January 18, 2011

Eight brain, behavior researchers are NARSAD Young Investigators

Eight Johns Hopkins University researchers are among 214 new NARSAD Young Investigators with what are considered the most promising ideas to lead to breakthroughs in understanding and treating mental illness.

Receiving up to $60,000 over two years, Young Investigators pursue brain and behavior research related to schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, autism, ADHD and anxiety disorders, such as OCD and PTSD. The grants are considered catalysts for additional funding, providing researchers with proof of concept for their work. On average, NARSAD Young Investigators have used their grants to leverage an additional 19 times their original grant amount, and some have gone on to receive much more than that after proving initial hypotheses with the first NARSAD grant support.

The Johns Hopkins recipients, all from the School of Medicine, are:

• Robert H. Cudmore, who will examine on the cellular level the effects of exercise as an alternative and complementary treatment for mood disorders.

• Minae Niwa, who will address the question of whether and how the immune system affects functioning of the dopamine neurotransmitter system to induce psychiatric disorders.

• Frederick Charles Nucifora Jr., who will explore the role in schizophrenia of a gene called neuronal PAS3 (NPAS3).

• Bagrat Abazyan, who plans to generate a mouse model of a gene that when functioning abnormally in cells called astrocytes may contribute to symptoms of schizophrenia.

• Mi-Hyeon Jang, who is exploring the regulatory mechanisms of neurogenesis—the birth of new nerve cells—in the hippocampal region of the brain, and how this is affected by the so-called disrupted-in-schizophrenia-1 (DISC1) gene.

• Shinichi Kano, who is investigating a mechanism through which altered glial cells and infection may work synergistically to contribute to schizophrenia.

• Sun-Hong Kim, who will study a novel mediator of nitric oxide–regulated behaviors in relation to brain development disturbances implicated in schizophrenia.

• Emily G. Severance, who proposes to test whether a breached gastrointestinal barrier contributes to symptoms of psychiatric disorders.

Since 1987, NARSAD: The Brain and Behavior Research Fund has awarded more than $274 million in 4,046 grants to 3,319 scientists around the world.