Avielle Foundation Introduces Scientific Advisory Board That Will Guide, Prioritize Funding of Brain Health Research to Identify Underpinnings of Violence

Sandy Hook Organization Focused on Two-Pronged Approach to Reducing Violence

NEWTOWN, Conn., April 15, 2013 – The Avielle Foundation, formed in January with a goal of preventing violence through brain health research and the fostering of community initiatives, today announced its scientific advisory board (SAB) comprised of world-renowned experts in psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience.

Introduced by the organization’s co-founders, Jeremy Richman, Ph.D., and Jennifer Hensel, M.S., a day after the four-month anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy,  SAB members Terrie E. Moffitt, Ph.D., John H. Krystal, M.D., and James Blair, Ph.D., will guide and prioritize the funding of research programs to identify the underpinnings of violent behavior. Avielle Rose Richman, the daughter of Dr. Richman and Mrs. Hensel, was one of 26 students and educators killed Dec. 14, 2012, at the school.

“The Avielle Foundation SAB is comprised of leaders in brain health research who understand the mechanics that cause someone to act in a way that jeopardizes public health and safety,” said Dr. Richman, CEO of the foundation. “We want to understand the ‘why’ behind the behavior, and then our hope is to prevent it from happening again. Formation of the SAB is an important step that enables us to tackle the first prong of our unique approach. While other organizations do excellent work in examining the underpinnings of brain health maladies such as schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder, we have not identified organizations focusing on research into the underpinnings of violence. We will call on our SAB members to guide us as we move through our initial fundraising efforts to the establishment of our grant program. In the second half of the year, we expect to review the first grant applications for funding of research programs beginning January 2014.”

Dr. Moffitt, a brain health expert and neuroscience professor at Duke University and at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, said, “Science on the origins of violence, especially the neurobiological origins of violence, has been appallingly neglected by federal funding agencies that support research to improve the health and safety of taxpayers. Families of individuals with autism, ADHD, learning problems or schizophrenia demand that funding agencies support research into these disorders. Families of violent individuals don’t. Through the Avielle Foundation, the families of victims of violence can demand more and better research and make it happen. Violence accounts for far more economic costs than disorders now attracting more research investment by our federal funding agencies. In fact, the U.S. budget for research into violent crime is only a miniscule fraction of the health research budget, although violence destroys many more young lives.”

About the SAB Members

Terrie E. Moffitt, Ph.D.

Dr. Moffitt studies how genetic and environmental risks shape the developmental course of psychiatric disorders. Her particular interest is in antisocial, violent and criminal behavior, but she also studies depression, psychosis and substance abuse. She is the Knut Schmidt Nielsen professor at Duke University and at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, as well as a trustee of the Nuffield Foundation.

Dr. Moffitt co-directs the Dunedin Longitudinal Study, which has followed 1,000 people born in 1972 in New Zealand from birth to age 38. She also co-directs the Environmental-Risk Longitudinal Twin Study, which has followed 1,100 British families with twins born in 1994-1995 from birth to age 18. For her research, she has received the American Psychological Association’s Early Career Contribution Award and Distinguished Career Award in Clinical Child Psychology, the Royal Society’s Wolfson Merit Award, the Stockholm Prize in Criminology, the NARSAD Ruane Prize, and the Klaus J. Jacobs Prize. She is a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, the American Society of Criminology, the British Academy, the American Psychopathological Association, Academia Europaea, the American Academy of Political and Social Science, the Association for Psychological Science, and King’s College London. She has served on investigative panels for institutions such as the Nuffield Council on Bioethics (ethics of behavioral genetic research) and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (research into firearms and violence).

John H Krystal, M.D.

Dr. Krystal is the Robert L. McNeil Jr. Professor of Translational Research and chair of the Department of Psychiatry of the Yale University School of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Yale-New Haven Hospital. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago, Yale University School of Medicine and the Yale Psychiatry Residency Training Program.

He has published more than 400 papers and reviews about the neurobiology and treatment of alcoholism, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. His research program unites psychopharmacology, neuroimaging and molecular genetics. Dr. Krystal’s work on brain glutamate systems contributed to the identification of novel treatment mechanisms for alcoholism, depression and schizophrenia that are now in development. He is the director of the NIAAA Center for the Translational Neuroscience of Alcoholism and the Clinical Neuroscience Division of the VA National Center for PTSD.

Dr. Krystal is the recipient of the Joel Elkes Award of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, the Anna-Monika Foundation Prize for Depression Research, and the NIAAA Jack Mendelson Alcoholism Research Award. He is also a member of the Institute of Medicine of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He was chairman of the NIMH Board of Scientific Counselors (2004-2007), served on the NIAAA National Alcohol Advisory Council (2008-2012) and as president of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (2012). Since 2006, he has edited a leading psychiatry and neuroscience journal, Biological Psychiatry.

James Blair, Ph.D.

Dr. Blair is chief of the unit on Affective Cognitive Neuroscience at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). He received a Ph.D. in psychology from University College London under the supervision of Professor John Morton. Following this, he was awarded a Wellcome Trust Mental Health Research Fellowship that he held at the Medical Research Council Cognitive Development Unit for three years. Subsequently, he moved to the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London. There, with Uta Frith, he helped form and co-lead the Developmental Disorders group, and was ultimately appointed senior lecturer. He joined the NIMH Intramural Research Program in 2002.

Dr. Blair’s primary research interest involves understanding the neuro-cognitive systems mediating affect in humans and how these become dysfunctional in mood and anxiety disorders. His primary clinical focus is in understanding the dysfunction of affect-related systems in youth with specific forms of conduct disorder. His research approach includes techniques employed in cognitive neuroscience (both neuropsychology and functional imaging), psychopharmacology and, more recently, molecular genetics. Populations studied include both healthy adolescents and adults as well patients with psychopathy, acquired sociopathy and PTSD.

About the Avielle Foundation

The Avielle Foundation was established following the Dec. 14, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy with a goal of reducing violence and protecting vulnerable populations. The foundation’s mission involves a unique, two-pronged approach: First, by facilitating novel, brain health research, education and policy; Second, through community development, engagement and responsibility. With these efforts, the foundation hopes to remove stigmas and barriers for people seeking mental health aid; develop the concept of a standard “brain health check-up;” identify behavioral and biochemical diagnostics for early detection of individuals at-risk of violent behaviors and facilitate their responsible use; provide conduits to effective treatments; and strengthen communities, compassion and respect. Funding for the planned objectives is being procured through private donations, non-profit matching funds from corporations, corporate donations and grant solicitation. The foundation expects to begin the review of its first grant applications in the second half of 2013.

For more information, visitwww.aviellefoundation.org or send an email to
[email protected]aviellefoundation.org. Follow the Avielle Foundation on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AvieFoundation  and Facebook at www.facebook.com/AvielleFoundation.

Editor’s Note: Photographs available on request

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