April 15, 2009

Schumer and Gillibrand Announce Over $250,000 in Health and Human Services Funding Coming to Cold Spring Harbor Lab For Brain Development Research

Grant to Fund Research of Relationship Between Brain Development and Mental Disorders Such As Autism and Mental Retardation

 

Today, United States Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced that the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island will be receiving $252,000 through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) for research of the relationship between brain development and mental disorders such as autism and mental retardation. The funding will used to support one postdoctoral fellow, one graduate student, and for the development of a scientific method.
 
“Federal funding for scientific research is needed now more than ever,” said Schumer. “In these difficult economic times, it is critical that we continue to invest in cutting-edge scientific research to push the boundaries of medicine and promote long-term economic growth. I will continue to fight for federal funds so that our laboratories and universities remain world-class research institutions.”
 
“It is critical that we invest in the life-saving research at our world class facility at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Federal funding for this cutting edge research will help with medical diagnosis and treatment while promoting economic growth on Long Island. During these tough economic times, I will continue to work with Senator Schumer to ensure that New York receives its fair share of federal dollars.”
 
“We are thrilled to be receiving this grant and it will go a long way in understanding how brain networks are altered in neurological diseases,” said Josh Huang Ph.D., from the CSHL.
 
The brain is the most complex organ in our body, responsible for perception, cognition and action.  Brain functions emerge from the underlying neural networks which consist of over trillion neurons of enormous heterogeneity. The properties of different neuron types, functional units of neural circuits, are largely acquired and maintained by unique combinations of expressed genes. Therefore, systematic analysis of gene expression patterns in the brain promises new insights into the relationship between genes, neural circuits, behavior, and mental disorders.
 
However, most genomic studies of the brain to date use tissue homogenates where the distinction among cell types is completely erased; thus both the detection and interpretation of gene expression changes are very problematic. Using genetic engineering in mice, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is developing a novel method which enables cell type-based gene expression analysis in complex tissues such as the brain. They will apply this method to studying the development and experience-dependent changes in several types of inhibitory neurons in the cerebral cortex. These studies have implications in the genetic mechanisms underlying the construction of brain circuits and the pathogenic mechanisms underlying altered neural circuits in mental disorders.
 
This research can be applied to study mouse models of neurodevelopment and psychiatric disorders such as autism and mental retardation. The funding will used to support one postdoctoral fellow, one graduate student, and for the development of novel method.
 
The mission of NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery and cure. For NIMH to continue fulfilling this vital public health mission, it must foster innovative thinking and ensure that a full array of novel scientific perspectives are used to further discovery in the evolving science of brain, behavior, and experience. In this way, breakthroughs in science can become breakthroughs for all people with mental illnesses.In support of this mission, NIMH will generate research and promote research training to fulfill the following four objectives: promote discovery in the brain and behavioral sciences to fuel research on the causes of mental disorders, chart mental illness trajectories to determine when, where, and how to intervene, develop new and better interventions that incorporate the diverse needs and circumstances of people with mental illnesses, and strengthen the public health impact of NIMH-supported research.
 
NIMH envisions a world in which mental illnesses are prevented and cured.