The developing human brain is critically shaped by environmental exposures – for the better or the worse. Many exposures relevant for mental health, such as urban birth or ethnic minority status, are genuinely social in nature or believed to have social subcomponents, even those related to more complex societal or area-level influences. This offers opportunities to prevent mental illness before it ever happens, meaning that the nature of how these social experiences are embedded into the environment and processed by the brain may be crucial. In this talk, Prof. Meyer-Lindenberg reviews selected neuroscience evidence on the neural correlates of adverse and protective social exposures in their environmental context, focusing on human neuroimaging data. He also proposes the inclusion of innovative methods in social neuroscience research that may provide novel and ecologically more valid insights into the social environmental risk architecture of the human brain. Finally, he considers how these insights may be translated into prevention and preemption strategies that help address the tremendous burden of mental illness.
Prof. Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg is Director of the Central Institute of Mental Health, as well as Medical Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the Institute, based in Mannheim, Germany and Professor and Chairman of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the University of Heidelberg. He is board certified in psychiatry, psychotherapy and neurology. Before coming to Mannheim in 2007, he spent ten years as a scientist at the National Institutes of Mental Health, Bethesda, USA.
His research interests focus on the development of novel treatments for severe psychiatric disorders, especially schizophrenia, through an application of multimodal neuroimaging, genetics and enviromics to characterise brain circuits underlying the risk for mental illness and cognitive dysfunction.