Researchers in the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences will use a new five-year, $3.2 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to explore the underlying mechanisms of impaired learning and memory in schizophrenia from the perspective of brain plasticity, function and network dynamics.
The NIMH defines schizophrenia as a chronic and disabling mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels and behaves, including loss of reality due to hallucinations, delusions, unusual or dysfunctional ways of thinking, and agitated body movements. People with the condition also have difficulty beginning or sustaining activities, focusing or paying attention, or remembering information immediately after learning it. About 1 percent of the United States population, or 2.2 million people, have schizophrenia, but the neurobiology of the illness remains poorly understood.
Principal Investigator and Associate Professor Jeffrey Stanley, PhD, and Co-Principal Investigator and Professor Vaibhav Diwadkar, PhD, lead the study “Advancing innovative brain imaging to detect altered glutamate modulation and network dynamics in schizophrenia,” which was funded on its first submission. The study is the first to combine functional MRI, or fMRI and complex analyses of brain imaging data with innovative measurement of the brain’s functional neurochemistry using functional magnetic resonance spectroscopy, or fMRS.
“While fMRI data are somewhat ‘distant’ from fundamental neurobiological processes because the signal relies on blood flow that is correlated with – but distinct from – neurophysiological and neuro-chemical events, in developing fMRS we are able to measure and quantify changes in hippocampal glutamate in the brain. We have an imaging technique that may provide more direct information about functional changes in the brain,” Dr. Stanley said.