Junior Faculty Presentations
Simon J. Evans, PhD and David T. Hsu, PhD
Evans: For centuries, nutritional considerations have been viewed as both reasons for and possible treatments for psychopathological processes. Despite the increasing number of studies in the past couple of decades that seek to detail the effect of nutrition on psychiatric illness, till this day, psychologists are still struggling to understand exactly how to use diet as an effective preventive, and effective treatment method for a variety of psychopathological problems. In this presentation, Dr. Evans specifically talks about three main points regarding this topic of nutrition in the world of psychiatry. These three topics are: viewing the brain as a physical organ that performs depending on the intake of energy humans employ, empirical data that links a healthy diet with lower risk for mood disorders, and how the intake of Omega -3 and -6 fatty acids have been shown to play a role in the course of bipolar disorder. Overall, preliminary research is promising in linking what we eat to how we act both behaviorally and cognitively. More research must be done in the area and Dr. Evans ends by saying that the goal should be to more and more use diet as an effective maintenance tool for psychiatric illness. Hsu: Many people have experienced the intangible yet very real “pain” that comes with romantic rejection and romantic betrayal. These people even say that this social pain is often much greater than the traditional, physical pain that we imagine (e.g. burning your hand on a stove). Studies in the field of pain report that the social pain that stems from romantic rejection is not a made up mental fallacy, but that indeed social pain often triggers many of the same neurological pathways as does physical pain. In this talk, Dr. Hsu explores this tricky, yet intriguing overlap between physical pain and social pain. His current studies focus on the endogenous opioid system and how certain areas of the brain react similarly to a skin burn in comparison to a tough, romantic break up. Through the use of Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Dr. Hsu has been able to explore the underlying neurological impact of both categories of pain and he has found some interesting similarities between the two that appear to empirically support the notion that social pain is just as “felt” as physical pain. Dr. Hsu also explores some factors that may influence how one feels and processes pan such as gender and age. Overall, these studies may lead to one day being able to treat social pain with some form of medicine much like physical pain today.