NIMH » Showing Support for Basic Researchers


In my professional life, I have held many different roles. I am a psychiatrist who cares deeply for my patients, who spend much of their lives struggling with the burden of mental illnesses. I am a neuroscientist, deeply interested in the inner workings of the brain. More recently, as Director of NIMH, I am also an administrator, helping shape the direction of mental health research, from the most basic science to mental health services and intervention research.

In holding these multiple roles, I’ve gained a unique perspective on the field of mental health as a whole—the one thing I’ve observed, time and again, is that basic science is the foundation upon which everything else is built. Every day, thanks to the hard work and dedication of thousands of neuroscientists, we learn more and more about function and dysfunction in the brain, leading to better treatments for mental illnesses.

Given the foundational role basic science plays in the bench-to-bedside pipeline, accomplishments in basic science should be celebrated. However, because basic science frequently involves animal models, researchers investigating basic science often come under attack by animal rights activists. Dr. Elisabeth Murray, my colleague at NIMH, is one such researcher whose work has recently been targeted for her use of non-human primates.

Few neuroscientists have done more to enhance our understanding of the prefrontal cortex and its role in the control of fear, value-based decisions, and action planning than Dr. Murray. Over the better part of the past four decades, Dr. Murray has conducted a remarkable series of experiments that has clarified the brain mechanisms underlying complex behaviors that go awry in mental illnesses. In particular, her lab has pioneered the methods necessary to study these behaviors in Macaca mulatta, a species of non-human primate with a prefrontal cortex that closely resembles that of humans, a key factor enabling a deeper understanding of human brain diseases. Dr. Murray’s work has been incredibly important in laying the foundation for efforts to translate neurobiological findings into solutions that will improve the lives of those who live with mental illnesses.

Members of special interest groups have recently engaged in an unrelenting campaign against Dr. Murray, posting misleading videos and alarming social media messages about her work on the web; holding protests in her neighborhood in the midst of the COVID pandemic; and harassing her and other NIMH scientists with a disruptive series of phone calls, emails, and other intrusive requests whose main purpose is to interfere with their ability to carry out their crucial research.

One might wonder: Why are mental health researchers, such as Dr. Murray, being targeted? To me, it is all too plain. These groups take advantage of the unwarranted stigma that is still associated with mental illnesses today. The reality is that mental illnesses are like any other medical conditions—they are disorders of biological systems that demand a thorough and complete research response, including supporting basic science research. My patients suffer every bit as much as those with other illnesses and they are deserving of every bit of knowledge that Dr. Murray and her colleagues can generate.

To transform our understanding and treatment of mental illnesses, we must continue to deepen our understanding of the brain and how it functions. Animal studies are critical to advancing this brain science and NIMH will continue to support the hard-working scientists, such as Dr. Murray, who are using model organisms to gain insight into the body’s most complex organ.

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Post-pandemic increase in household savings ‘a function of government support’



Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has spruiked the federal government’s COVID-19 economic support plan, saying Australia is a position to regain some of the losses experienced throughout the pandemic.

“History shows us that as confidence comes back into the economy after a crisis, after an economic downturn that people do spend those increased savings,” he told Sky News.

“There is an additional $200 billion plus on household and business balance sheets that was not there this time last year.

“That’s a function of the government’s economic support.

“The money is there to help fuel the economic recovery and to avoid a fiscal cliff when some of the temporary emergency economic supports taper off.”

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$44 million to extend dementia training, education and support – 16 News


The Australian Government will extend grant agreements for programs providing support, training and education for services and individuals caring for people living with dementia.

An extra $44 million will be provided to Dementia Training Australia and Dementia Support Australia to extend the following national programs from July 2021 to June 2022:

  • Dementia Training Program (DTP)
  • Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS)
  • Severe Behaviour Response Teams (SBRT)
  • Needs Based Assessment (NBA), which is a component of the Specialist Dementia Care Program.

Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Richard Colbeck, said the programs improved care for people living with dementia.

