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Wayne State professor leads a multicenter bipolar and schizophrenia disorders study with aid of $2.6 million grant

February 12, 2008

DETROIT - Little is known about what causes the mental afflictions of Schizophrenia and psychotic bipolar disorder in some individuals. Dr. Matcheri Keshavan, professor and associate chairman of Wayne State University's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences in the school of medicine, suggests that genetic and environmental factors play a significant role in determining certain risk factors for the disorders. To confirm and understand these risk factors, Dr. Keshavan's team, which includes researchers from WSU and the University of Michigan, received over $2.6 million from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to study similarities and differences in those afflicted with the disorders.  

"This will potentially help us understand the causes of Schizophrenia or bipolar disorders and will also help guide development of new treatment strategies targeting symptoms in these disorders," said Keshavan.

The study will span five sites across the United States in search for genes associated with the physiological, behavioral and cognitive abnormalities found in psychotic patients with Schizophrenia or bipolar disorders. With WSU leading the way, other universities and organizations involved in the project include: the University of Michigan, the University of Maryland, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Yale University, and the Institute of Living - a non-profit center for comprehensive patient care, research and education in the fields of behavioral, psychiatric, and addiction disorders located within Hartford Hospital in Connecticut.

According to the NIMH, Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder that has been recognized throughout recorded history. It affects about 1 percent of the US population, or roughly three million Americans. People with Schizophrenia may hear voices other people don't hear or they may believe that others are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them. Also according to the NIMH, bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person's mood, energy, and ability to function. Different from the normal mood swings that everyone goes through, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are more severe. About 5.7 million American adults or about 2.6 percent of the population age 18 and older in any given year, battle bipolar disorder.

"Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are among the most distressing and disabling mental disorders," said Dr. Joseph Dunbar, associate vice president for research at WSU. "Patients with these disorders suffer great disruption in all aspects of their lives. Because the exact causes for these diseases have not been pinpointed, a cure has not been discovered. Hopefully the work of Dr. Keshavan and this team will begin to understand the causes of these devastating disorders, and eventually lead to better treatments and a cure," Dunbar added.

Wayne State University is one of the nation's pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world.