Introducing the Semel Spotlight

Welcome to the inaugural newsletter of the Department of Psychiatry and Semel Institute at UCLA. Our mission is to advance the mental health and well-being of the population through cutting-edge translational research, state-of-the-art clinical care, and training the next generation of leaders in mental health. Central to this mission is continuing to build diversity in our faculty, staff, and trainees, who manifest our commitment to health equity and inclusion.


We are proud of our recent advances that will improve treatment for people suffering from mood, anxiety, psychotic, addiction, developmental, and other mental disorders. We provide state-of-the-art care through our outpatient programs, and the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA that is ranked best in the West and among the top five in the nation by US News and World Report. We disseminate novel interventions through specialty clinics, community treatment programs, bilingual and bicultural services, and partnerships with public funders. These innovative partnerships extend our reach to the community and provide care for individuals at risk for, or suffering from, a range of neuropsychiatric illnesses.


The Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior is consistently among the top recipients of mental health research funding from the NIH. Our diverse faculty are international leaders in the translational neuroscience of autism, depression, and psychotic disorders, and direct nationally top-ranked training programs in psychiatry and psychology across the lifespan. Our psychiatry residency is ranked among the top four nationally.


This is a remarkable time, and we are pleased to be a part of the vibrant, multicultural communities that comprise Southern California. We hope you share our enthusiasm and look forward to your input and feedback.



Alexander S. Young, MD, MSHS

Professor and Interim Chair
Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences
Interim Director, Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Interim Physician-in-Chief, UCLA Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital



Defining the future of autism care

A new, comprehensive model of autism care and treatment that prioritizes personalized, stepped care approaches is urgently needed, according to a new international report published in The Lancet. The report identifies urgent actions required in the next five years to address the current needs of people with autism and families worldwide and to build a foundation for improved care and treatment in the future. Clinical psychologist Catherine Lord, PhD co-chaired the commission that authored the report. Read about the report.

Treating insomnia with CBT can prevent major depression in older adults

Cognitive behavioral therapy to treat insomnia was more effective in preventing major depression as compared to sleep education therapy in adults over the age of 60 with insomnia. CBT decreases the likelihood of depression by more than 50% compared to sleep education therapy in adults over the age of 60 with insomnia. The study was published in JAMA Psychiatry. Behavioral neuroscientist Michael Irwin, MD was the lead author of the study. Read more about the study

UCLA and UCSF awarded $41.5 million to address the impact of childhood adversity and toxic stress on health

The multi-campus initiative will address the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and other causes of toxic stress on health. The UCLA/UCSF ACEs Aware Family Resilience Network (UCAAN) will work toward the commitment of California's Surgeon General to reduce toxic stress among the state’s children and families by half in one generation. Clinical psychologist George M. Slavich, PhD will help lead the effort. Learn about UCAAN’s efforts

Breastfeeding may help prevent cognitive decline

Women over the age of 50 who had breastfed their babies performed better on cognitive tests compared to women who had never breastfed. It’s one of a small number of studies that has looked at the long-term health effects for women who had breastfed their babies and suggests that breastfeeding may be ‘neuroprotective’ later in life. Psychiatrist Helen Lavretsky, MD led the study. Learn more about the work

Semel Psychiatrist elected to National Academy of Medicine

Psychiatrist-anthropologist Helena Hansen, MD, PhD, was recognized for "leadership in the intersection of opioid addiction, race and ethnicity, social determinants of health, and social medicine; and for co-developing structural competency as clinical redress for institutional drivers of health inequalities." Read about the award

UCLA Psychiatry and Psychology CME Presentations

The UCLA Psychiatry and Psychology CME Program is now open to registration for the 2022 course. Enjoy weekly live-streamed presentations and Q&A sessions from UCLA Semel Institute faculty. Visit our website for course details

Faculty Spotlight

Probing the Untethered Brain using VR

Nanthia Suthana is the Associate Director of the Neuromodulation Division at the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior. She sat down to talk about her research using permanent brain implants to study learning and memory in humans, her uncharted journey into the brain sciences field and why she is so passionate about outreach.

Read her full interview here


About UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior

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