“The programs deliver support and advice – including clinical support, assessments, recommendations for care interventions, mentoring and capacity building – to family and informal carers, primary and acute care staff and aged care service providers,” Minister Colbeck said.

“They also provide accredited education, upskilling and professional development in dementia care for health and care workers, GPs, nurses and allied health professionals.”

Funding for these programs is available beyond the life of the extended grant agreements.

The final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will inform how the programs will be delivered beyond 30 June 2022.

This extension follows other recent investments by the Australian Government with an additional $11.3 million provided for the DBMAS and SBRT programs in the 2020-21 Budget which built on an additional $10 million invested in DBMAS, SBRT and DTP in 2019-20.

Dementia is one of Australia’s biggest health challenges. It is estimated that there are between 400,000 and 459,000 Australians living with the disease today, and that number grows each year.

“These programs have delivered great outcomes and significant clinical improvements in recent years,” Minister Colbeck said.

“They have improved the quality of care delivered by thousands of health professionals and care workers to people living with dementia. Dementia Support Australia alone has delivered services to nearly 80 per cent of aged care homes across Australia since 2016.”

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COVID-19: Support bubbles won’t be scrapped, health secretary pledges | Politics News


The health secretary has ruled out scrapping support bubbles, after worries the system could be ended amid a toughening of England’s third coronavirus lockdown.

Support and childcare bubbles, which were introduced in June, mean adults living alone and single parents living with children under the age of 18 can join up with one other household.

The system allows people in a bubble to visit each other indoors, ignore the two-metre social distancing rule and stay overnight.

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June 2020: How will ‘support bubbles’ work?

Support bubbles allow, for instance, elderly people living alone to join up with an adult son or daughter and spend time with grandchildren and share childcare responsibilities.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that the government “may have to do more” if ministers feel the rules “are not being properly observed”.

Such comments have led to speculation that support bubbles could be a measure that is looked at again by ministers.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he wanted to be “crystal clear” that the policy would not be scrapped.

“I can rule out removing the bubbles that we have in place – the childcare bubbles [and] the support bubbles are very important and we’re going to keep them,” he told a Downing Street news conference.

“I know how important they are to people and they are an important part of the system that we have got to support people whilst also having these tough measures that are necessary.”

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Hancock: ‘Don’t flex the rules’

However, Mr Hancock warned people to stick with those they have chosen to form a bubble with.

“The bubbles are there for individual, specific people – so if you have bubbled with somebody, that is the person you have bubbled with,” he said.

“You can’t keep moving bubbles, that’s very important. Somebody in your bubble essentially becomes effectively part of your household.

“It is important that people stick to the same bubble but the bubbles policy will stay.”

Mr Hancock added: “I want to be absolutely crystal clear about that.”

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We won't take Palmer's support: Kirkup



Opposition leader Zak Kirkup has refuted claims his party is an ally of mining magnate Clive Palmer, saying the state election was not a “plaything” for millionaires.

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Trump impeachment: Momentum to charge president for second time gains Republican support | US News


Democrat momentum behind the second impeachment of Donald Trump has gained senior Republican support.

Senator Pat Toomey said he believed the president had committed “impeachable offences” and that his role in the deadly Capitol riots by a violent mob of his supporters needed thorough investigation.

Mr Toomey also called for Mr Trump‘s resignation – the second Republican to do so since Wednesday’s violence.

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Donald Trump’s opponents in Boston promote impeachment against the US president

His comments came as investigators attempting to find out the identities of all those who stormed the building revealed that some off-duty police officers and firefighters may have been among them.

Police departments in Virginia and Washington state have placed officers on leave, while they examine whether they took part in unlawful acts while away from work.

And fire departments in Florida and New York City have reported to federal authorities allegations that some of their members may also have been present.

Five people, including a Capitol police officer, died when the protesters broke into the building as Congress met to certify the results of the presidential election.

The crowd surged to the domed symbol of American democracy following a rally near the White House, where the outgoing president repeated his false and unproven claims that the election was stolen from him – and urged his supporters to march in force toward the Capitol.

