The new drugs would be the first significant change in decades to medications used to treat psychiatric disorders, says neuroscientist and team leader Yu Tian Wang, a UBC professor of Medicine and BRC member.
"We're designing a whole new generation of medications that will work only on brain cells in areas that need to be repaired," says Wang. "This new type of drug will correct abnormal brain functions in a targeted way, so patients don't experience the side effects found in existing medications that affect the whole brain."
One of only three investigations funded in NeuroScience Canada's new Brain Repair Program, the project brings together five researchers from across Canada, including three investigators from the BRC at UBC Hospital.
Healthy brain functioning relies on a balance between the chemical messengers that stimulate brain cell activity (excitatory neurotransmitters) and those that diminish activity (inhibitory neurotransmitters.)
When balance is disrupted, the flow of information among brain cells in certain areas becomes confused. The result is impairments in perception, thought and behaviour seen in patients with brain disorders ranging from autism to major psychoses including schizophrenia and depression.
Using sophisticated equipment to view, study and manipulate brain messaging at the cellular level, the team will test their design of a type of drug that can fine-tune communication between brain cells and bring excitatory and inhibitory activity into a healthy balance.