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Four faculty receive national award

April 2013

Four School of Medicine researchers receive national award.
The four School of Medicine researchers who received Young Investigator Grants from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression are (left to right) Milena Girotti, Ph.D., Jing Liu, Ph.D., Ruth Madelaine Paredes, Ph.D., and David Roberts, Ph.D.
Four faculty members have been named recipients of the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) Young Investigator Grant. They are:

  • Jing Liu, Ph.D., instructor in the Department of Pharmacology, is seeking to validate a hypothesis that adiponectin, a hormone from fat tissue with anti-diabetic properties, plays a role in dentritic remodeling in a chronic social defeat mouse model of depression. Dendrites, the "tree branches" of a neuron, constantly expand and contract, remodeling the connections between neurons. Dr. Liu found that social defeat induces dentritic retraction in the brain area associated with depression and that this is accompanied by reductions in circulating adiponectin levels, which leads to increased susceptibility to stress-induced depression-like behavior.

  • Ruth Madelaine Paredes, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychiatry, is studying the function of neuregulin-1, a strong candidate gene for schizophrenia and psychosis. Her research will provide insight into the gene’s regulation of the immune response and its role in schizophrenia disease formation.

  • Milena Girotti, Ph.D., instructor in the Department of Pharmacology, is using rat models in an effort to unveil a causal link between interleukin 6 (an immune protein) and symptoms of mood disorders. Interleukin 6 levels are elevated in patients with major depression, but it is not known whether the protein is involved in inducing or aggravating the symptoms. One goal of the research is to suggest more effective interventions.

  • David Roberts, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry, developed an easy-to-remember daily strategy that schizophrenia patients can apply in real-world circumstances. He predicts that by practicing this strategy on tablet computers, patients will improve in their speed, accuracy and general ability to interpret others’ thoughts and feelings, and also believes this daily training will lead to patients’ brain circuits becoming more efficient at social cognition, which will be measured with brain imaging.

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