Wayne State researcher receives grant to improve understanding of neurochemical and functional bases of Schizophrenia

January 20, 2010

DETROIT-A Wayne State University School of Medicine faculty member has received a $60,000 Young Investigator research grant from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia & Depression (NARSAD), "Altered fronto-hippocampal plasticity during learning in schizophrenia: fMRI studies and relevance to the dopamine and glutamate systems," to develop a better understanding of the neurochemical and functional bases of Schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is one of the most debilitating mental illnesses in the world. Research suggests the illness is related to disordered brain neurochemistry and function. Thus, if the neurochemical and functional bases of the illness can be clearly understood, treatment strategies can be better tuned to help improve outcome and function.

Vaibhav A. Diwadkar

Dr. Vaibhav A. Diwadkar, assistant professor of psychiatry and co-director of the Division of Brain Research and Imaging Neuroscience at WSU and resident of Bloomfield Township, and his collaborators will study the impact on schizophrenia of disordered neurochemistry and function in two key regions of the brain, the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex. These regions are central to how the brain learns, and neurotransmitters that are essential to learning are also ones that do not function appropriately in the schizophrenia brain.

To study these questions in vivo, Diwadkar and his colleagues will use a combination of high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging to study brain function, and magnetic resonance spectroscopy to study brain neurochemistry in a group of stable schizophrenia patients and healthy controls. "The convergent application of these complementary imaging techniques is expected to greatly enhance our understanding of the role of these important brain regions in the expression of schizophrenia," said Diwadkar.

NARSAD is the largest supporter of mental health research (outside of the National Institute of Mental Health) and is one of the most competitive funding agencies in the world. The foundation has a reputation for supporting cutting-edge research. This is Diwadkar's second Young Investigator award from NARSAD. "This grant will allow me to facilitate the establishment of a larger research program that uses multiple imaging methods to better understand the bases of, and better inform treatment strategies for, mental illness," said Diwadkar.

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