Brain and Behavior Research Foundation – Ask an Expert

Q. In your work with the Pritzker Neuropsychiatric Research Consortium, have you uncovered any new genes that you think might be related to mental illnesses besides major depression?

ANSWER BY: Huda Akil, Ph.D.

Yes, the Pritzker Consortium is interested in three severe psychiatric disorders—major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. We hope to discover the genes involved in these illnesses by studying the genetic variations that are associated with these illnesses and by studying the brains of individuals with these disorders to discover genes and proteins that are altered either because of the original genetics or because of environmental and developmental factors that have converged to change the brain.

Read the full answer at Brain and Behavior Research Foundation »

Seeking the Gears of Our Inner Clock

Carl Zimmer
December 28, 2015

Throughout the day, a clock ticks inside our bodies. It rouses us in the morning and makes us sleepy at night. It raises and lowers our body temperature at the right times, and regulates the production of insulin and other hormones.

The body’s circadian clock even influences our thoughts and feelings. Psychologists have measured some of its effects on the brain by having people take cognitive tests at different times of day.

“Sleep and activity cycles are a very big part of psychiatric illnesses,” said Huda Akil, a neuroscientist at the University of Michigan.

Yet neuroscientists have struggled to understand exactly how the circadian clock affects our minds. After all, researchers can’t simply pop open a subject’s skull and monitor his brain cells over the course of each day.

A few years ago, Dr. Akil and her colleagues came up with an idea for the next best thing.

Read the full article at NYTimes.com »

The Six Most Interesting Psychology Papers of 2015

Maria Konnikova
December 26, 2015

“Fibroblast Growth Factor 9 Is a Novel Modulator of Negative Affect,” from PNAS

Depression is notoriously tough to handle pharmaceutically. We still don’t know how S.S.R.I.s work, for instance—or even if they work at all. This paper offers a previously untried target for treatment: FGF9, a neurotrophin (a type of protein) that appears to play a key role in regulating embryonic development and cell differentiation and seems also to be important in regulating our emotional state.

Read the full article at the New Yorker

Huda Akil to receive prestigious Kuwait Prize in Basic Sciences

Foundation to honor Huda Akil, Ph.D., for her pioneering research in brain biology, depression and addiction

November 16, 2015

University of Michigan Medical School faculty member Huda Akil, Ph.D., is the recipient of the prestigious Kuwait Prize in Basic Sciences (Basic Medical Sciences) for 2015.

The Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS) established the Kuwait Prize in 1979 to support scientific researchers in various fields and to encourage Arab scholars and researchers. KFAS awards prizes in five fields: basic sciences, applied sciences, economics and social sciences, art and literature, and Arabic and Islamic scientific heritage. Recipients, who hail from Kuwait and other Arab countries, receive a cash prize, a gold medal, the KFAS shield, and a certificate of recognition.

Akil will receive the Kuwait Prize for Basic Sciences/Basic Medical Sciences from the Amir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, during a Dec. 2 ceremony at the Salwa Hall in Kuwait City, Kuwait.

Read the press release at medicine.umich.edu »

Karl Deisseroth receives 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences

November 8, 2015

Karl Dessiroth accepts Breakthrough Prize
Karl Deisseroth accepts the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences

Steve Jennings/Getty Images
The Breakthrough Prize and its founders Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, Jack Ma and Cathy Zhang, Yuri and Julia Milner, and Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, tonight announced the recipients of the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics and Mathematics. A combined total of $21.9 million was awarded at the 3rd Annual Breakthrough Prize Awards Ceremony in Silicon Valley.

“By challenging conventional thinking and expanding knowledge over the long term, scientists can solve the biggest problems of our time,” said Mark Zuckerberg. “The Breakthrough Prize honors achievements in science and math so we can encourage more pioneering research and celebrate scientists as the heroes they truly are.”

The 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (five prizes, $3 million each) was presented to: Edward S. Boyden (MIT); Karl Deisseroth (Stanford University and Howard Hughes Medical Institute); John Hardy (University College London); Helen Hobbs (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Howard Hughes Medical Institute); and Svante Pääbo (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology).

Read the official press release at breakthroughprize.org »