McLean neuroscientists in the Laboratory of Genetic Neuropharmacology, founded in 2005, are investigating receptors for a brain chemical involved in several psychiatric conditions as a route to new treatments. In addition, we are developing new mouse models for studying schizophrenia.
Abnormalities involving the brain chemical GABA, a calming neurotransmitter, are related to depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and other conditions. GABA is essential for balancing the activity levels in the brain. It binds to proteins called GABAA receptors—the targets for medicines used to treat anxiety disorders, insomnia, and seizures. Identifying the functions of GABAA receptors forms the scientific basis for drug development.
Current medicines for schizophrenia are unable to address cognitive deficits. We are developing mouse lines that carry mutations found in patients with schizophrenia—specifically copy number variations (CNV), in which segments of DNA are either duplicated or deleted. Using these mutant mice, we will study cognitive functions and develop interventions for improving cognitive deficits.