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December 6, 2001

Penn Researcher Receives Two Year Grant To Study Inherited Markers that Favor Development of Schizophrenia

(Philadelphia, PA ) - Bruce Turetsky, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and associate director of neuropsychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, has received a two year grant of $100,000 from The National Alliance of Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD). Turetsky will use the prestigious Independent Investigator grant to search for biological and behavioral markers that indicate an increased inherited predisposition to schizophrenia.

As director of the Psychophysiology Laboratory of the Schizophrenia Research Center at Penn for the past 10 years, Turetsky has been actively studying abnormalities in the way patients with schizophrenia process information received through auditory channels; a trait commonly found in those with the disorder. Turetsky has also documented that in many cases healthy siblings of patients with schizophrenia exhibit similar, though less severe deficits.

The NARSAD grant will allow him to study the specific processing deficits within a much broader base. Thirteen large, three generational families will take part in the study. Along with the patient, each family group will include at least one first-degree relative also diagnosed with schizophrenia, parents, siblings over 15, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Each of the family members will be tested for specific disparities in the processing of sounds. This will be done through the use of Event Related Potential (ERP) and MRI methodologies. When discrepancies similar to those exhibited by the patient are found in additional family members, Turetsky will seek to find specific associations between them and genetic markers of inherited biological mechanisms. This much needed data will help advance the development of early identification techniques, prevention and rehabilitation of the disorder.

Turetsky is also involved in a separate NIH-funded research program investigating deficits in the processing of smells, another trait often present in schizphrenia.
NARSAD was founded 15 years ago for the purpose of raising and distributing funds for scientific research into severe mental illnesses, particularly schizophrenia and depression. It is the largest non-government, donor supported organization of its kind in the world.

Grantees are selected by the organization's Scientific Review Council, composed of 72 scientists and academic leaders in all areas of neurobiological and psychiatric research, with the expectation that the recipients will play key roles in discovering the causes, new treatments and eventual cures for mental illness.

 

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