of Michigan and completed his postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. Vann Bennett at Duke University in Durham, NC.

His professional interests include understanding the formation of the axon initial segment, nodes of Ranvier, and GABAergic synapses, and understanding how genetic mutations affecting formation of these neuronal domains underlie complex neuropsychiatric disorders, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Mutations in ankyrin-G, a product of the ANK3 gene, have been found to be associated with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. However, the mechanisms by which these mutations cause disease remain poorly understood.
Recently, Dr. Jenkins and his colleagues discovered that a large splice variant of ankyrin-G is responsible for the formation of the axon initial segment and nodes of Ranvier, critical sites of clustered voltage-gated sodium channels that are important for normal neuronal signaling. In addition, this variant was necessary for the formation of inhibitory connections in the cortex and hippocampus, defects in which are strongly associated with bipolar disorder.  Dr. Jenkins’s work has been examining how human variants affect the formation of inhibitory circuits in mouse models with the hopes of identifying therapeutic pathways for the restoration of these critical neuronal connections.
The detailed clinical and biological data and samples gathered from all the research volunteers who participate in the Prechter Longitudinal Study of Bipolar Disorder is an extremely valuable source that can help us elucidate the cellular and molecular underpinnings of neuropsychiatric disease.

Masoud KamaliMasoud Kamali, M.D. joined the Prechter Bipolar Research Group on September 1st 2008. He received his medical degree from Tehran University of Medical Sciences and completed his residency training in adult psychiatry at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, an affiliate of Columbia University in New York. His professional interests include the treatment and management of severe mood disorders and research towards understanding the neurobiology of mood disorders, impulsivity and suicidal behavior. More about Dr. Kamali

Scott LangeneckerScott Langenecker, Ph.D. has been a member of the Prechter Bipolar Research Team since 2005. He was a clinical neuropsychologist within the Neuropsychology Section, Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical Center, and is now an adjunct Assistant Professor since 2012. Dr. Langenecker now directs the Cognitive Neuroscience Center and the Multifaceted Explorations of the Neurobiology of Depressive Disorders (MEND2) laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  He completed his undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1993. After working several years with special needs (e.g., TBI, Developmental Disability) adults in vocational and residential settings, Dr. Langenecker began his graduate work at Marquette University in 1996. He completed doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology in 2001 at Marquette University. Dr. Langenecker completed his internship at the Albert Einstein North Shore-Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York. His fellowship was at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Clinical Neuropsychology, which he completed in 2003. Currently Dr. Langenecker's research focus is on cognitive and functional imaging predictors of treatment response in mood disorders, including Major Depressive disorder, Bipolar disorder, and Cushing's disease across the lifespan.

Intermediate: Cognitive phenotypes in bipolar

David Marshall, Ph.D., joined the Prechter bipolar research team in September 2010.  He received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with a focus in neuropsychology from the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology at Palo Alto University. He completed his pre-doctoral internship in clinical psychology (neuropsychology track) at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and then went on to complete a postdoctoral fellowship in clinical and research neuropsychology at the University of Michigan. He joined the Psychiatry faculty as a Clinical Lecturer at the University of Michigan in September 2012. His research interests are in clinical neuropsychology, specifically investigating features that influence mood disorders to help clarify the risks and effects comprised by both cognitive and affective factors with a focus on substance use disorders, childhood trauma, and aging.

K. Sue O'SheaK. Sue O’Shea, Ph.D., Crosby-Kahn Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Spanish from the University of Nebraska and her Ph.D. in Developmental Biology from the University of Cambridge, England. Research in the lab is focused on understanding the events involved in the induction and early differentiation of the nervous system using mouse models, embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. The lab has recently identified a novel microRNA that appears to control the lineage differentiation of neural stem cells to astrocytes and neurons. The microRNA is restricted in expression to the developing CNS, and when overexpressed, inhibits neuronal differentiation by binding and inhibiting expression of pan-neuronal genes including Elavl4. Research is now examining the effects of over-expressing and inhibiting its function on glial and neuronal cell fate in the intact nervous system.

