Floyd Bloom: Building a bridge to the future  pg. 4

Propelled by this new paradigm, in 1964 Bloom accepted another post-doctoral fellowship at Yale, so he could learn histochemistry, using tissue sections to understand the chemical basis of brain function and define where neurotransmitters and their receptors are located. Bloom and others were sowing some revolutionary seeds: If certain brain diseases arise from chemical imbalances, perhaps those imbalances could be corrected with new medications that avoided the serious side effects of the older psychotropic drugs, and without having to use electroconvulsive shock therapy.

Bloom measures how long it takes the drug naloxone to reverse the effect of opioids in an experimental rat model at the Salk Institute in 1977.
Courtesy of Floyd Bloom
Although Bloom was gaining prestige for his research, over time he began to feel too squeezed by the demands of his job to pursue it as effectively as he wanted. He asked his Yale superiors to demote him back to the position of post-doc. Instead, they promoted him to associate professor. Throwing up his hands, he returned to the NIMH where he could spend more time in the lab. Within a year he was named chief of the laboratory of neuropharmacology at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.

George Siggins, Ph.D., professor at The Scripps Research Institute, was one of Bloom’s first postdoctoral fellows at the NIMH and the two have continued their collaboration for 35 years. “St. Elizabeth’s Hospital was where the federal government put all the worst psychiatric cases that they did not know what to do with,” Siggins recalls. “The hospital was a former 'snake pit' wherein I believe they once had used all kinds of questionable 'therapies' (lobotomy, hydrotherapy, etc.), and it was kind of grim in an ‘Addams Family’ kind of way.

“The setting thus added to the plight of the patients, who ran the gamut of serious psychiatric problems. Since many of them were allowed to roam the grounds pretty much, we saw them on a daily basis when we entered or left the building, or went to lunch, and occasionally we would find one rifling through our desk drawers or file cabinets. We got to know them and their afflictions pretty well. But the daily encounters greatly reinforced our sense of duty, that we had a mission to improve their lives and conquer these disorders by our research.”

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