Francine Mary Benes, M.D., Ph.D.

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Francine Mary Benes, M.D., Ph.D.

Joined the Scientific Council in 2001

William P. and Henry B. Test Professor of Psychiatric Neuroscience
Harvard Medical School
Director, Program in Structural and Molecular Neuroscience
Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center
McLean Hospital

Early on in her career, Dr. Benes was the first to demonstrate that primary branches of dendrites can undergo profound atrophy within 96 hours of deafferentation (the elimination or interruption of sensory nerve fibers). Later, in 1992, she presented a novel circuitry model that postulated that excessive excitatory inputs to GABAergic interneurons may play a central role in the dysregulation of intrinsic cortical circuitry in schizophrenia. Since then, Dr. Benes’s research has been directed at systematically identifying specific ways in which the neural elements related to the glutamate, GABA and dopamine (neurotransmitter) systems are abnormal in the limbic lobe, the region of the brain involved with emotion, of people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Her work has demonstrated that connections of the basolateral amygdala with the anterior cingulate cortex and hippocampus probably play a pivotal role in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Currently, the work in her laboratory is focused on the molecular regulation and functional differentiation of the GABA cell phenotype in interneurons— interconnecting nerve cells—in the adult hippocampus in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder patients.

Foundation Prizes: 2002 Lieber Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Schizophrenia Research