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BRAIN Awards

Faculty Members Awarded Prestigious BRAINS Grants 
from the National Institute of Mental Health

Congratulations to three faculty members, Drs. Fabio Ferrarelli, Judith Morgan, and Rebecca Price, on their receipt of a Biobehavioral Research Award for Innovative New Scientists (BRAINS) R01 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. This prestigious award supports the research and career development of outstanding, exceptionally productive scientists in the early, formative stages of their career.  

Fabio Ferrarelli, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

Characterize Differences in Sleep Spindles between Clinical High Risk and Healthy Controls Longitudinally

Schizophrenia and related disorders are leading causes of disability worldwide, making the early identification of neurobiological vulnerabilities, which may serve as treatment targets, a critical research priority. Individuals with chronic schizophrenia have a striking deficit in sleep spindles. This project will characterize the role of sleep spindle parameters in moderating cognitive, social, and clinical functioning trajectories, including transition to psychosis, among youth at clinical high risk, thus offering new insights into the vulnerability to, development of, and early intervention strategies for these devastating disorders.

Judith Morgan, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology
Brain-Behavior Synchrony in Very Young Children and Their Depressed Mother

Positive interactions between a mother and her young child likely serve a protective role for child mental health through reinforcing healthy development of the brain’s reward systems. Children of depressed mothers are at increased risk for developing multiple psychiatric disorders, with signs appearing to emerge as early as age five or six. Dr. Morgan hypothesizes that this feedback loop may be interrupted, contributing to disrupted reward systems and ultimately resulting in difficulty with affect regulation and social behavior. The goal of the project is to demonstrate that positive reciprocal and synchronous interactions between mother and child during the crucial infant-toddler years may serve to reinforce brain development in offspring reward systems.

Rebecca Price, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Testing a Synergistic, Neuroplasticity-Based Intervention for Depressive Neurocognition

Depression has been described as a problem of impaired neuroplasticity at the molecular level, and decreased cognitive flexibility and prefrontal cortex (PFC) control at the neurocognitive level. Dr. Price is pursuing a line of research to identify the neural and cognitive changes that accompany rapid relief from depressive symptoms following intravenous ketamine. She and her team will test whether these changes promote the uptake of helpful information delivered by a computer-based training protocol. This work could ultimately lead to the ability to treat depression more efficiently by rapidly priming the brain for helpful forms of learning, representing the first attempt to synergistically combine ketamine with a cognitive training intervention to exploit and extend its rapid effects.