Dr. Joseph Vincent Brady, behavioral neuroscientist, dies

Called the "Father of Behavioral Pharmacology," he also trained first primates, or Astrochimps, that traveled into space

  • Dr. Joseph V. Brady
Dr. Joseph V. Brady
August 02, 2011|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Joseph Vincent Brady, a nationally and internationally known behavioral neuroscientist, behavioral pharmacologist and space researcher who established the department of behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, died Friday of multiple organ failure at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson.

The Fells Point resident was 89.

"Joe was an institution at Hopkins and made significant institutional changes both here and at Homewood. He was also the father of the complete treatment plan for patients with substance abuse," said Dr. J. Raymond DePaulo Jr., director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Hopkins School of Medicine.

"Because of his work, he became a leading expert on behavioral substance abuse and addiction. His insight was that the addicted wouldn't stay in treatment unless they were given blockers. He believed in and practiced what is now known as stepped care," said Dr. DePaulo, who is also psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The son of a lawyer and a homemaker, Dr. Brady was born in New York City and raised in Brooklyn, where he was a graduate of St. Michaels High School.

After earning a bachelor's degree in 1943 from Fordham University, Dr. Brady enlisted in the Army, where he served in the European Theater as a combat infantry platoon leader.

After the war, he attended the University of Chicago, where he earned his doctorate in 1951 and where his doctoral research on conditioned anxiety and drug effects later became a model for modern behavioral pharmacology.

From 1951 to 1963, Dr. Brady was an investigator in neurobehavioral science at the Walter Reed Institute in Washington, and from 1964 to 1970, was deputy director of neuropsychiatry.

Dr. Brady's landmark paper in 1956 studied the effects of reserpine, a drug that is used to treat high blood pressure and severe agitation, on patients suffering from anxiety. It was one of the first papers of the modern era to demonstrate the usefulness of behavioral conditioning in animals and to study the effects of psychotic drugs.

Dr. Brady's subsequent efforts to convince pharmaceutical companies of the value of these methods for screening behavioral effects of drugs led to the establishment of the field of behavioral pharmacology.

Among the many important discoveries of Dr. Brady's interdisciplinary neuroscience team was the finding that psychological stress could be far more damaging than physical stress.

It was Dr. Brady's 1958 article in Scientific American, "Ulcers in Executive Monkeys," that became a seminal work and a textbook example of how environmental stress can lead to illness.

In 1957, he received a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to establish a psychopharmacology laboratory at the University of Maryland, College Park.

During this time, Dr. Brady and two of his students demonstrated that monkeys will self-administer drugs and that they were fit to be candidates for today's nonhuman models for drug abuse studies.

In addition, Dr. Brady was director of the space research laboratory at Maryland, where he oversaw the training of several monkeys for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Those he trained included Able, Baker and Ham, who became the first astrochimp for NASA.

Ham, a 3-foot-tall, 37-pound chimpanzee, made history when he became the first chimp in the United States to rocket into space Jan. 31, 1961.

The chimp, who rode a Redstone rocket in a suborbital flight 414 miles down range from Cape Canaveral, Fla., at 5,800 mph, emerged from his 16-minute voyage unscathed.

The training of space voyager monkeys paved the way for the subsequent flight that May of astronaut Alan Shepard and John H. Glenn's historic 1962 orbital space flight.

Dr. Brady continued his association with NASA by working on the development of programmed human environments at Maryland, and he later established the Programmed Environmental Research Center at Hopkins.

He remained in the Army until being discharged with the rank of colonel in 1970, when he went to work at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine's Division of Behavioral Biology of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

Dr. Paul R. McHugh, who was director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Hopkins School of Medicine from 1975 to 2001, had known Dr. Brady when they had worked together at Walter Reed.

"He was a deep and abiding friend of mine. I used to work for him and then he worked for me at Hopkins," said Dr. McHugh, who also had been psychiatrist-in-chief at the hospital.

"As a scientist, Joe had an early grasp on behavior addiction and other misadventures of life. He encouraged people to move away from normal addiction treatment," said Dr. McHugh. "He fundamentally changed how we treat addicted people."

Dr, McHugh described him as "good-hearted and a man who had many great gifts."

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