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Laurier researcher earns grant for pioneering anti-depressant study
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Laurier researcher Elham Satvat, a post-doctoral fellow in the psychology department, has been awarded a $60,000 NARSAD Young Investigator Grant to help support her studies on the potential impact of anti-depressants on learning and memory – research that could have implications on how such drugs are prescribed.
“I feel very privileged to have received this grant from NARSAD. I hope it will help to lay the foundation for doing more in terms of future research,” said Satvat, who also holds a Postdoctoral Fellowship funded by the Ontario Mental Health Foundation at Laurier, in the laboratory of Diano Marrone, an assistant psychology professor at Laurier.
“More importantly, knowing that my research can be clinically relevant is very rewarding to me.”
New neurons involved in learning and memory are continuously generated in specific regions of the brain in a process known as “adult neurogenesis”. There is evidence that impaired neurogenesis underlies the pathology of depression. Anti-depressants help to reverse this by enhancing the generation of new neurons. However, it is not clear whether the new neurons induced by anti-depressants are fully functional and able to become involved in neuronal circuitry for normal cognitive processing.
Satvat will apply a fairly new genetic method called cellular compartment analysis of temporal activity by fluorescence in situ hybridization (catFISH) to investigate how the function of newly-born neurons is altered in terms of expressing genes that are involved in learning and memory function as a result of anti-depressant treatment.
Should this proposed research indicate that these drugs adversely affect functionality of new neurons and impact learning and memory, then caution should be taken in the prescribing of anti-depressants, especially for particular patient populations such as the elderly who are more vulnerable to cognitive decline.
NARSAD annually awards this grant to promising young scientists conducting neurobiological research. Research must be relevant to serious psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, or child and adolescent psychiatric disorders.