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Rebecca Baron

College: Macaulay Honors College | Brooklyn College
Awards: Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship, 2016

Depressed? She Has an App for That.

Can depression be diminished by using a brain-training app? That was the question asked - and, in a pilot trial, positively answered - by an app that Rebecca Baron (Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College, '18) designed during an internship at Mount Sinai Hospital.

BrainTrain was developed by physician Dennis Charney, dean of Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine, and Icahn assistant professor of psychology Brian Iacoviello.

"The brain-training regimen effectively rewires the brains of depressed patients by targeting certain areas involved in emotion processing and interpreting negative stimuli," Baron says. Pilot studies showed this decreases depressive symptoms, indicating that patients are getting better. Baron's role was to design a user-friendly iOS app, and she still carries the prototype on her phone.

Baron is one of just 15 New York City students - including 12 from CUNY - to win a 2016 Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship. This three-year program provides ongoing mentoring, opportunities that foster personal growth and summer internships with nonprofit and government organizations, culminating in self-initiated experiences abroad in the second and third summers. The fellowship comes with a $5,000 stipend for the first summer and $6,000 for the second and third summers.

"It is an honor to have been selected for the Watson. I am entering into a wonderful cohort, and everyone has welcomed me like family."

Baron finds the field of neuropsychology compelling.  "Majoring in psychology gives me greater understanding of the factors that make us who we are and what drives us, but what really excites me is seeing what happens in the brain. Once you know the brain regions involved in certain processes, you can target them to heal diseases or enhance performance." That explains her minor in neuroscience.

She intends to become a physician, perhaps a pediatric neurologist. She also hopes to contribute to global health through humanitarian efforts. She would love to intern with UNICEF, the United Nations children's organization that aids child welfare worldwide.

Before she graduates, she hopes to join a Global Brigades mission to a developing country. Global Brigades is an international, student-led nonprofit organization that sends university volunteers to work with local teams to improve health, the economy, the environment and other essentials.

"Since I was a child, I've had a map from Doctors Without Borders taped onto my bedroom wall. I used to tell my parents about the places I would go and the people I would help," Baron says.