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The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Announces 10 Major Research Achievements of 2012

In 2012, the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation funded more than 200 new promising ideas through its NARSAD Grants to identify the causes, improve treatments and develop prevention strategies for mental illness. Many research projects also came to fruition in 2012, and the Foundation highlights ten significant findings (click to go to interactive infographic).

“We are excited about the 2012 discoveries from both young and established investigators in the field that move us closer to our vision of ‘bringing the joy of living to those affected by mental illness,’says Benita Shobe, Foundation President & CEO.

2012 Highlights follow by Category (Basic Research, Diagnostic Tools/Early Intervention, New Technologies, and Next Generation Therapies):

Basic Research—to understand what happens in the brain to cause mental illness:



NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grantee Ronald S. Duman, Ph.D., and Yale University colleagues discover how stress and depression can shrink the brain.



NARSAD Independent Investigator Grantee Olivier Manzoni, Ph.D., of INSERM in France, and NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grantee Daniele Piomelli, University of California, Irvine identify chemicals in the brain that improve symptoms of Fragile X Syndrome (the most common known genetic cause of autism).



NARSAD Young Investigator Grantee, Chiara Nosarti, Ph.D., of King’s College London and colleagues at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, demonstrate that premature birth heightens risk for mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia.


Diagnostic Tools/Early Intervention—to recognize early signs of mental illness and treat as early as possible:



NARSAD Independent Investigator Grantee Andrew Miller, M.D., and Emory University colleagues demonstrate an antidepressant response by treating inflammation. Patient responsiveness to the treatment can be predicted with a simple blood test.



NARSAD Independent Investigator Grantee Carlos Zarate, M.D., and team at the National Institute of Mental Health, discover a biological predictor for patient responsiveness to a rapid-acting antidepressant, ketamine.



NARSAD Independent Investigator Anil K. Malhotra, M.D. of Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine and The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, NY, and team including eight NARSAD Grantees identify a gene variant linked to antipsychotic-medication-induced weight gain. The discovery should lead to optimized treatment decisions for patients with schizophrenia.


New Technologies—to advance or create new ways of studying and understanding the brain:



NARSAD Young Investigator Grantee, Dr. Paola Dazzan and colleagues at King’s College London develop a new technology that can predict the future course of illness after a first psychotic episode. Until now, the inability to predict a patient’s future illness has made it difficult to know what treatment to prescribe.


Next Generation Therapies—to reduce symptoms of illness and retrain the brain:



NARSAD Young Investigator Grantee Olivier Berton, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, and team, identify a protein linked to natural resiliency to stress, pointing to a new treatment possibility for anxiety disorders and depression.



Separate research teams led by NARSAD Grantees Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D. of Stanford University and Eric Nestler, M.D., Ph.D. of Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, demonstrate how dopamine neurons are linked to depression, thus opening a new pathway for treatment of the illness.



NARSAD Grantees Karuna Subramaniam, Ph.D. and Sophia Vinogradov, M.D., at the University of California, San Francisco, show that targeted computer “brain training” improves behavioral symptoms and brain activity in patients with schizophrenia.


An interactive infographic featuring the 2012 Highlights is available at

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation has been awarding NARSAD Grants for 25 years. The Foundation has invested close to $300 million in NARSAD Grants to more than 3,300 scientists worldwide since 1987, leading to thousands of scientific achievements to improve the lives of those with mental illness.


Editors please note: 2012 Highlights infographic pdf file, photographs of researchers and interviews are available upon request.

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