Most of the drugs in each class for mental illness work by similar mechanisms, some have intolerable side effects or fail to elicit a response in many patients, and few drugs have been developed since the 1950s that aim for different molecular targets, writes Dr. Richard Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. Drugmakers have shown little interest in pursuing innovative psychiatric drugs in part because the roots of most psychiatric disorders have not been identified, Friedman writes. Recently, however, academic researchers have been engaging in large-scale projects to understand the human brain in an effort to identify the genes and circuits involved in psychiatric disorders and uncover possible new drug targets, Friedman writes.

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