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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.

Shervin Assari, MD, MPH, is a research investigator with the Department of Psychiatry. He is also a faculty mentor at the Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health (CRECH), School of Public Health. His interest is in the intersection of community mental health and social epidemiology and focuses on the contextual effects of race, ethnicity, gender, and place in changing causes and also consequences of mood disorders.

Being trained as MD/MPH, with postdoctoral training in health disparities, Dr. Assari has published more than 120 Medline manuscripts, serves as the Associate Editor for three Medline journals (Frontiers in Psychiatry, Frontiers in Public Health, and Archives in Medical Science), and has served on the Board of Directors of the American College of Epidemiology (ACE) and American Academy of Health Behaviors (AAHB). With more than 200 verified peer reviews, Dr. Assari is ranked top ten in Publons which has records of more than 38,000 peer reviewers across the world.

Dr. Assari is a quantitative modeler who tries to understand within and between group differences in social determinants of mental and physical health. For instance, he studies how the links between socioeconomic status, stress, depression, bipolar disorder, obesity, and heart disease differ between whites and blacks, and men and women. He applies structural equation modeling and latent growth curve modeling to longitudinal data to better understand trajectories of depression and bipolar disorder over time.

Dr. Assari studies mechanisms behind the effects of context on mental health. He has worked on a wide range of psychosocial outcomes such as well-being, depression, health care use, drug use, sexual behaviors, suicide, and violence. His current focus is on differential contribution of mood disorders in development of chronic medical conditions such as obesity and heart disease based on race and gender. Dr. Assari has used large scale nationally representative mental health surveys and cohorts and is currently using Prechter longitudinal data to explain the mechanisms by which race and gender influence trajectories of the illness.

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 Evans, Ph.D., 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 2005. He has been working with the Prechter Bipolar Research team since 2009. He received his undergraduate degree in Biology from Western Washington University and his doctorate in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Oregon State University, having spent five years in the biotechnology industry between degrees. Recently, Dr. Evans retrained in nutritional sciences and clinical research, receiving an M.S. from the University of Michigan in 2013.

Dr. Evans diverse background has culminated in his current interests studying metabolic variation in mental health patients that contributes to quality of life, since physical and mental health issues frequently go hand-in-hand.  He is interested in the role of exercise, and diet and nutrition -- especially omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids -- as adjunctive treatments in psychiatric illness. Dr. Evans is also interested in the complement of gut bacteria, called the “microbiome,” in affecting brain function and mental health. He leads the effort to study this aspect of bipolar illness within the Prechter Bipolar Research group.

Dr. Evans has been a principal investigator on two NIH-funded grants and three foundation grants, and has authored over 40 scientific publications. He also enjoys speaking to a wide range of audiences, including the lay public and is the co-author of BrainFit for Life: A User’s Guide to Life Long Brain Health and Fitness.

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’Shea, Ph.D., 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. In Cambridge, she worked in the laboratory that isolated the first embryonic stem cells from mouse embryos. Research in the University of Michigan O’Shea 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 (iPSC).  The  scientists have recently identified a small RNA (ribonucleic acid) that controls the differentiation of stem cells into neurons, and are investigating its role in CNS (central nervous system) development.

Dr. O’Shea’s lab, where she directs eight researchers, is working with the Prechter Bipolar Research Fund to derive induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) from skin biopsies from patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder and control individuals. This exciting project involves sampling skin tissue from adults with and without the illness, and transforming those cells into stem cells and ultimately into nerve cells that look and behave like brain cells. This allows us to understand — in a laboratory — how individuals might react to different treatments and it is truly the heart of “personalized medicine.” We believe this novel research will lead to treatments based on each individual’s unique cellular profile.

Dr. O’Shea also heads the Michigan Center for Pluripotent Stem Cell Research, an NIH-funded central resource for the University of Michigan campus that helps researchers from many labs culture and work with human embryonic stem cell lines that are on the approved list for NIH-funding. They also train researchers in the derivation of induced pluripotent stem cells to model developmental disorders.

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., received her B.S. in Electrical Engineering (summa cum laude and with thesis honors) from Tufts University and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California (USC).

Dr. Mower Provost is an Assistant Professor in the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) Department.  She has been awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (2004-2007), the Herbert Kunzel Engineering Fellowship from USC (2007-2008, 2010-2011), the Intel Research Fellowship (2008-2010), and the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Award (2009-2010). Her research interests are in human-centered speech and video processing and multimodal interface design. The goals of her research are motivated by the complexities of human emotion generation and perception.

As part of the Prechter Bipolar Research team, Dr. Mower Provost has been involved in automatically estimating mood variation. Her work focuses on understanding the specific patterns that accompany transitions from healthy euthymic states to either mania or depression. She has worked to develop methodology to collect unstructured speech continuously and unobtrusively via the recording of day-to-day cellular phone conversations. Her investigations suggest that manic and depressive mood states can be recognized from these speech data, providing new insight into the feasibility of unobtrusive, unstructured, and continuous speech-based wellness monitoring for individuals with bipolar disorder.

Dr. Mower Provost’s work also focuses on understanding the human emotion perception process.  This research is motivated by the critical need for novel methods that forward the assessment and treatment of mood disorders. Her work focuses on the link between changes in how people perceive emotion and changes in mood. This has important implications for developing therapies and characterizing the severity of mood disorders.

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.