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NIMH's Richard Wyatt Mourned

Schizophrenia researcher Dr. Richard Jed Wyatt, chief, Neuropsychiatry Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, died June 7, at age 63, after a long bout with cancer.

"Although we now take for granted that schizophrenia has a biological basis, Richard was one of the early pioneers in the intramural research program who championed this view and brought research on schizophrenia into the lab," said NIMH scientific director Dr. Robert Desimone. "He was the prototypical translational researcher, and he trained and mentored many of the leaders in this field."

Dr. Richard Jed Wyatt
After joining the NIMH intramural program as a clinical associate in 1967, Wyatt broke with his psychoanalytic training to create, eventually, a model program in biological psychiatry research. He first served an apprenticeship in the laboratory of soon-to-become Nobel laureate Dr. Julius Axelrod. Wyatt then moved to NIMH's former research center at St. Elizabeths Hospital, where he worked for most of his career, authoring some 800 scientific publications and 6 books. His interest in the course and causes of schizophrenia led to wide-ranging studies on mood disorders, Alzheimer's disease, brain grafts for Parkinson's disease, neurochemistry, sleep and neuroplasticity. More recent projects focused on early intervention in psychotic illnesses.

Wyatt's work served as "a critical early beacon," illuminating the path for a younger generation of neuroscience-minded psychiatry researchers, said former NIMH director Dr. Steven Hyman at a day-long "Neuroscience and Psychiatry" symposium held in Wyatt's honor May 30, 2001. NIMH schizophrenia researcher Dr. Daniel Weinberger, who worked with Wyatt for many years at St. Elizabeths, recalled that "he created a supportive environment where scientists of many disciplines and stripes literally worked at the same bench, all focused on a common goal: to understand the biology of schizophrenia."

"The broad spectrum of approaches that Richard brought to the study of schizophrenia — neuropharmacology, neuropathology, brain imaging, animal models — are the same approaches that researchers are still using today," noted Desimone.

Among many awards and honors, Wyatt received the Stanley R. Dean Research Award from the American College of Psychiatrists, the McAlpin Mental Health Research Achievement Award from the National Mental Health Association, and the Silvano Arieti Award for Schizophrenia Research from the American Academy of Psychoanalysis.

Wyatt also coproduced (with his wife, Dr. Kay Jamison) a series of programs about manic-depressive illness and creativity that aired on public television. In his cover story in the Washington Post Health section, Feb. 13, 2001, Wyatt related some of his experiences battling cancer for the third time.

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