Dr. Jonathan Power, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine, has been named a recipient of the second annual 1907 Trailblazer Award from the 1907 Foundation.
The two-year grant provides $120,000 in funding to pioneering early-career investigators to pursue innovative mental health research projects. Dr. Power’s proposal involves the use of neuroimaging to learn how hormonally-driven forms of maternal mental illness emerge in pregnancy.
“I am honored to receive this award from an organization that’s passionate about mental health and supporting inventive new approaches to research and care,” said Dr. Power, who is also an assistant professor of neuroscience in the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute at Weill Cornell Medicine.
About one in five women who are pregnant develop clinically significant symptoms of depression or anxiety, according to Dr. Power. “These symptoms can come about through hormonally-driven changes in the brain that occur during pregnancy, and we want to understand how those changes happen,” he said. “Our study follows women over pregnancy, tracking their hormones, feelings and brain circuitry from before conception to after delivery.”
An innovative part of the study is to use magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, to learn how each woman’s individual brain changes over her pregnancy.
“When MRI technology was new, scientists avoided studying women during pregnancy because we did not yet know its safety profile. We now have a lot of research showing that MRI can be safely done in pregnancy,” Dr. Power said. “So I proposed studying the brain during that time, which has real potential to make a clinical impact for women.”
For this project, Dr. Power and his research team will collaborate with the Women’s Clinic in Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine.
“We’re very excited to get started and learn how maternal mental illness can develop," he said, "and how we can better predict it and treat it in patients.”