Neurobiology and Behavior Research

Neurobiology and Behavior Research

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  • Neurobiology and Behavior Research

    The past 20 years has brought enormous advances in fields of science that contribute to our understanding of the biology of psychiatric illnesses and their treatment. However, the great expansion of information in "psychiatric neuroscience" has been reductionistic in nature, i.e. there has been an accumulation of extensive details of the molecular nature of biological processes that contribute to brain function.

    Despite the flood of knowledge in molecular neuroscience, our understanding of how molecular events lead to normal and abnormal behavior remains enigmatic. The faculty of the Division of Neurobiology and Behavior Research (DNBR) are engaged in research activities designed to build bridges between cellular/molecular events and behavior. These efforts can be described best as "forward" and "reverse" translational psychiatry research.

    Psychiatry research that is forward translational attempts to explain how neuronal activity, beginning at the molecular level, 'translates' to elicitation of behavior, and to utilize this information to develop new or better pharmacological treatments for psychiatric illnesses. Reverse translational research in psychiatry attempts to determine the molecular underpinnings that contribute to the expression of abnormal behavior. Inherent in the latter research are efforts to elucidate the pathology of psychiatric illness at the level of molecular neurochemistry (including genomics) or neuroanatomy. The discovery of human brain abnormalities associated with psychiatric disease, whether morphological or at the level of the transcriptome, does not imply a cause of illness.

    Therefore, researchers must take human pathological findings "back to the bench" in order to understand them. That is, these findings must be interpreted in the laboratory using non-human systems (cell culture, animal models) in order to investigate their molecular pathogenesis and their relationship to abnormal behavior.

    In the DNBR, numerous psychiatric illnesses are under study, including major depression, schizophrenia, substance abuse disorders, sleep disorders, and Alzheimer's disease. The outcome of the Division's research activities carries the promise of novel and/or improved approaches to the treatment of psychiatric illnesses. Most of the faculty members of the DNBR are located in the first floor of the Arthur C. Guyton Laboratory Research Building at the University of Mississippi Medical School. Psychiatry residents have the unique opportunity to participate in basic/clinical research activities of the DNBR as a part of a research elective in the Residency Training Program.

    The Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior initiated the organization of the Graduate Program in Neuroscience in 2007. The Program in Neuroscience (PIN - is an interdepartmental collaborative PhD training program that includes 42 faculty members from 15 departments across the UMMC campus and is directed by Dr. Ian A. Paul, professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior. The PIN receives administrative support from the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior and the Center for Psychiatric Neuroscience as well as generous stipend support from the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences and currently trains 10 PhD and 1 MD/PhD students. All of the faculty in the DNBR, along with faculty in the Division of Psychology, participate in the PIN teaching and research training. In addition, Psychiatry residents have the unique opportunity to participate in basic/clinical research activities of the PIN and DNBR as a part of a research elective in the Residency Training Program.

    Faculty currently receive generous support from the University of Mississippi Medical Center, as well as external support from the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Drug Abuse, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, the Alzheimer's Association, and numerous pharmaceutical manufacturers. The Division currently has nearly $20 million in external research support, most of which comes from the National Institutes of Health. The division is also home to the Center for Psychiatric Neuroscience.