Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Selects Marianne Seney, PhD and Matthew MacDonald, PhD for NARSAD Young Investigator Awards


The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation has selected two researchers from the Department of Psychiatry to receive a NARSAD Young Investigator Award.

Marianne Seney, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, will use the award to investigate the impaired balance in excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission in depression possibly resulting from decreased gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-mediated inhibition. The study will follow up earlier studies indicating that reduction in the function of the somatostatin cells of the GABA system (in a brain hub critical for processing and regulating emotion) induces increased anxiety and depression-like behavior that can be reversed with a boosting of somatostatin cell function.

Results from this study will provide both cellular and neural network-based leads for future R01 level studies aimed at characterizing the biological substrates of the antianxiety/antidepressive-like role of SST neuron manipulations.

Matthew MacDonald, PhD, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Sweet in the Translational Neuroscience Program, will utilize the award to support his project, Layer 3 Glutamate Signaling Protein Network Abnormalities in Schizophrenia.  Through this study, Dr. MacDonald seeks to understand the glutamate signaling abnormalities correlated with auditory-cortex dendritic spine loss in schizophrenia. Dendritic spines are structures that receive neuronal signals, and it has been postulated that spine loss underlies cortical processing deficits observed in schizophrenia. Enhancing glutamatergic signaling by targeting synaptic glutamate receptors is currently a strategy for the development of novel treatments.  Dr. MacDonald will initiate the study in January 2015.  

The findings from this project will provide for future hypothesis testing in animal models in which expression of these proteins can be genetically targeted and the subsequent protein network alterations interrogated. Together, these strategies will provide a fuller understanding of synaptic pathology in schizophrenia essential for the design of targeted therapeutics.