With Dr. Gary Smith the lab is deriving human embryonic stem cells from blastocysts carrying genetic disease, as models to study disease progression and identify novel intervention approaches. We are also collaborating with Dr. Melvin McInnis to derive induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) from skin biopsies from patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The iPSC lines from bipolar patients and from control individuals are being differentiated into neurons, as a model to understand bipolar disease progression and to identify new approaches to its treatment. The work is potentially important since there are few replicated susceptibility genes, and no good cell or animal models to study a disease that affects millions of Americans.

Alan Prossin, M.D. joined the Prechter Bipolar Research Group in January 2009. He received an engineering degree from McGill University, a medical degree from The University of The West Indies and completed residency training in general psychiatry at St. Vincents Catholic Medical Centers of the New York Medical College. Following the completion of his residency training, Alan joined the Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute at the University of Michigan where he completed a research fellowship in the neuroimaging of mood disorders. His interests include the identification of similarities and differences in clinical and biological phenotypes across the spectrum of mood dysregulation.

Emily Mower ProvostEmily Mower Provost, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Computer Science and Engineering Department (CSE) at the University of Michigan.  She received her B.S. degree in electrical engineering from Tufts University, Boston, MA, in 2004 and her M.S. and PhD degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, in 2007 and 2010, respectively.  Her research interests are in human-centered speech and video processing and multimodal interfaces design. The goals of her research are motivated by the complexities of human emotion generation and perception. She seeks to provide a computational account of how humans perceive emotional utterances (“emotion perception”) and combines this with knowledge gleaned from perception estimation studies (“emotion recognition”) to develop systems capable of interpreting naturalistic expressions of emotion utilizing a new quantification measure (“emotion profiles”). She has published many articles in these areas and is a contributor to the winning paper in the classifier category of the 2009 Interspeech Emotion Challenge.

Kelly RyanKelly Ryan, Ph.D., joined the Prechter team in September 2009 as a Clinical Lecturer. She completed her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Wayne State University and recently completed her postdoctoral fellowship in Clinical Neuropsychology at the University of Michigan Health System. She has clinical experience working with various medical and psychiatric populations. Her research interests are in clinical neuropsychology, specifically how neuropsychological and illness factors can be used to understand functional outcomes, such as overall well-being and everyday functioning, in individuals with chronic mental and physical illnesses, and ways in which this information might guide treatment. More about Dr. Ryan

Erika Saunders, M.D. has been a member of the Prechter Bipolar Research Group since 2005. She received a degree in microbiology from the University of Michigan, a medical degree from the University of Iowa and completed residency training in psychiatry and the Resident Research Track at the University of Michigan. After residency, she completed a research fellowship with the Prechter group, with a focus on the relationship between phenotype and genetics of bipolar disorder. She is currently an Associate Professor and Executive Vice-Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the Pennsylvania State University Medical School and the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Her interests include developing phenotypes in bipolar disorder to improve understanding of the interplay between environmental factors, biological markers, diagnosis and prediction of outcomes.

Robert ThompsonRobert Thompson, Ph.D. received his Ph.D. in 1989 from the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, OR and subsequently completed his postdoctoral training at the University of Michigan, under the mentorship of Dr. Stanley J Watson. He oversees the laboratory component of the Prechter Repository that archives clinically valuable blood samples including cell lines and genomic DNA. In parallel, he oversees a basic science research team interested in the anatomical and cell biological regulatory processes in brain regions implicated in psychiatric illness and other endocrine disorders.

Ivy TsoIvy Tso, Ph.D., joined the Prechter Bipolar Research Team in 2012. She received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Michigan in 2012 and completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry in 2013. She recently joined the Psychiatry faculty of as Clinical Lecturer. Her general research interests fall in the area of psychopathology and affective neuroscience. Her research focuses on social information processing in schizophrenia and its relationship with basic perception and broader social functioning in the disorder. She uses multiple research methods in her studies, including self-report, behavioral, psychophysical, and neuroimaging (EEG/ERP, fMRI) measures. Her research is moving toward a developmental and transdiagnostic approach to the investigation of behavioral, socio-emotional, and neurobiological markers of psychosis.