Session 1
Novel Approaches to Behavioral Health Innovation: Non-Specific Treatments, Adaptive Stress and the Future of Depression-Enduring

In this talk, Dr. Charles Raison will apply an evolutionary lens to address the urgent question of why treatments for mental illness have not made the type of progress that has occurred in other fields of medicine, especially oncology. Focusing on depression, the talk will show that all current antidepressants operate primarily by having the non-specific effect of making the world seem like a safer, less stressful and more restful place. While of clinical value, this approach only provides sustained symptom relief for a minority of patients with major depression, highlighting the need to identify novel treatment strategies. This talk presents one such strategy based on the use of adaptive stressors to enhance overall emotional wellbeing. After describing an evolutionary and pragmatic rational for the use of adaptive stressors, the talk provides whole body hyperthermia as an example of an evidence-based adaptive stressor that is already available for clinical use.

This lecture is part of a virtual learning series. If you would like to receive continuing education credits please visit the course information page from University of Wisconsin-Madison and register/enroll. If you are interested in the topic and would like to view the lecture, click here.

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Session 2
Challenging Yourself with Thermal Stress to Improve Health and Well-being

Presented by Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D.
Intentional exposure to both heat and cold can have remarkable health benefits. Heat exposure, like that experienced in saunas or hot baths, mimics the effects of moderate aerobic exercise, promoting cardiovascular and neurological health. Moreover, it stimulates stress response genes, such as heat shock proteins, which prevent muscle atrophy and decrease protein aggregation, thereby protecting our cells. On the other hand, deliberate cold exposure boosts norepinephrine levels, enhancing mood and triggering mitochondrial biogenesis in adipose tissue - a process that increases the amount of calorie-burning brown fat. Furthermore, immersing oneself in cold water elevates mitochondrial biogenesis within muscle tissue, thereby improving muscle function. Through these contrasting yet beneficial processes, heat and cold exposure offer unique ways to bolster overall health and well-being. Rhonda Patrick earned her Ph.D. in biomedical science from the University of Tennessee.

This lecture is part of a virtual learning series. To view the recording, please click here.

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Session 3
How Reflection on What Matters Turns a Wandering into a Journey (Purpose and Mental Health)

Presented by Ira Bedzow and Christine B. Whelan
Research confirms what many of us know in our own lives: we’re not that great at predicting what’s going to make us happy. Yet when we open ourselves to purpose and meaning, both happiness and health seem to come along as well. In this talk we will demystify those big buzzword topics of happiness, well-being and purpose, offering highlights and key takeaways from academic research. We’ll propose strategies for both clinicians and their patients to incorporate purpose into their daily routines. And, as educators who are passionate about helping others teach purpose as well, we’ll leave time for discussion of these topics tailored to your specific clinical settings as well. 

This lecture is part of a virtual learning series. To view the recording, please click here.

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Session 4
Psychedelics as Novel Treatments for Depression: Yes, They Work, But How Will They Work

Presented by Charles Raison, M.D.
Psychedelic compounds—long stigmatized—have re-emerged in the last decade as the most promising new mental health treatments in a generation. An ever-growing outpouring of studies demonstrate that various psychedelics benefit a range of psychiatric conditions, including major depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. Among the classic psychedelics, the evidence of benefit is strongest for psilocybin—the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms—as a novel treatment for depression.

This lecture is part of a virtual learning series. To view the recording, please click here.

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Session 5
Spiritual Health in Psychedelic Medicine: A Meeting of Science & Culture

Presented by George H. Grant
Psychedelic medicine as a compound-assisted therapy has been shown to manifest subjective spiritual experiences leading to sustained benefits in mental health. Join George Grant, MDiv, PhD, Executive Director for Spiritual Health, Woodruff Health Sciences Center at Emory University as he discusses the present and future ecology of spiritual health’s influence on mental health throughout the continuum of care, the provision of psychedelic-assisted therapy and whole-person health.

This lecture is part of a virtual learning series. To view the recording, please click here.

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Session 6 
Healing: Our Path from Mental Illness to Mental Health

Presented by Tom Insel
The last four decades have seen unprecedented progress in the science of mental illness, yet there has been little movement in improving the outcomes of patients. At a population level, despair, anguish, and mortality are increasing for those with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe mood and anxiety disorders. How do you explain this gap between science and social impact?

