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6 NARSAD Young Investigator Grants awarded to CAMH

For Immediate Release August 28, 2012 (Toronto) Six researchers from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) have received prestigious NARSAD Young Investigator Grants from the U.S.-based Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.

The awards will fund research on biological factors underlying schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and suicidal behaviour, using advanced genetics, brain stimulation and brain imaging techniques, which promise to lead to new and novel treatments.

"In the field of mental health research, NARSAD Young Investigator Grants are catalysts in supporting new scientists in establishing successful, productive research careers," says Dr. Bruce G. Pollock, Vice-President of Research at CAMH.

The 132-member Foundation Scientific Council, a volunteer group of pre-eminent mental health researchers, guides the rigorous selection process of identifying the most promising ideas for NARSAD Grants. Each award is worth up to $60,000 over two years.

"The NARSAD Young Investigator Grants have led to groundbreaking and important new research that has improved the lives of people living with mental illness through enhanced treatments and therapies and a better understanding of the causes of mental illness," says Benita Shobe, President and CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.

Awards were granted for the following projects (with supervisors) in CAMH's Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute:

Dr. Ana Cristina Andreazza will investigate the molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying bipolar disorder. Past research suggests that the regulation of energy metabolism plays a central role in leading to this disorder. This study will determine related mechanisms by which oxidative damage to DNA leads to epigenetic changes that affect gene expression. Results may open avenues to develop medications that prevent DNA damage. (Dr. Trevor Young, Dr. Gustavo Tureck, McGill University)

Dr. Marina Frantseva will study electrical brain activity in people with and without schizophrenia, using a combination of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and electroencephalography (EEG) recordings. She will determine how abnormal brain activity translates into signs and symptoms of schizophrenia. This knowledge could lead to treatments based on normalizing brain activity. (Dr. Jeff Daskalakis)

Dr. Shupeng Li will study how the medication clozapine exerts its therapeutic effects at a molecular level and in pre-clinical models of schizophrenia. Clozapine, which is effective in treatment-resistant schizophrenia, may affect neurotransmission involving the GABA-B receptor system. This research will also explore effects of treatment with clozapine and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) on schizophrenia over time. (Dr. Fang Liu, Dr. Jeff Daskalakis)

Dr. Mahesh Menon has shown that abnormal brain activity occurs in patients completing tasks designed to capture delusions while undergoing a brain scan. In this research, he aims to determine whether first-episode patients show the same abnormal activity in a brain region called the striatum, whether this abnormal activity 'recovers' as delusions respond to antipsychotic medication, and whether brain activity helps predict who will recover. (Dr. Gary Remington)

Dr. Naren Rao will study a novel treatment for schizophrenia symptoms that do not respond to current medications, which include problems with memory, attention and planning (cognitive symptoms) and lack of motivation (negative symptoms). Using functional MRI, he will examine the effects of L-dopa on the brain before and after treatment. L-dopa, which increases brain dopamine levels, is effectively used in treating Parkinson's disease. (Dr. Romina Mizrahi, Dr. Gary Remington)

Dr. Clement Zai aims to identify novel DNA variants in the human genome that contribute to the risk of suicidal behaviour. Using more than 1,000 genetic samples from patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, he will correlate genetic findings with individual histories of suicide attempts. The goals are to develop genetic screening tools and identify medications that might reduce suicide risk. (Dr. James Kennedy)


Contact: Michael Torres
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

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