Thirteen Columbia Researchers Receive NARSAD Young Investigator Awards

January 17, 2011


Thirteen brain and mental health researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have received Young Investigator Awards from NARSAD, an organization that distributes funds for research in psychiatric, brain, and behavior disorders. Since 1987, NARSAD has awarded more than $274 million for promising research projects in mental health.

Young Investigator Awards are intended to help a new generation of researchers pioneer breakthroughs in mental health research. Each researcher is awarded up to $60,000 over two years to extend their research fellowship training or begin careers as independent research faculty.

In 2010, NARSAD selected 214 researchers around the world as Young Investigators. Columbia and Harvard received more awards than any other single institution.


2010 NARSAD Young Investigators at CUMC:


Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics
Nuria Flames, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow, will conduct research to identify regulatory factors that activate serotonin pathway genes during normal development. These regulatory factors may encode risk factors for serotonin-related disorders.
Department of Neuroscience
Jayeeta Basu, PhD, associate research scientist, will investigate the role of inhibitory neurons in the hippocampus, the memory region of the brain, and cognitive impairments in schizophrenia.


Department of Psychiatry
Nancy M. Bivens, MD, PhD, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry, will conduct a study to help define the role of the brain protein Neuregulin 1 in schizophrenia, aiding evaluation of drug therapies and preventative interventions for schizophrenia.
Jimmy Choi, PsyD, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry, will lay the groundwork for exploring which brain regions are active when someone is intrinsically motivated for learning, specifically as it relates to people with schizophrenia who lack the motivation to engage in treatment programs that teach cognitive skills.
Marc J. Dubin, MD, PhD, clinical research fellow, is looking for anatomical biomarkers for risk of familial major depression.
Ragy R. Girgis, MD, research fellow, will use positron emission tomography (PET) to examine how antipsychotic medications work in the treatment of schizophrenia.
Sidney H. Hankerson III, MD, postdoctoral clinical fellow, plans to adapt group interpersonal psychotherapy for a church-based pilot study to treat major depressive disorder in African Americans, a group significantly less likely than Caucasians to receive treatment for financial and cultural reasons.
Mazen A. Kheirbek, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow, will investigate mechanisms that underlie the effects of neurogenesis – the birth of new nerve cells in the brain – as a result of antidepressant treatment.
Daisy Lin, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow, will study the paternal age effect, the observation that advanced paternal age is associated with an increased risk of neuropsychiatric disorders in offspring.
Maria H. Milekic, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow, will investigate a possible mechanism to explain findings that suggest fathers over 40 years of age pose an increased risk for autism spectrum disorders in their children.
Torfi Sigurdsson, PhD, postdoctoral research scientist, aims to delineate how the anatomical connections between the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex are disrupted in schizophrenia, using a mouse model of cognitive deficits analogous to those in schizophrenia.
Ryan L. Subaran, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow, will attempt to help solve a debate regarding the genes contributing to major depressive disorder using advanced gene sequencing methods to identify causative variants of the genes under question.


Mailman School of Public Health
Lawrence H. Yang, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology, will assess how adolescents react to being designated high-risk for schizophrenia.


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