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NARSAD awards Institute of Psychiatry academics $292,979 for breakthrough mental health research

08 September 2010

Dr Paul Allen, Dr James MacCabe, and Dr Andrea Mechelli of the Institute of Psychiatry, at King’s, are three of 42 innovative researchers awarded NARSAD 2010 Independent Investigator grants for mental health research. NARSAD has awarded more than $4.1 million (£2.6 million) to support leading investigators worldwide. Since 1987 NARSAD has awarded more than $257.5 million (£166.8 million) in 3,790 grants to 3,116 scientists around the world.

Dr Allen received $99,992 for his research project, which aims to establish biomarkers that predict the likelihood of adolescents developing psychosis after exhibiting the 'At Risk Mental State' or ARMS. It’s currently impossible to reliably predict which individuals with ARMS will develop psychosis, and the ability to do so would greatly advance clinical treatment. Dr Allen will be evaluating elevated dopamine activity in the striatum and how this relates to prefrontal cortex (PFC) dysfunction. This expands upon his group’s earlier work.

Dr MacCabe received $97,486 for his research and will take advantage of well-documented and maintained psychiatric records in Israel to determine whether there is a statistically significant correlation between intelligence, creativity and incidence of bipolar disorder. Dr MacCabe recently completed a study of 900,000 Swedish students, age 16, and found that those who performed best on exams had a four-fold risk of developing bipolar disorder in adulthood. Other similar studies have shown similar results.

Dr Mechelli received $95,500 and has designed a research project that will help identify those most likely to develop schizophrenia within a population of individuals that exhibit a pre-schizophrenic condition known as the 'At Risk Mental State' (ARMS). This state can be identified in teenagers who exhibit isolated psychotic symptoms but only a third of these individuals ever develop schizophrenia. In the interest of providing early intervention and treatment of schizophrenia in this group, Dr Mechelli and colleagues will assess multiple factors, including genetic vulnerability, brain abnormalities, environmental stressors and cognitive performance.

Independent Investigators seek to produce experimental results that will put them in a position to initiate major research programmes and request major governmental grants. Receiving up to $100,000 over two years, they lead research programs of clinical and basic science investigations into the causes, mechanisms and treatments for serious psychiatric disorders. This year’s Independent Investigators come from 10 leading institutions in nine countries around the world, including Canada, Brazil, Israel and Spain, and 21 leading institutions in the United States. Their research topics include schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, such as OCD and PTSD, and childhood disorders, such as autism and ADHD.

The 116-member NARSAD Scientific Council, a prestigious group representing the best and brightest minds in psychiatric research, guided the review and selection process for this year’s Independent Investigators. Forty two grantees were selected from a pool of 217 proposals.

'This year’s applicants brought forward exceptional and diverse proposals that will lead to significant discoveries in the field of psychiatry,' said Robert M. Post, M.D., a member of the Scientific Council and chair of the committee that selected the 2010 Independent Investigators. 'We identify those proposals we believe demonstrate the most innovative and promising paths toward better understanding and treatment of psychiatric disorders. As always, the committee was challenged in its selection process and ultimately extremely proud to recommend and support these 42 brilliant, dedicated scientists.'


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