Effects of altitude on brain chemistry and mood states

Uploaded by uofubraininstitute on 27.02.2012

Well, our group makes use of an imaging technique called
magnetic resonance spectroscopy, sometimes abbreviated as MRS,
which is a way to look at changes in chemistry
in the brains of living human beings.
The clinical populations that we study most commonly are people
with mood disorders and substance abuse disorders,
and the reason we do it, apart from it being sort of fun to do,
is that we're interested in identifying changes in chemistry
that are associated with illness or with drug use in order
to then go on and try and identify ways to improve
or normalize brain chemistry.
So we study something that I like to call "the Utah paradox,"
and the paradox is as follows: If you talk to most people
who live in the state of Utah,
they not only like living here, but they love it.
On the other hand, for at least 40 or 50 years,
it's been known that rates of depression and suicide are
very high in the state of Utah, so how can you reconcile
so many people being happy and such a large increase
in the number of people who are very unhappy?
We're working on a model that suggests that it's the effects
of altitude on brain chemistry that really mediates the effect.
If we're correct, we should be able to set up an animal model
that would allow us to test our hypothesis,
and, importantly, begin to identify novel treatment
strategies for people who do live in Utah and who do find
themselves suffering from mood disorders.
So, I used to work at Harvard University where I ran a very
big imaging center and did a lot of things to raise a lot
of money to help a lot of people and since moving to Utah I've
become a scientist again and I've been given the opportunity
not only to reinvent myself, but to do those studies that I
really care about and to try and find answers to questions that I
think are really important, and none of this would have been
possible if I hadn't moved to Utah and been supported
as I have by both the Brain Institute and USTAR.