First Time R01 Recipients Embark on Next Phase of Their Careers


The receipt of a researcher's first R01 grant is an important milestone in their career as an independent scientist. Six investigators in the Department of Psychiatry, who recently completed NIH-funded mentored career development K grants, have successfully transitioned to their first R01 awards. These individuals, are representative of the many, next-generation scientists who are conducting innovative and exciting projects in the department. 

Carmen Andreescu, MD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

Functional Neuroanatomy Correlates of Worry in Older Adults

Severe worry is a transdiagnostic symptom that is particularly pernicious for the health of older adults. Worry is associated with increased risk of conversion from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer's disease, and with increased risk of stroke and other cardiovascular events, after controlling for other risk factors. Identifying neural mechanisms for late-life worry is a crucial step for understanding why worry crops up in the latter part of life, and for eventually improving prevention and treatment. Dr. Andreescu's R01 award from the NIMH supports the testing of a mechanistic model anchored in systems neuroscience and is aimed at characterizing the functional neuroanatomy of severe worry in older adults.

Ann Cohen, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

Role of Midlife Cardiovascular Disease on Alzheimer?s Pathology and Cerebrovascular Reactivity in the Young-Old

This R01 award from NIA will support work that explores the relationships between cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology and cognition. AD is the most common cause of dementia in the elderly with AD prevalence doubling every five years after the age of 65. It has been suggested that risks for AD and cardiovascular disease may be linked, but the relationship between vascular disease and AD pathology has not been clearly established. Dr. Cohen's project will aid in increasing our understanding about AD pathology, neurodegeneration, and cognitive decline in the context of cardiovascular disease risk factors in the elderly.  

Natacha DeGenna, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

Maternal Age, Trajectories of Substance Use, and Health Disparities

One in 10 children born in the US has a teenage mother, and these offspring engage in more risky behaviors during adolescence. Teen mothers also engage in higher rates of substance use (including earlier use, delayed desistence, abuse and use while pregnant) and HIV risk behaviors. Yet, no studies have compared their substance use with adult mothers to examine the effect of maternal age on developmental patterns of substance use in isolation from other confounds. The goal of Dr. DeGenna's R01 grant, funded by NIDA, is to examine trajectories of maternal substance use as a moderator of the effect of maternal age on child reproductive health.

Alexandre Dombrovski, MD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

Reward Learning in Late-Life Suicidal Behavior

Across the globe, suicide is more common in the elderly than in any other age group. Late-life suicide attempts are often lethal, with up to half ending in death in older men. In the US, suicide rates are rising, and are higher among the aging baby boomers than in the wartime generation, indicating that the burden of late-life suicide is likely to increase.  There is little empirical research on late-life suicide in contrast to adolescence or young adulthood. With his R01 grant from the NIMH, Dr. Dombrovski will investigate corticolimbic reward system alterations underlying biased decision-making in suicidal behavior in late-life populations.

Susan Perlman, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

From Irritability to Impairment:  How Neurodevelopment of Executive Function and Parent-Child Neural Synchrony Influence the Transition from Normal to Abnormal Functioning

This five-year R01 BRAINS award from NIMH will support Dr. Perlman's efforts to launch a state-of-the-art program of research designed to investigate the neurodevelopment of irritability in early childhood from a novel, neurocognitive, and social interactional perspective.  Through this project, Dr. Perlman and her team will use longitudinal, multimodal neuroimaging to test the innovative hypothesis that developmental changes in executive function moderate pathways to psychopathology.

Mary Torregrossa, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

Mechanisms Regulating Cocaine Memory Strength

Drugs of abuse produce long-lasting neuroplasticity in circuits controlling learning and memory. Many investigators hypothesize that, in substance users, drugs exert powerful control over behavior because the memories about the drug, particularly cues associated with use, are stronger than other non-drug memories.  Therefore, it may be possible to treat addiction and prevent relapse by weakening drug-associated memories such that they lose potency as drivers of behavior. Dr. Torregrossa's NIDA R01 will enable her to test the hypothesis that cocaine cue memory extinction and reconsolidation can induce opposing cellular events, including differential Ca2+-regulated kinase and phosphatase activity, and modulation of synaptic strength.