Research

/Research
9 07, 2018

Investigating Brain and Behavior Development in Typical and High-Risk Children | Short | $46,921

Investigating Brain and Behavior Development in Typical and High-Risk Children Award: $46,921 Mental illnesses are likely present early in childhood, long before the symptoms begin to emerge in adolescence or adulthood. By leveraging the data from the Early Brain Development (EBD) study, researcher Dr. Sarah Short will study trajectories of the brain and behavioral development from birth through pre-adolescence, searching for signs of mental illness symptoms that correlate with early brain development. Sarah Short, Ph.D. Need/Problem: The neural basis of major mental illnesses is likely present early in childhood, long before the clinical symptoms begin to emerge in adolescence or adulthood. Until recently, methods for studying the developing brain were unavailable. Grant Summary: This study seeks to provide new knowledge and hope for preventing mental illness and promoting healthy outcomes in children [...]

9 07, 2018

Autoimmune Illness, Infections, and Genetic Risk for Anorexia Nervosa | Zerwas | $39,981

Autoimmune Illness, Infections, and Genetic Risk for Anorexia Nervosa Award: $39,981 Despite its prevalence and high mortality, norexia nervosa treatment is a poorly studied condition, with no effective treatments and no medication targeting the core biology of the illness; the recovery process takes, on average, seven years. Dr. Zerwas proposed to study whether the combination of autoimmune illness and repeated infection exposure will work together to increase risk for anorexia. Her goal is to improve both prevention and early detection of anorexia by understanding how genetic predispositions and medical history interact to increase risk for the disorder. Stephanie Zerwas, Ph.D. Need/Problem: We don’t know enough about why some people develop anorexia nervosa and others do not. Our recent studies have suggested that autoimmune illness may increase risk for anorexia nervosa. This study [...]

9 07, 2018

Predicting the Trajectory of Restrictive Eating in Childhood from Genetic Risk for Anorexia Nervosa | Zerwas & Watson | $45,000

Predicting the Trajectory of Restrictive Eating in Childhood from Genetic Risk for Anorexia Nervosa Award: $45,000 Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness, and is also extremely difficult to treat—treatment typically relies on supportive therapy, with no actual medications designed to target the core biology of the illness. “Picky eating” in childhood can be a warning that anorexia will develop later in adulthood, but little is known about the genetic reasons for this behavior. This project will comb the comprehensive, long-term Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study for genetic and/or environmental clues that point to restrictive eating behavior, with the ultimate goal of preventing this devastating illness in its earliest stages. Stephanie Zerwas, Ph.D. and Hunna Watson, Ph.D. Need/Problem: Restrictive or picky eating in childhood has been associated [...]

9 07, 2018

Establishing Network Targets during Development for Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation | Li | $37,549

Establishing Network Targets during Development for Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation Award: $37,549 There is some evidence to suggest that directly stimulating the brain with a targeted, low-level electrical current may yield positive effects on certain cognitive disorders. By extension, this study will attempt to learn whether non-invasive brain stimulation can be a successful method of treating schizophrenia in its earliest phases (most typically manifesting in young adults). Yuhui Li, Ph.D. Need/Problem: Some psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia are neurodevelopment diseases which require earlier diagnose and prevention far before the onset of symptoms. Grant Summary: This grant is innovative in that it will target the brain in early development stage to predict and prevent psychiatric disorder. Goals & Projected Outcomes: The goal of this study is to set up an animal model of schizophrenia [...]

9 07, 2018

Prospective Identification of Individuals with a Brain Overgrowth Form of Autism | Piven, Zyika, Stein | $40,000

Prospective Identification of Individuals with a Brain Overgrowth Form of Autism Award: $40,000 This grant will take a first step towards developing a polygenic risk score for brain overgrowth in a large sample of human neural progenitor cells. Understanding the genetic basis of brain overgrowth will enable the development of this important tool for identification of infants at increased risk for the overgrowth form of autism in the general population. Joseph Piven, M.D., with Mark Zylka, Ph.D. and Jason Stein, Ph.D. Need/Problem: Early (pre-symptomatic) brain overgrowth has emerged as a primary mechanism underlying the development of later autism in a subset of infants at high familial risk for this disorder.  Understanding the genetic basis of brain overgrowth will enable the development of a genetic tool (genetic risk score for brain overgrowth) for [...]

