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Dr. Mei receives 2008 Mathilde Solowey Lecture Award in Neurosciences

Dr. Lin Mei, chief of developmental neurobiology at the Medical College of Georgia and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Neuroscience, has received the 2008 Mathilde Solowey Lecture Award in Neurosciences.

The annual award, administered by Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences, honors young or rising neuroscientists who excel in research that is cutting edge, translational and of broad importance.

Dr. Mei will discuss his studies of neural circuitry formation and synaptic plasticity, which have shed light on potential causes of schizophrenia and seizures as well as how certain neuromuscular diseases may occur, in a lecture May 15 at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

Dr. Mei and his colleagues study the function and underlying mechanism of neuregulin-1 and its receptor ErbB4 in neurotransmission. Both are important for neural development and have been implicated in schizophrenia. They discovered that the two proteins help keep a healthy balance between excitation and inhibition of brain cells. In 2007, Dr. Meis research, published in Neuron, showed that neuregulin-1 promotes inhibition at the site of inhibitory synapses in the brain by increasing release of GABA, a major inhibitory neurotransmitter.

In 2000, his research team showed neuregulin-1 suppresses excitation at excitatory synapses, communication points between neurons where the neurotransmitter glutamate excites cells to action. Both functions require ErbB4. The collective findings reveal a check and balance for brain cell activity managed by neuregulin-1 in the brains prefrontal cortex, the site of complex reasoning and decisions about appropriate social behavior. They also provide new treatment targets for psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia and neurological disorders such as epilepsy.

He also studies how neurons and their target cells form contacts or synapses where signals are passed from one to the other. His study published this month in Nature Neuroscience provides some of the first proof that in vertebrates such as man, retrograde communication from a target cell such as a muscle cell back to the neuron is critical to neuron health and development. His research showed that when muscle cells fail to produce the protein beta-catenin, the neuron that should control that muscle cell doesnt develop or function properly. Problems with motor neuron survival and differentiation cause many neuromuscular diseases, such as muscular dystrophy and ALS but its unknown why neurons die in these diseases.

Previous Solowey Award winners include:

  • Dr. Fred Gage, professor at Salk University and former president of the Society for Neuroscience, who discovered that the human brain produces new brain cells in adulthood.

  • Dr. Steven E. Hyman, former director of the National Institute of Mental Health and provost of Harvard University, a leading authority on how internal and external stimuli affect the brain and behavior.

  • Dr. Gerald D. Fischbach, executive vice president for health and biological sciences and dean of the faculty of medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, who cloned ARIA, a protein that allows muscle cells to form receptors for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and enabling communication with nerve cells.

Dr. Mei is a member of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Developmental Biology Subcommittee and an ad hoc reviewer for several NIH Study Sections. He is a member of the Society for Neurosciences Membership and Chapters Committees.

He is the academic editor of PLoS One and an editor-in-chief of Molecular Brain, an international journal to be launched this month. He is a member of the editorial board of NeuroSignals and Brain Research Bulletin. He is a member of the Council of the Institute of Neurosciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai and a guest investigator for the institute.

Dr. Mei, who came to MCG in 2004 from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, received the 2006 Distinguished Service Award from the MCG School of Graduate Studies. His work is supported by four NIH grants and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.


Contact: Toni Baker
Medical College of Georgia

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Dr. Mei receives 2008 Mathilde Solowey Lecture Award in Neurosciences
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