Denver researchers recognized for brain and behavior studies

By Staff

Three University of Colorado Denver researchers have been awarded NARSAD (National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression) Young Investigator Awards for brain and behavior research. Those winning the award:

  • Kimberly L. D'Anna, Ph.D., will conduct an in-depth analysis of how prenatal stress exposure affects risk of schizophrenia in offspring. D'Anna will measure cortisol levels in a group of healthy pregnant women and correlate them with an early marker of brain development in infants, acoustic sensory gating. The ability of infants to gate external auditory stimuli, deficits in which are evident in schizophrenia, can help identify who may be at increased risk for the disease.
  • Jason Tregellas, Ph.D., will investigate why people with schizophrenia often have trouble paying attention to important information because they become distracted by irrelevant noises. In this study, he will analyze brain activity in schizophrenia patients in response to distracting noise as they perform a simple spatial attention task. He also will study the effects of distracting noise on neuronal responses during a higher-level executive function task involving working memory.
  • Kristin M. Wildeboar, Ph.D., is investigating why taking varenicline, a drug for smoking cessation, sometimes exacerbates psychiatric symptoms in schizophrenia patients, 80 percent of whom are smokers. She hypothesizes that a link exists between genetic variants of the neural receptor that varenicline targets and the worsening of symptoms in patients with schizophrenia.