This is what has enraged even previously loyal Republicans like Mr Toomey – and fuelled momentum behind a bid to impeach the president for what would be an unprecedented second time.

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Officer crushed in door as mob storm Capitol

There are now 200 co-sponsors for the impeachment legislation that Democratic representative Ted Lieu plans to introduce on Monday.

But while Mr Toomey called for the president to step down, he stopped short of saying whether he would vote to remove him from office at the conclusion of a Senate trial.

He told Fox News: “I do think the president committed impeachable offences, but I don’t know what is going to land on the Senate floor, if anything.”

He said the president’s resignation is the “best path forward”, describing it as “the best way to get this person in the rear view mirror for us”.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has also called for Mr Trump’s resignation.

But Mr Toomey admitted he was not optimistic it would happen before his term ends.

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Schwarzenegger likens Capitol rioters to Nazis

Politicians plan to formally introduce articles of impeachment on Monday in the House of Representatives – exactly one week before Democrat Joe Biden becomes the 46th president at noon on 20 January.

If passed by the House, the articles would be transmitted to the Senate for a trial, with senators acting as jurors who would ultimately vote on whether to acquit or convict Mr Trump.

If convicted by a two-third majority, requiring a number of Republicans to vote with the Democrats, then he would be removed from office and succeeded by the vice president.

The president has few fellow Republicans speaking out in his defence, with the former governor of California – and Hollywood legend – Arnold Schwarzenegger among those to have condemned him.

He has become increasingly isolated, holed up in the White House as he has been abandoned in the aftermath of the riot by many aides, leading Republicans, and two Cabinet members – both of whom are women.

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Five different ways to applaud – All the parties in Kazakhstan’s election support the government | Asia


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Adelaide grandfather with motor neurone disease urges expansion of support


Graham Johnson has only months left to live but wants to use the time he has to secure better support for others like him.

The Adelaide grandfather was diagnosed with a type of motor neurone disease (MND) last year but, because of his age, still considers himself among the luckier ones.

People diagnosed with MND over the age of 65 are not eligible for NDIS support and instead must rely on charities like the Motor Neurone Disease Association of South Australia (MND SA).

“I’ve got ALS, which is the most aggressive one. I’m very keen to stay positive,” he said.

“I get well looked after because I was 62, nearly 63, when I was diagnosed.

“But a person who’s 65 and one day old — nothing.”

Mr Johnson was diagnosed with the terminal condition 16 months ago and has launched a campaign, supported by the SA Opposition, calling on the SA Government to step in to provide support.

“I wouldn’t like to be in this situation and not get any help — that’s just so wrong,” Mr Johnson said.

“The support you get from MND SA and NDIS … I don’t actually have to do anything. I just tell them what I want and they do everything for you. They’re fantastic.

“The fact the Government doesn’t support it just really astounds me.”

Funding an ‘ongoing’ challenge

MND SA chief executive Karen Percival said it was an uphill battle trying to support the hundreds of South Australians with MND in need of care.

“In South Australia, we have the challenge of funding to support people with MND,” Ms Percival said.

Ms Percival said funding of $500,000 annually could make a huge difference for South Australians with MND, ensuring there would be adequate support and services for people to access when they were diagnosed with the disease.

“We have never received State Government funding, so that’s a situation that’s been ongoing,” Ms Percival said.

A man wearing a suit speaks away from the camera to another man and a woman
Graham Johnson (centre) with Opposition health spokesman Chris Picton and MND SA chief executive Karen Percival.(ABC News: Dana Morse)

Premier Steven Marshall said the Government was aware of MND SA’s situation, acknowledging some charities had done it “particularly tough” since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

He said the Government had authorised a one-off grant payment to MND SA last month.

“We have actually made, or have authorised, a payment to MND back in the middle of December after representations from people from that sector who said they were finding it really difficult to do that fundraising during a very difficult year.

“We saw this a lot with organisations and charities [who] had fundraisers.”

The average life expectancy for those with MND is 27 months from diagnosis.

