Mind-Body Medicine Researcher Joins UA College of Medicine-Tucson and UA Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences

October 11, 2011 - Mind-body medicine researcher Charles Raison, MD, has joined the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Tucson as associate professor with a joint appointment to the UA Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Dr. Raison's work focuses on inflammation and the development of depression in response to illness and stress. He aims to translate neurobiological findings into novel pharmacological and behavioral interventions. These interventions include teaching compassion meditation as a preventive health strategy and using anti-inflammatory pharmacological agents for treatment-resistant depression.

In the picture (above), Dr. Raison and his colleague Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, far left, from Emory University met with the Dalai Lama to launch a joint program to teach science to Buddhist monks and nuns and to commence the study of compassion meditation as an educational and preventive health strategy.

"Dr. Raison is a welcome addition to the researchers and scholars in our department and he complements the efforts of our Mind, Brain and Body Research Collaborative," says Francisco Moreno, MD, interim head, UA Department of Psychiatry. "His joint appointment to the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences exemplifies the commitment of the College of Medicine and the Norton School to such interdisciplinary, collaborative efforts." The Mind, Brain and Body Research Collaborative is an interdisciplinary and translational collaborative of UA investigators with funded studies of social-emotional processes and the neural systems through which they affect physical diseases.

Dr. Raison joined the UA to further his research in mind-body medicine. "My research had convinced me that one of the important next steps forward in mind-body medicine was to understand the biology of health-relevant group processes. The UA has tremendous interdisciplinary strengths in this area," he explains. "I came with the hopes of joining my expertise in immune/neuroendocrine functioning to the strengths in psychiatry in neuroimaging and autonomic nervous system functioning, with the goal of conducting cutting edge work examining how interdependent processes at all levels - from the genes to society itself - contribute to health and well-being."

His current funded projects include Mechanisms of Meditation, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) R01 study through the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). This study is examining the effects of different types of meditation on physiological stress responses relevant to emotional and physical health. Another R01 grant, Inflammation, Stress and Social Behavior, recently was funded by NIH to examine the effect of chronic inflammatory activation on real-world social behavior. Patients being treated with interferon-alpha will be studied to determine the role of changes in stress responsivity in mediating cytokine-induced behavioral changes.

Dr. Raison's recruitment to the UA was made possible by fundraising led by the founders of the Mind, Brain and Body Research Collaborative, Karen Weihs, MD, UA associate professor of psychiatry, and Richard Lane, MD, PhD, UA professor of psychiatry, psychology and neuroscience, in conjunction with Soyeon Shim, PhD, director of the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and her colleague, Stephen Russell, PhD, director of the UA Frances McClelland Institute for Children, Youth and Families. "We are immensely grateful to donors Barry and Janet Lang for their generous financial support to make this happen," says Dr. Shim.

Generous support also was provided by the UA College of Medicine Dean’s Office, UA BIO5 Institute, Clinical Translational Science Institute and Office of the Vice President for Research.

Prior to joining the UA, Dr. Raison was with Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., where he was an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, clinical director of the Emory Mind Body Program and director of the Behavioral Immunology Clinic.

Dr. Raison serves as a mental health expert for CNNhealthcare.com and frequently appears in other media outlets. He is the 2011 Chair of the U.S. Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress.

After receiving his medical degree from Washington University in Saint Louis, Mo., Dr. Raison completed his residency in psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he served as chief resident of Adult Inpatient Services. He was the director of Emergency Psychiatry Services and attending physician of the Adult Inpatient Service at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital before moving to Emory University where he secured a Scientist Development Award for Clinicians from the National Institutes of Mental Health to launch his scientific career.