University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Neurobiology, has received a Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Young Investigator Award, a prestigious grant that pays $35,000 a year for two years.Jennifer Tuscher, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Jeremy Day, Ph.D.,
This year’s awards — to what the BBRF calls “150 of the world’s most promising young scientists” — support the work of early career investigators with innovative ideas for groundbreaking neurobiological research that seeks to identify causes, improve treatments and develop prevention strategies for psychiatric disorders.
Tuscher will use her award to better understand which molecular adaptations initiated by drug use are necessary for the transition to the addicted state. Such work will provide important insights for the potential development of novel genetic and epigenetic therapies for addiction. This research begins with a hunt for the specific gene signatures initiated during persistent drug-taking in the brain’s nucleus accumbens, a key brain region involved in reward learning. Tuscher is one of the first authors of a landmark study on that topic published this summer by the Day lab and UAB colleagues.
In her BBRF-funded research, Tuscher will selectively modify the expression of multiple gene targets simultaneously, making it possible to test the requirements of complex gene programs in a model of volitional drug use. The proposed experiments will be the first to define the exact nature and scope of cell-type-specific gene signatures following sustained drug experience.
Tuscher earned her doctorate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she investigated the cellular and molecular mechanisms through which sex-steroid hormones, such as estradiol, regulate learning and memory.
The Young Investigator Awards are meant to fund innovative basic and translational research that improves understanding of psychiatric disorders. The funds can be used for reagents, research equipment, stipends and other expenses of an investigator’s project.
BBRF says this year’s awardees are studying some of the most challenging neurobiological conditions, including addiction, anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia, as well as research on suicide prevention.
“BBRF Young Investigators represent a new generation of scientists who will pioneer breakthroughs in mental health research,” said Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., president and CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. “With these grants, outstanding researchers are able to pursue bold new ideas to answer important questions or help identify potentially game-changing targets for treatment. The awards function as seed funding for new directions that would otherwise be highly unlikely.”