G. Bard Ermentrout, PhD (pictured), Professor of Mathematics and a Adjunct Professor of Neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh, is a member of a team of project and core leaders which received a $10 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to support a new Conte Center for the Neuroscience of Mental Disorders (CCNMD). The CCNMD will focus on developing new treatments for schizophrenia, a disease that affects over 2 million adults in the United States alone. The grant will enable Pitt researchers to gain a better understanding of the disease process and to identify pathophysiology-based molecular targets for novel therapeutic interventions for this devastating mental illness.
Schizophrenia is a complex and challenging mental illness with clinical features that include difficulty thinking logically, and inability to recognize and express emotions, to relate to others, and to interpret reality. It is a chronic condition that can be difficult to manage with medication. Schizophrenia has been identified by the World Health Organization as one of the leading causes of years of life lost to disability and premature mortality.
The center’s research is based on the widely-replicated observation that expression of a gene that synthesizes the neurotransmitter GABA is reduced in the brains of individuals with schizophrenia. GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is an important neurotransmitter essential for core cognitive processes such as working memory. CCNMD investigators are working to understand how reduced GABA could lead to impairments in brain function that are typical of schizophrenia.
The CCNMD will provide a multidisciplinary approach to understanding the neurobiology of schizophrenia and includes specialists in molecular neurobiology, systems and computational neuroscience, brain imaging, and clinical psychiatry. The CCNMD offers a highly interactive scientific environment linking investigators from the University of Pittsburgh Schools of Medicine and Arts and Sciences as well as the Pitt-Carnegie Mellon University Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition.
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
UPMC Media Relations News Release (09/03/08)
Medical News Today (09/07/08)
University of Pittsburgh PittChronicle (09/08/08)
Bio: G. Bard Ermentrout, PhD