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Rutgers scientist receives prestigious 'Young Investigator Award'

Dr. Mariana Pereira, postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers University in Newark (CMBN), is the recent recipient of a "2008 Young Investigator Award" from NARSAD, The World's Leading Charity Dedicated to Mental Health Research (previously known as the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression). NARSAD is the world's leading donor-supported organization dedicated to funding research on psychiatric disorders.

Dr. Pereira, a resident of Jersey City, is one of only two recipients in New Jersey, joining 218 other early career scientists from a number of leading research universities in the U.S. and 11 other countries. She will receive $60,000 from NARSAD over the next two years in order to continue preclinical studies relevant for the problem of cocaine addiction in women during the postpartum period which is associated with dysfunctional maternal care, and which can result in the later development of substance abuse and/or other psychiatric disorders in the child.

"The young scientists whom NARSAD selects for participation.represent the very best in their respective areas of expertise" said Georff Birkett, president of NARSAD. "Their work will accelerate progress in the study of all areas of psychiatric disorders, and is leading not only to better treatments but also, we are confident, to cures."

Mariana Pereira, Ph.D., has worked since 2006 as a postdoctoral associate in the research lab of Dr. Joan I. Morrell of CMBN, one of the leading centers for neuroscience research in the U.S.

According to Dr. Morrell, Pereira's research interests "focus upon understanding the behavioral responses to natural, compared to pharmacological, rewards and the neural substrates, that are engaged during these responses in the maternal female." The preclinical experiments conducted in Morrell's lab "aim to understand how cocaine can hijack the normal motivational patterns of the postpartum female which have evolved to maximally benefit the survival of offspring. In humans, cocaine use is not compatible with good parental care, and motivation to seek cocaine competes negatively with the motivation to care for offspring. Such impaired parental care can lead to harm to infants, with the possibility of lifelong consequences."

"As Dr. Pereira expands her experimental and scholarly repertoire using cutting-edge neuroscience approaches, she will have the strongest possible experiences for further growth in her scientific skills, and leadership in her field," noted Morrell.

Pereira received undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Uruguay in Montevideo-Uruguay, completing her Ph.D. in biological sciences, with honors in physiological sciences in 2006.

Prior to working in Morrell's lab, she conducted research at the University of Uruguay in Montevideo-Uruguay, the University of Connecticut and at the Center for Research and Advanced Studies in Mexico. She is a co-author of numerous articles, published in Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, Physiology and Behavior, Psychopharmacology, Behavioral Brain Research, and other academic journals.


Contact: Helen Paxton
Rutgers University

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