Prof. Brenhouse receives Exploratory/ Developmental Research Grant from NIH

Congratulations to Professor Heather Brenhouse, who recently received a grant from the National Institutes of Health! Prof. Brenhouse’s grant falls under the R21 funding mechanism, which is “intended to encourage exploratory/developmental research by providing support for the early and conceptual stages of project development.”

Prof. Brenhouse describes her plans for the grant as follows:

This $275,000 grant will fund research aimed to determine how to identify individuals that are at-risk for mental illness, and to reveal novel targets for prevention and treatment. Exposure to early-life stress is associated with risk for diseases like depression, schizophrenia and drug addiction, among others. These diseases are largely the result of dysfunctional activity in the prefrontal cortex region of the brain. However, there is currently no understanding of why many of psychiatric diseases linked to early life stress do not manifest until later in life–specifically, during adolescence. Furthermore, while some children who are abused or neglected go on to later suffer from mental illness, others do not. We have no way to know who will and who won’t, nor do we know how to intervene in order to prevent illness in the at-risk population. We recently determined that neuroinflammation is an important mechanism driving dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex after early life stress. Therefore, this research grant is aimed to test ways to identify¬†(with a rodent model)¬†individuals who are most at risk for later behavioral dysfunction by assessing early markers of inflammation and later brain development. We will investigate whether specific critical periods of stress exposure can differentially derail inflammatory and neural development. The project also aims to reveal molecular-level neurotransmitter receptor changes in the prefrontal cortex after early life stress that could drive behavioral deficits, and whether these changes can be reversed by modifying neuroinflammatory function.

Congratulations, Prof. Brenhouse!