022: The Brain and How Life Determines Mental Health – Dr. Robert Paul

On this episode, Dr. Robert Paul shares his insights into the cutting edge research of neuropsychology and the new frontier of treating mental health. We not only discuss his past experiences while working as a clinical neuropsychologist, but also his current research into the workings of our deep brain and how diseases affect it.

Dr. Paul is the Director of the Missouri Institute of Mental Health, a clinical neuroscience psychologist by training, PhD in clinical neuropsychology, and a Professor at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. Primarily, his research program is focused on mechanisms of brain dysfunction in health conditions that primarily impact brain structures located deep beneath the surface of the cerebral cortex.

The research team at the Missouri Institute of Mental Health, lead by Dr. Paul,  has developed specific expertise in human immune deficiency syndrome (HIV), subcortical stroke, and early life trauma as three conditions that impact the integrity of deep brain structures including the white matter, basal ganglia, and limbic structures. Neuropsychological methods and neuroimaging techniques are primary research methods applied by Dr. Paul’s team to define behavioral and anatomical signatures of brain dysfunction in these conditions.

During the interview, Dr. Paul expresses his special interest in the application of these methods in resource-limited environments and he has active research programs in South Africa, Africa, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. He is a member of the HIV Cure Consortium and he works closely with collaborators at University of California San Francisco, Brown, Yale, and Washington University.

If you would like to learn more about Dr. Robert Paul and his work, check out the MIMH Website here.

Enjoy the episode!

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Show Notes:

  • Interview begins. [3:20]
  • Dr. Paul’s background. [3:30]
  • What prompted him to start investigating psychology? [3:50]
  • Why he focuses on the research now and the unique opportunities in that research today. [5:25]
  • The Decade of The Brain. [7:20]
  • What are the main areas of research that he’s working on now? [8:20]
  • HIV has an effect in the brain’s overall all your function. [10:45]
  • Areas of the brain that lead to risky behaviors [13:40]
  • The rampant cases of HIV disease in St. Louis [15:15]
  • What has Dr. Robert Paul been able to do as the Director of Missouri Institute of Mental Health? [16:31]
  • The process he goes through when trying to tackle massive mental health questions [18:37]
  • The fear of failure and public exposure in research [20:35]
  • How the Missouri Institute of Mental health is helping with the opioid epidemic [22:10]
  • Understanding how the human brain evolves through time (ancient brain) [24:26]
  • Dr. Robert Paul and hist team are now utilizing deep machine learning to understand the brain. [28:00]
  • The capacity of the brain to predict the outcome through looking at its structure [31:33]
  • When do we stop attributing an action to a person and attribute it instead to a mental illness?[34:20]
  • How we are beginning to redefine how we diagnose mental health. [36:00]
  • Cultural differences in mental health and other conditions throughout the world [38:20]
  • How technology plays a role in the new advancements in psychology. [42:00]
  • Doing everything from discovery to dissemination is important. [45:00]
  • Where can people find out about Dr. Robert Paul. [46:00]
  • What would he change in the health care system [48:50]
  • Advice that he would give to future health care providers [49:30]
  • End of the Interview [53:50]


  • “In science we are steered towards succeeding and not failing. That is a problem because it stifles really disruptive creativity and attempting things that are risky and may not work.” [29:30]
  • “66% of the general population had an exposure to early life trauma or adversity.” [35:30]
  • “Imagine, what we will accomplish if we worry less about who’s going to take credit for it.” [47:45]
  • “We have to treat the whole person and if we don’t, we fail.” [48:50]
  • “If you love the process, you’re going to be successful.” [51:30]
  • “Find something you love to do and then find a way to get paid for it.” [53:00]


Missouri Institute of Mental Health website
Contacting them at MIMH

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