Join Tom Insel, MD, author of “Healing: Our Path from Mental Illness to Mental Health” as he discusses there is a crisis of care, the five major contributing factors and the solutions. There may not be a magic bullet but with high touch, high tech, and shifting the model from a narrow medical “sick care” approach to a broader recovery “health care” approach, the curve can be bent to make a difference.

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Session 7
Old Friends & Mental Health: Role of Co-Evolved Micro-Organisms in Stress Resilience

Presented by Christopher Lowry
Humans have coexisted with bacteria throughout human existence on Earth. Although we often think of bacteria as causing disease, some microorganisms are beneficial for our immune systems, our bodies and our brains. As humans transitioned from hunter-gatherer societies to our modern cities, we have lost contact with some of these favorable “germs” that could help to positively influence stress-related disorders including anxiety, mood and PTSD.
 
Several studies demonstrate, for example, that biomarkers in active military personnel, before deployment, predict the risk of development of PTSD after deployment. At the same time, persons with PTSD have decreased numbers and function of regulatory T cells and a higher risk of developing future autoimmune disorders, which overall suggests an impaired capacity to regulate inflammation. 
 
Associate Professor, Christopher Lowry, with the University of Colorado Boulder highlights preclinical studies and explores the idea that replacing some of these lost “Old Friends,” i.e., bacteria has the potential to improve our physical, mental and social well-being.

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Session 8
Back to the Basics: WILD 5 - A Proven Path to Wellness

Presented by Saundra Jain
Post-holidays are a time of reflection as many focus on improving their health. After weeks of overindulging, sleeping and exercising less it is not unusual to feel tired, sad and depressed from those weeks of neglecting your health. After searching endlessly for the perfect program, it can feel disappointing when the results are lacking.

Welcome Dr. Saundra Jain, co-creator of WILD 5, a novel approach to a scientific-based wellness program that integrates social connectedness, nutrition, exercise, mindfulness, and sleep resulting in significant improvement in anxiety, depression, chronic pain and overall wellness. Dr. Jain explores the role of inflammation in depression and explains how WILD 5 might be your path to improving your wellness.

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Session 9 
Leveraging Polyvagal Theory to Enhance the Treatment of Traumatized Patients: a Conversation with Dr. Stephen Porges

Presented by Dr. Stephen Porges & Dr. Charles Raison
As humans, we take for granted that—for better or worse—our lives are intimately entwined with those of others. Remember how off-putting the empty public spaces of Covid were, how unnatural, and how quickly we’ve rushed back to being packed together in so many of our activities? We should marvel at this ability because it came along late in the evolution of life in a world where most interactions involved eating, being eaten, or fighting to reproduce. How did we manage while becoming so dependent upon each other from the moment of our birth to the moment of our death?
 
Of all the theories that have addressed this question, none have been more impactful than Polyvagal Theory which explains how we evolved and provides explanations for why, and how, trauma—especially early in life—so often promotes depression, anxiety, and poor physical health.
 
Dr. Stephen Porges, creator of Polyvagal Theory, and Dr. Charles Raison, Director of the Vail Health Behavioral Innovation Center delve into the theory and examine the clinical implications of enhancing the care of patients with trauma histories. 

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Session 10 
Keeping the Psychedelic Renaissance from Going Off the Rails

Presented by Andrew Penn, MS, PMHNP and Charles L. Raison, MD

Some psychedelic-assisted therapies, such as MDMA for post-traumatic stress disorder and psilocybin for major depression, are either approaching the end of clinical trials or are amid clinical trials that may soon lead to FDA approval. A prescribed combination of drug plus therapy is new territory for clinicians, regulators, and patients. Because of this, the question of how these combined therapies will be administered remains an open one of some urgency.
 
Andrew Penn, MS, PMHN, and Charles Raison, MD will explore the implications, opportunities, and challenges of this change in how we treat mental illness from the perspective of multiple stakeholders

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Session 11 
From Mesmer to Psychedelics: Appreciating the Power of Contextual Effects

Presented by Gerard Sanacora, PhD, MD

Three steps forward, two steps back.

A person’s lifestyle and environment when receiving psychiatric care can greatly impact the effectiveness of their treatment plan. Friends, family, religion, economic, education, culture and media are just a few factors.

Gerard Sanacora, PhD, MD will explore how circumstantial factors can make a substantial difference in how well treatments work, especially regarding mental health. He will also discuss ways to manage outside influences so that patients undergoing behavioral health treatment have a higher success rate for a better outcome.

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