Cal Adler, MD, an associate professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience, uses advanced techniques to study bipolar and other psychotic disorders. He is an assistant director of the Center for Imaging Research, a College of Medicine core facility, and co-director of the Division of Bipolar Disorders Research. Here, he talks about the role of neuroimaging in his research andóif youíve ever wonderedówhat itís like to undergo neuroimaging.
How long have you been at UC, and what brought you here? "I came to UC about 13 years ago after completing a fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Having only participated in research as part of the intramural program of the NIH, I had no history of working in the "real world.Ē Dr. (Stephen) Strakowski in the department of psychiatry took a chance and offered me a job combining research with clinical careóhad he known Iíd still be hanging around more than a decade later, he might have reconsidered the offer, but Cincinnati has become home for me." Tell us about your current research focus and its implications for mental health. "I co-direct the Division of Bipolar Disorders Research (DBDR) with Melissa DelBello, MD. Our focus is on clinical research around improving the understanding and treatment of bipolar disorder. The DBDR has ongoing studies that use neuroimaging and other techniques to try to learn what leads to the development of the disorder, and both the timing and nature of specific mood episodes. In addition, we participate in clinical trials of newer treatment interventions, often combining those trials with neuroimaging to better understand the range of treatment response typically observed. Bipolar disorder remains a leading cause of disability worldwide and so it is clinically important to improve our ability to treat symptoms and consequences of the disorder. In addition, though, bipolar disorder serves as a model of psychiatric illness that can lead to a better understanding of psychopathology in general. Itís been observed that whatís most scientifically interesting about bipolar disorder is not that patients may experience episodes of depression and mania, but that these mood states may disappear for long periods of time."
How did you become interested in neuroimaging? "While a fellow at the NIH, I had the opportunity to become involved in research using positron emission tomography (PET). At the University of Cincinnati there was already a thriving program using magnetic resonance-based techniques such as structural and functional MRI to study psychiatric illnesses, including bipolar disorder. Neuroimaging allows us to study the actual workings of a living brain, and to follow changes in that brain in a way that would not otherwise be possible. With the growth of the Center for Imaging Research (CIR), itís become much easier to implement neuroimaging protocols at UC."
Have you ever undergone neuroimaging yourself? If so, what was it like (the process and the results)? "Iíve never participated formally in a neuroimaging study, but I have been scanned frequently as a "test subjectĒ for new imaging protocols. Iíve always found lying in the scanner to be extremely relaxing, and even soporific. My biggest problem has often been to remain awake throughout the procedure. I learned that I have a fairly uninteresting looking brain." Tell us a bit about yourself. Any hobbies or interests? "For the record, I want to emphasize that I have no significant interests outside of my unwavering dedication to the department of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience. As a longtime nerd though, I have a host of typically uninteresting hobbies including reading, eating and scuba diving when Iím visiting a coast. I am contemplating taking up hang-gliding off mountain peaks in an effort to improve my answer to this kind of question."
Anything about you that people donít know or might be surprised by? "Those who have observed my level of manual coordination will be surprised to learn that Iíve survived motorcycling for 15 years; Iím often surprised myself."