The State Opposition says four in five South Australians diagnosed with motor neurone disease over the age of 65 die before they receive proper funding and support.

“South Australians living with MND should be able to spend the time they have left with their loved ones, not languishing on a waiting list to receive basic support,” Opposition health spokesman Chris Picton said.

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Wanaka restaurant Ode reopens after receiving ‘huge community support’


But after issuing a plea for help, Parkinson was delivered a lifeline to keep the restaurant running.

In December, Parkinson announced via Instagram that Ode would reopen that month thanks to “huge media and community support”.

“I sent out a cry for help and it arrived, we have some contracts to finalise but the main thing is we have a lifeline budget to open on and trial how things go,” he said.

“I know our community and guests will show up and give their full support to help us get through this rough patch and see Ode into the future.”

It’s the third time Parkinson has reopened Ode after closure caused by adversity. Fifteen months after the restaurant opened in 2017, it burnt down and had to close for a year.

Ode was again forced to close during New Zealand’s strict nationwide lockdown which began in March.

Despite a solid recovery after restrictions eased, the second lockdown in Auckland and increased restrictions across the country affected Ode to the point where Parkinson decided it was time to close the restaurant for good.

After calling for help to keep his restaurant running, Parkinson says he has gained a new perspective on business ownership.

“I’m over the moon about going into partnership and having good people to truly share this journey with and I am fortunate that my loyal kitchen team stuck by my side while I sailed us through these stormy waters,” he says.

“I’ve really changed my views on business ownership and have become more open and willing to accept help where it’s needed.

Don’t tell me it can’t be done but don’t tell me it can be done alone – I tried and it was hell, so I’m feeling really positive about our future.”

Although it’s fair to say Parkinson has had to deal with more misfortune than most in running his restaurant, the chef still counts himself lucky for being in New Zealand during the pandemic.

“I think we are fortunate here in New Zealand; we are in a bubble of safety and our industry can recover,” he said.

“It has been reassuring with the amount of interest we received about investing in Ode and we have seen a monumental shift towards locals supporting locals who support locals.

“In our case our customers are for the most part locals; our suppliers, farmers, hunters, fishermen etc are all local; so it becomes a full support circle and one that I hope will keep growing.”



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Social distancing rules, support bubbles and exemptions explained



The chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, and chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, agreed that the action was needed urgently after the number of positive cases rose steeply.

Where do these rules apply?

The rule of six applies across England to all ages and to indoor and outdoor gatherings, depending, most crucially, on what tier your area is in. 

This includes private homes, parks, pubs, restaurants and sporting events.

In Tier 1, you cannot sit at a pub or restaurant table with more than five friends at any given time. In Tier 2 and above, you may not meet anybody indoors beyond your home or support bubble. 

What are the exemptions?

Support bubbles

Households or support bubbles of more than six people are exempt from the new rules. Support bubbles allow adults who live by themselves and single parents with children under 18 to join up with one other household.

Under new rules, parents with babies under the age of one can also form a “support bubble” with another household.

This means they can do things such as visit their house, stay the night and travel together in vehicles.

Weddings

Weddings are allowed to go ahead, with ceremonies and receptions of up to 15 people permitted. However, Mr Johnson made clear that they must be conducted in a Covid-secure way. Guests have to stand or sit at least one metre apart, and take other safety precautions. 

Funerals

Funerals can continue, with 30 people allowed to pay their respects. The Government previously faced criticism at the outset of the pandemic when guidance limited mourners to groups of between five and 10. 

Funeral directors accused councils of misinterpreting lockdown rules by banning family members from crematoria and graveyards and going “way beyond” their legal powers.

Matt Hancock said he regretted the move because it meant that “in the peak of the pandemic, lots of people didn’t go to the funeral even of someone they’ve been married to for 50 years”.

Other linked commemorative events such as wakes or stonesettings are limited to 15 attendees. 

Schools and offices

Primary schools in “high infection areas”, estimated to affect one million pupils, will close for the first time since the spring for at least two weeks as Mr Johnson said “even tougher action” was needed because of the “sheer pace” of the rising infections.

