Research team to analyze brain changes in schizophrenia

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. A Wake Forest University School of Medicine team will try to understand what differences exist in the brains of people diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and how the differences may be related to these diseases.

Under a five-year $1.1 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, the team will be comparing post-mortem brain tissue from individuals who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder with tissue from normal individuals who had not been diagnosed with those diseases.

The principal investigator, Scott E. Hemby, Ph.D., said the research focuses on the brain's temporal lobe, particularly on structures called the hippocampus, subicullum and entorhinal cortex that are involved in learning and memory.

"The temporal lobe is one of the primary brain regions known to be functionally altered in schizophrenia," said Hemby, associate professor of physiology and pharmacology. Changes in gene and proteins in this region have "a profound and significant influence on brain function."

Schizophrenia is a devastating mental illness affecting approximately 1 percent of the population with clinical manifestations generally appearing in late adolescence and early adulthood. Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, disorders of feelings and general loss of the ability to function in everyday life.

Bipolar disorder affects roughly the same number of people, characterized by alternating episodes of mania mental and physical hyperactivity and depression, and was formerly ccalled manic-depression.

Hemby and colleagues will use state-of-the-art genomic and proteomic methods to evaluate the expression of all genes in the temporal lobe as well as the majority of proteins that are expressed. Proteomics refers to the analysis of expressed proteins.

The post-mortem brain tissue to be studied is provided by two internationally renowned brain banks, the Stanley Brain Research Laborato

Contact: Robert Conn
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

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