9 07, 2018

Identifying Key Metabolites in the Microbiome-Gut-Brain Axis During Infancy | Santelli & Gilmore | $64,881

Identifying Key Metabolites in the Microbiome-Gut-Brain Axis During Infancy Award: $64,881 The human gastrointestinal system contains a vastly complex system of microbes. We know that the composition and interactions of these microbial communities impact our neurodevelopment, cognition, and emotional behavior, but how is still largely unclear. Researchers will study the interactions between gut bacteria, bacterial gene expression, the presence of stress hormones, and a number of other chemical and behavioral factors, in infants. If a pattern exists, the data could help identify risk factors for psychiatric illness, and lead to preventive therapies and treatments. Rebecca Knickmeyer Santelli, Ph.D. and John Gilmore, M.D. Need/Problem: The composition of the gut microbiome (the trillions of microbes inhabiting the intestinal tract) impacts neurodevelopment, cognition, and stress-related behaviors relevant to a wide range of psychiatric illnesses, but [...]

9 07, 2018

Defining, Mining, and Reversing Neurocircuit Adaptions in Addiction | Stuber | $100,000

Defining, Mining, and Reversing Neurocircuit Adaptions in Addiction Award: $100,000 Addiction alters the signaling and function of many neurons in the brain. Because drug or alcohol abuse alter our neurocircuitry—the pathways of our brains—reversing the effects of addiction means reversing the patterns our brains learn from substance abuse. With this study, Dr. Stuber proposes to gather data identifying the neurocircuitry of addiction by monitoring the activity of hundreds to thousands of neurons during the transition to addiction. Garret Stuber, Ph.D. Need/Problem:  Addiction and related disorders exact a tremendous toll of society, but strategies to define and assess the therapeutic efficacy are currently costly, slow, and difficult to develop. Grant Summary:  Addiction alters the signaling and function of many neurons in the brain, but strategies to normalize these maladaptive patterns of activity are [...]

9 07, 2018

Alcohol intoxication mediated through medial septal circuitry | Knapp | $39,210

Alcohol intoxication mediated through medial septal circuitry Award: $39,210 In this research, researchers will use a novel mouse line to test the involvement of a specific neural circuit in brain in controlling alcohol intoxication. Selected cells in this circuit will be manipulated in an attempt to enhance or diminish the magnitude of intoxication. If the role of the circuit and cells can be shown, future work would expand the analysis of the neural connections to this circuit with the goal of inspiring novel avenues for therapeutic intervention in alcohol used disorders. Darin Knapp, Ph.D. Need/Problem: A complete understanding of the brain mechanisms of alcohol intoxication has remained elusive.  Research devoted to defining the neurocircuits of intoxication with state of the art neurobiological tools offers an opportunity to make advances in our understanding. [...]

9 07, 2018

Testing oxytocin treatment of opioid withdrawal | Pedersen | $40,808

Testing oxytocin treatment of opioid withdrawal Award: $40,808 Opioid use disorders have emerged as a public health crisis over the past 20 years; opioid overdose is now the leading cause of death for United States adults 25-44 years old. Aside from the initial difficulties posed by opioid addiction—which is notoriously difficult to treat—opioid drug use also complicates mental illnesses like bipolar disorder, PTSD, and depression. Dr. Pedersen and his team have already shown that the neuropeptide oxytocin (OT), administered intranasally, can block withdrawal and diminish drinking in alcohol-addicted subjects. Now they hope to show that it can be effective in reducing opioid withdrawal symptoms. Dr. Cort Pedersen

9 07, 2018

Excitation-inhibition imbalance in autistic auditory cortex and its effects on spectro-temporal sound integration | Kato | $100,000

Excitation-inhibition imbalance in autistic auditory cortex and its effects on spectro-temporal sound integration Award: $100,000 Recent studies on autistic patients have accumulated rich knowledge on these diseases at both genetic and behavioral levels. However, we still know little about the neuronal circuit mechanisms that connect the gene mutations to the behavioral deficits. Researchers will study how disturbed interplay between excitatory and inhibitory neurons leads to auditory processing deficits in autistic brains. The circuit-level knowledge obtained in this study will help identifying the novel therapeutic entry points for developing future treatments. Hiroyuki Kato, Ph.D. Need/Problem: In social species like humans, hearing is of particular importance for vocal communication among conspecifics. In this research, we aim to understand the neuronal circuit mechanisms that lead to disturbed auditory processing in autistic brains. Grant Summary: Using [...]