Penn School of Medicine researchers honored for their work on schizophrenia and depression


NARSAD awards grants totaling $260,000

(Philadelphia, PA) The National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) has awarded $260,000 to three researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine to study causes and treatments for mental illness. NARSAD is the largest donor-supported organization in the world devoted exclusively to funding scientific research on psychiatric disorders.

Wade Berrettini, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Irwin Lucki, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry were each honored with a one-year, $100,000 Distinguished Investigator Award that provides support for experienced investigators. Monica Gonzalez, PhD, a Research Associate in the Department of Psychiatry, earned a two-year, $60,000 Young Investigator Award which is given to the most promising young scientists conducting research in the area of psychiatric brain disorders. NARSAD's president, Constance E. Lieber, says she is "proud to continue to support the efforts of University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine scientists."

The following Penn projects are being supported by the 2004 NARSAD grants:

    Gene Identification
    Dr. Wade Berrettini is using genetic linkage analysis in a large group of patients with either a family history of bipolar disease or schizophrenia to identify candidate genes that underlie vulnerability to these diseases.

    Behavioral Effects of Neurotrophins
    Dr. Irwin Lucki is studying the behavioral effects produced by the neurotrophins brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in animal models of depression and anxiety. Neurotrophins have been suggested to play a role in the actions of antidepressant drugs on the basis of biochemical studies, but their behavioral effects have not been examined.

    No Light to Shed Light on Depression
    Using a novel animal model for depression, Dr. Monica Gonzalez will evaluate the effect of long-term light deprivation on depression. She will study the neuroanatomy and neurochemistry of the disorder in the noradrenergic locus coerulus system (NA-LC), which releases noradrenaline, and the dorsal raphe nuclei (DRN), a group of neurons in the brain. DRN's principal neurotransmitter is serotonin. Depletion in the levels of serotonin has been associated with mood disorders like depression.

The scientific leadership of NARSAD, the Scientific Council, reviewed over 1,000 grant applications to select these current awards. The Council includes among its membership three Nobel Prize winners, the present and four former directors of the National Institute of Mental Health, and many of the most distinguished leaders in psychiatric research in the major universities and medical centers around the world.

NARSAD's Young Investigator Award Program provides support for the most promising young scientists conducting neurobiological research. Basic and/or clinical investigators are supported, but research must be relevant to schizophrenia, major affective disorders, or other serious mental illnesses.

NARSAD's Distinguished Investigator Award Program provides support for experienced investigators (full professor or equivalent) conducting neurobiological research. Areas of particular interest to the Scientific Council include patient populations with unique or unusual characteristics and innovative projects that might not otherwise receive funding.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
    Published on All rights reserved.