Center of Biomedical Research Excellence Grant (COBRE) to Focus on Clinical-Translational Brain Research

Release Date: 03/19/2019

Neuropsychiatric illnesses are common and highly impairing conditions that arise from abnormal functioning of the brain. These conditions - impulsivity, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) among others – can greatly impair the health of those affected by them and impact their ability to learn, work, and emotionally cope.

With a focus on enhancing research to shed light on these disorders and their potential future health implications, Butler Hospital has been awarded a $12 million, five-year Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This creates key infrastructure and support a core group of interdisciplinary investigators to build a self-sustaining center of excellence in clinical-translational brain research. The overall goal of The COBRE Center for Neuromodulation (CCN) at Butler Hospital will be to address the pressing need for novel treatments for people struggling with neuropsychiatric disease, by understanding and testing methods to change the functioning of brain circuits underlying such illnesses.

“This grant establishes Butler Hospital and The COBRE Center for Neuromodulation as a national leader in this field of translational medicine, expanding both research and clinical application of non-invasive brain stimulation across disorders of brain and behavior,” said Benjamin Greenberg MD PhD, principal investigator on the grant, Director of the OCD Research Program at Butler Hospital, and Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. “It will unify an interdisciplinary community in clinical-translational research on neuropsychiatric illnesses such as impulsivity, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), all focused on ultimately helping patients by developing new treatments.”

"This new NIH COBRE grant will advance understanding of neuropsychiatric conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and lead to research breakthroughs in mental and behavioral health,” said Senator Jack Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee who noted that this federal grant compliments a $12 million COBRE grant for Brown University's Center for Central Nervous System Function, part of the Carney Institute for Brain Science, that was awarded in December. “This federal funding will also help boost the state's growing biomedical research and innovation capacity, helping to bolster mentorship, advance the careers of young researchers, and support numerous jobs in the biomedical research industry."

“There is so much we still don’t know about managing relatively common conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “With this federal funding, Butler Hospital will lead pioneering brain science research to help patients whose lives are deeply affected by these conditions.”

“With this new federal funding, Butler Hospital will continue to enhance its life-changing research to help people suffering from neuropsychiatric conditions,” said Congressman James Langevin. “I congratulate Butler Hospital for winning this competitive award, and I will continue to fight for increased investment to support important biomedical research.”

“As Rhode Island’s oldest psychiatric hospital, Butler Hospital has always been a leader in treating and researching psychiatric illnesses and substance abuse. The awarding of this $12 million COBRE grant will allow the hospital to expand its critical work to include helping people throughout our state and New England who suffer from neuropsychiatric conditions,” said Congressman David N. Cicilline. “The many achievements of Butler Hospital and top mental hospitals around the country highlight the importance of fully funding the NIH’s many vital programs, and I’m proud of the work that our Congressional Delegation has done to make sure we can continue to create opportunities to bring valuable federal funds home to Rhode Island.”

Importantly, The COBRE Center for Neuromodulation will nurture the careers of exceptional young researchers in Rhode Island by providing them the infrastructure and expertise to administer brain stimulation and assess its effects on both the brain and behavior. The CCN, co-directed by Dr. Linda Carpenter, MD, a nationally recognized leader in brain stimulation therapies and research based at Butler Hospital, will provide the platform these exceptional Project Leaders and other early-career researchers need to make important discoveries and transform them into better treatments for patients with neuropsychiatric illnesses. The stimulation methods to be tested are noninvasive, meaning they affect the brain when applied on the scalp (transcranial magnetic and transcranial electrical stimulation); stimulation effects will be assessed with neuroimaging (MRI) and other methods. 

The first group of Project Leaders supported by the COBRE CCN will focus on impulsive behavior (a problem across multiple illnesses), PTSD, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). They will be supported in several critical ways, including in research administration and logistics, by experienced, highly skilled mentors and by new research infrastructure to aid them in the design and analysis of experiments and the practical use of stimulation and neuroimaging methods. This, plus a pilot grant program, will advance the careers of talented young researchers in Rhode Island towards making important independent contributions to science and health.

About Butler Hospital

Butler Hospital, a member of Care New England, is the only private, nonprofit psychiatric and substance abuse hospital serving adults, seniors and adolescents in Rhode Island and southeastern New England. Founded in 1844, it was the first hospital in Rhode Island and has earned a reputation as the leading provider of innovative psychiatric treatments in the region. The Major Affiliated Teaching Hospital for Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Butler is recognized worldwide as a pioneer in conducting cutting-edge research.