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Optogenetics project takes top NIDA Addiction Science Award
Date:5/21/2012

First place distinction went to John Edward Solder, a senior at Staples High School in Westport Conn., for his project, Optogenetic Interrogation of Prefrontal Cortex Dopamine D1 Receptor-Containing Neurons as a Technique to Restore Timing: A Novel Approach to Treat Prefrontal Disorders. The 18-year-old was able to specifically control behavioral timing in mice that were genetically modified to activate dopamine neurons in the prefrontal cortex, a region involved in higher order functions such as impulsivity and self-control, in response to a light stimulus. His research, which provides another example of the power of optogenetics (a technique that activates specific neurons just by shining light onto them) to modify neural activity in discrete brain areas at will, brings us one step closer to the development of novel therapies for a wide range of psychiatric disorders. He plans to attend Yale University in the fall.

"This young scientist used optogenetics to directly activate dopamine neurons in the prefrontal cortex to influence behavior in the mouse, providing a proof of principle for an approach that could be used one day to restore disease-impaired functions in the brain," said NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. "His work highlights the versatility of the optogenetic technique for mapping out the circuits that underlie discrete behaviors and that are disrupted in brain disorders that involve the prefrontal cortex, including Parkinson's disease, addiction and schizophrenia. His impressive command of the principles, mechanics and implications of this promising technology should enable Mr. Solder to make significant and long-lasting contributions to the field of neuroscience."

Second place distinction went to Benjamin Jake Kornick, a 17-year-old at Roslyn High School in Roslyn Heights, N.Y., for his project OMG: Look Who Joined Facebook! The Relationship between Parenting and Adolescent Risk Behaviors. He became interested in the prevention o
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Contact: NIDA Press Office
media@nida.nih.gov
301-443-6245
NIH/National Institute on Drug Abuse
Source:Eurekalert

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