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NASEM Meeting on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences

The members of the Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences (BBCSS) at the National Academics of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, met in an open session which featured presentations from Terrie Moffitt, the new chair of BBCSS, Gregory York and Alexander Wind with the U.S. Army Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, and Bruce Crow with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. The BBCSS works to advance public policy and practice by leveraging innovative research in behavioral, cognitive, and sensory science. Since its establishment in 1997, the Board has issued dozens of reports on relevant topics, including behavioral modeling and simulation, human behavior in military contexts, and the aging mind.

New BBCSS chair Dr. Moffitt conducted her Member Spotlight Presentation, explaining the findings from the longitudinal Dunedin study and their implications for mental health. The study charted four decades of mental disorders from childhood to midlife in 1,000 individuals and sought to answer three essential questions: who gets mental disorders, when do individuals get mental disorders, and do individuals retain the same diagnosis over time? Findings showed that:

  • most people experience a mental disorder at least once in their life;
  • most people (85 percent) have their first onset of a mental disorder in adolescence, which often continues into adulthood; and
  • most mental disorder diagnoses shift over time between categories of disorders with no meaningful sequence.

Nonetheless, science tends to focus on one disorder at a time despite interconnectedness. Dr. Moffitt explained that knowledge on the rarity of lifelong mental wellbeing will reduce the stigma surrounding mental disorders and promote treatment uptake. She concluded that research and clinical work that only focuses on a presenting disorder is short-sighted.

Dr. York and Dr. Wind followed with a presentation about the U.S. Army Research Institute’s (ARI) Basic Research Program, which conducts fundamental research in high-risk, high-reward domains to advance state-of-the-art theories and methods in support of Army needs. The goal of the program is to drive scientific innovation that enables the Army to acquire, develop, employ, and retain professional soldiers and enhance personnel readiness.  Key research objectives include leadership assessment, intra- and inter-group processes and performance, and multiscale learning theory and methods. The program’s business plan consists of three parts: intramural projects, collaborations, and external grants.

Dr. Crow concluded the open session with a presentation on the VA’s program to prevent suicide, outlining the public health strategy that works in partnership with communities to implement specific, local prevention plans and evidence-based clinical approaches for intervention. The Suicide Prevention Program considers both short- and long-term goals for treatment, recovery, and support services; surveillance, research, and evaluation; and the empowerment of veterans and their families.

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