Meet the Scientist - February 2017

Prefrontal Cortical Circuits in Schizophrenia: Molecular Vulnerabilities, and Clues for Treatments

Thought disorder in schizophrenia is worsened by stress exposure, and is associated with profound dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex, a newly evolved brain region that subserves higher cognition. Prefrontal gray matter is lost as patients descend into illness, and neurons lose vital connections. Research shows that these newly evolved prefrontal circuits are uniquely regulated at the molecular level, and are particularly sensitive to stress exposure. These findings help to explain how a variety of genetic insults can weaken prefrontal cortical function in schizophrenia, and has begun to provide strategies for novel therapeutics to protect neuronal connections.

Presented by: Amy F.T. Arnsten, Ph.D.

Amy F.T. Arnsten, Ph.D.

Foundation Scientific Council Member
2015 Recipient of the Goldman-Rakic Prize for Cognitive Neuroscience Research
NARSAD Grantee, 1998, 2008

Professor of Neurobiology
Yale University School of Medicine

Dr. Arnsten’s research focuses on the highly evolved prefrontal cortex, elucidating the molecular mechanisms that determine the strength of network connections and cognitive abilities, with the overarching goals of understanding how genetic insults lead to symptoms of mental illness, and developing informed strategies for pharmacological treatment. Her team has identified two pharmacological agents to treat prefrontal cortical dysfunction in patients: Guanfacine, FDA-approved for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder treatment and used off-label to treat Tourette’s syndrome, frontal lobe traumatic brain injury and behavioral symptoms in Autism Spectrum Disorders; and Prazosin, currently being tested in patients with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, including troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dr. Arnsten received her B.A. with Honors in Neuroscience from Brown University in 1976, and her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of California, San Diego in 1981. Following her doctoral studies, Dr. Arnsten performed post-doctoral research with Dr. Susan Iversen at the University of Cambridge in England and then with Dr. Patricia Goldman-Rakic at Yale University.

Moderated by: Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D.

Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D.

President & CEO, Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., joined the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation in 2012 as Chief Medical Officer and was appointed as President & Chief Executive Officer at the start of 2013. Dr. Borenstein has more than two decades of experience in health and non-profit leadership. He is former CEO/Medical Director of Holliswood Hospital, where he served from 1996 to 2012. He is a board-certified psychiatrist and the Host of the award-winning series, “Healthy Minds,” which is broadcast on public television stations across the United States. He is Editor-in-Chief of Psychiatric News, the newspaper of the American Psychiatric Association.

An active contributor to the psychiatric field  for more than three decades, Dr. Borenstein currently chairs the Council on Communications of the American Psychiatric Association, the Mental Health Services Council of NY State, and the Section on Psychiatry, NY Academy of Medicine, where he is a Fellow. Among the many honors to his credit are the National Alliance on Mental Illness of NY State Connie Lieber Award, the American Psychiatric Association Special Presidential Commendation and the Federation of Organizations Community Mental Health Man of the Year Award.

Dr. Borenstein is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. He is a graduate of Harvard College and New York University School of Medicine.

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