The Prime Minister said that in order to combat the spread of the new coronavirus variant, the majority of secondary school pupils will also now stay at home until “at least” January 18, two weeks after term was supposed to start. Those in exam years 11 and 13 will return on January 11.

Only the children of key workers and vulnerable children will go back on January 4, the scheduled start date. It means the staggered start to term which had previously been announced will be moved back by a week.

The delay had been introduced to allow teachers to make arrangements for the mass testing of pupils, following complaints from unions that there was no time to prepare.

The Prime Minister has said people should work at home wherever possible, but workplaces can continue to operate under existing Covid guidelines.

Read more: Will schools close again?

Pubs and restaurants

In Tier 1 areas, groups are limited to six, however, Covid-secure hospitality venues are able to hold larger numbers of people. They are legally required to request test and trace information from customers and keep the details for 21 days.

All pubs, bars and restaurants must now operate a table service only, except for takeaways. Together with all hospitality venues, they must close at 11pm.

Places of worship

Churches, synagogues, mosques and temples remain open, although congregations are required to stay at least one metre apart. Under the existing guidance, services are expected to conclude as quickly as possible, with worshippers encouraged to leave “promptly” afterwards. 

It came after the Archbishop of Canterbury confirmed that the rule of six would not apply to churches, writing on Twitter: “Worship is the work of God – not a social gathering – and gives the strength to love and serve.”

However, the government have confirmed that between December 23 and 27, you can attend places of worship with your Christmas bubble. This applies across all tiers. 

Sporting events

All adult team sport events are forced to legally abide by the rule of six with only six players now allowed to play at any one time. This includes indoor five-a-side football matches and the planned return of spectators to sports venues. 

Grouse shooting 

The Government has been criticised after granting grouse shooting a special exemption from the rule of six.

Hunting with guns is included on a list of sports, pursuits and outdoor activities where groups of up to 30 people are allowed to gather, despite the introduction of the new restrictions.

It is understood the exemption was granted after the Cabinet Office’s special Covid-19 Operations ministerial committee organised a meeting to specifically discuss hunting and shooting.

Will I be punished for breaking the rules?

The Government hopes the new rules will be more simple for people to understand. It will also make it easier for the police to break up large gatherings.

Failure to stick to the new rules could mean a £200 fine, which will double with every subsequent offence up to £3,200.

What are the rules in other parts of the UK?

Different rules apply to social gatherings elsewhere in the UK.

Most of Scotland is currently under Level 4, the toughest tier of restrictions. Only some isles are in Level 3, with all of the mainland and the Isle of Skye under lockdown measures for 3 weeks. Ms Sturgeon said case numbers in Scotland were broadly stable, with Covid rates around half the level of England and half that in Wales. The action is designed to “prevent more of this new strain entering Scotland.” Schools are to shut for an additional fortnight, until Jan 18, with online lessons supposed to start from Jan 11.

Northern Ireland ended its circuit breaker lockdown on December 11, with non-essential shops as well as hospitality venues (excluding pubs which do not serve food) being allowed to open their doors. However, Stormont ministers agreed to impose another lockdown on Boxing Day, which included closing non-essential shops, close-contact services and hospitality venues without takeaways. This comes as cases continue to rise in the country.

In Wales, the Welsh government announced detail of a four-tier traffic light system on December 11, stating that the country will enter Level 4 from December 20, although household mixing of Christmas bubbles was permitted on Christmas Day. The rules are similar to Tier 4 in England, where people must stay at home, apart from in exceptional circumstances. A review of the levels will take place every 3 weeks.  

How can we socialise safely?

A campaign was launched to encourage people to help stop the spread of coronavirus because people are more likely to socialise indoors during autumn and the winter.

The Hands Face Space campaign urges people to ensure they wash their hands, use a mask where appropriate and stay at least two metres apart – or one metre with a face covering or other precautions.

The campaign states that these are the three most effective ways the public can contain the spread of the virus.





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