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Nancy C. Andreasen

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Nancy C. Andreasen, M.D., Ph.D., is a noted neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and neuropsychiatric researcher. She at present holds the Andrew H. Woods Chair of Psychiatry at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

Dr. Andreasen has a somewhat unique combination of interests in both the arts and the sciences, and she has argued for the importance of integrating these “two cultures”[1]. She received her first doctoral degree, a Ph.D. in English literature, receiving scholarship support as both a Woodrow Wilson Fellow to Harvard and a Fulbright Fellow to Oxford. After completing her Ph.D., she became a Professor of Renaissance Literature in the Department of English at the University of Iowa. She published a variety of scholarly articles on John Donne and also published her first book, “John Donne: Conservative Revolutionary” (Princeton University Press, 1967). A serious illness after the birth of her first daughter piqued an interest in medicine and biomedical research, however, and consequently she made the decision to change careers and devote her life to studying serious medical illnesses. Her literary background inspired her interest in the mind and brain. While a medical student at the University of Iowa, she decided to specialize in psychiatry and complete a residency there in that field, because she considered diseases of the mind and brain to be the most intriguing field in medicine.

Dr. Andreasen, who is director of both the Iowa Mental Health Clinical Research Center and the Psychiatric Iowa Neuroimaging Consortium, is one of the world's foremost authorities on schizophrenia. She has contributed to nosology and phenomenology by serving on both the DSM III and DSM IV Task Forces; she was chair of the Schizophrenia Work Group for DSM IV. She is largely responsible for development of the concept of negative symptoms in schizophrenia, having developed the first widely-used scales for rating the positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia [2,3]. Early in her career she recognized that negative symptoms and associated cognitive impairments had more debilitating effects than psychotic symptoms (delusions and hallucinations). While psychotic symptoms represent an exaggeration of normal brain/mind functions, negative symptoms represent a loss of normal functions. For example, alogia is a loss of the ability to think and speak fluently, affective blunting is a loss of the ability to express emotions, avolition is a loss of the ability to initiate goal-directed activity, and anhedonia is a loss of the ability to experience emotions.

Andreasen was a pioneer in the application of neuroimaging techniques to the study of major mental illness, having published the first quantitative MR study of brain abnormalities in schizophrenia [4]. Andreasen currently leads a multidisciplinary team working on three-dimensional image analysis techniques to integrate multi-modality imaging and to develop innovative methods for analyzing structural and functional imaging techniques in an automated manner. The most recent version of the software developed by this team is known as BRAINS2.

Andreasen has also contributed to the understanding of the normal healthy brain. Her research has provided insight into the brain mechanisms underlying language, memory, emotion and the creative process. She has applied neuroimaging tools to the understanding of brain development, aging, and gender differences. She led the first extensive empirical study of creativity and was the first to recognize the association between creativity and manic-depressive illness.

She has received numerous awards, including the President's National Medal of Science, the Sarnat Award from the Institute of Medicine, the Interbrew-Baillet-Latour Prize from the Belgian Academy of Science, the Lieber Schizophrenia Research Prize, and many awards from the American Psychiatric Association, including its Research Prize, the Judd Marmor Award, the Distinguished Service Award, and and is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies; she was elected to serve two terms on the governing council of the latter organization. She served as Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Psychiatry, the leading journal in the field, for 13 years. She is past president of the American Psychopathological Association and the Psychiatric Research Society. She is a Fellow of the Society for Neuroscience and was the founding Chair of the Neuroscience Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

A dedicated teacher and educator, Dr. Andreasen has mentored over 50 young scientists, many of whom are now in prominent academic positions around the world. In 2006 she received the Vanderbilt Prize for mentorship and biomedical research.

Having authored/co-authored over 500 scientific articles, Andreasen has also published 15 books, including a "brain trilogy" that educates the general public about neuroscience, mental illness and creativity. Her most recent book, "The Creating Brain: The Neuroscience of Genius," examines questions of creativity, including the influence of genes and environment and differences between extraordinary creativity and ordinary creativity. By studying the brains of creative artists and scientists, Dr. Andreasen hopes to discover what mechanism in the brain is at work in creative individuals compared to non-creative individuals, and to help individuals who are interested in becoming more creative to achieve their goals.



References

1. Andreasen NC (2005). The creating brain : the neuroscience of genius. New York, Dana Press.

2. Andreasen NC (1983). The Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms (SANS). Iowa City, Iowa, The University of Iowa.

3. Andreasen NC (1984). The Scale for the Assessment of Positive Symptoms (SAPS). Iowa City, IA, The University of Iowa.

4. Andreasen NC, Nasrallah HA, Dunn VD, Olson SC, Grove WM, Ehrhardt JC, Coffman JA and Crossett JHW (1986). "Structural abnormalities in the frontal system in schizophrenia: A magnetic resonance imaging study." Arch Gen Psychiatry, 43:136-144.


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