Huda Akil, Ph.D.
2007 Goldman-Rakic Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Cognitive Neuroscience
Huda Akil, Ph.D.
Gardner Quarton Distinguished University Professor of Neuroscience and Psychiatry
Co-Director, Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute
Dr. Akil has made seminal contributions to the understanding of the neurobiology of emotions, including pain, anxiety, depression and substance abuse. Early on, she and her colleagues provided the first physiological evidence for a role of endorphins in the brain and showed that endorphins are activated by stress and inhibit pain. In investigations of the mechanisms underlying stress reactivity in anxiety and depression, she demonstrated that social defeat in rodents activates unique neural pathways resembling those altered in human depression.
Dr. Akil and her team have focused on the role of specific genes and molecules in the pathology of mood disorders. These include the glucocorticoid receptor which mediates the stress response and the family of fibroblast growth factors (FGF) which are critical for brain development. She, along with her collaborators, showed that the FGFs play a key role in shaping the vulnerability to anxiety and depression. Dr. Akil is one of the leaders of the Pritzker Consortium that uses a combination of genetic, genomic and neuroscience tools to discover that biological bases of major depression, manic-depressive illness and schizophrenia. The goal is to both understand the causes of these illnesses and identify new targets for their treatment and prevention.
Dr. Akil has received numerous honors and awards, including election to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2007 Dr. Akil is the recipient of the NARSAD Patricia Goldman Rakic Prize for Cognitive Neuroscience.
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