Professors Oscar Marín and Beatriz Rico have recently been awarded a prestigious MRC Programme Grant, ‘Understanding the contribution of cortical interneuron dysfunction to schizophrenia’.
Schizophrenia is a severely debilitating mental health condition that is often life-long and can permeate all areas of daily life. The treatments we have are inadequate and outdated, at best, largely because we don’t understand the aetiology of the disorder.
The evidence has amassed to strongly suggest that schizophrenia is a neurodevelopmental disorder that arises as a consequence of complex genetic and environmental interactions. What we do not yet know though is how exactly these factors converge to disrupt specific brain circuitries that lead to the emergence of symptoms.
In their grant, Oscar and Beatriz will develop animal models testing specific hypotheses on the neuronal circuit mechanisms underlying schizophrenia – research that is crucial given the impossibility of conducting such important experiments in humans. In particular, they will investigate how genetic and environmental disruption of inhibitory circuits in the cerebral cortex lead to schizophrenia-like alterations in mice.
Their research will be an important step to examine the consequences of converging genetic and environmental effects with the goal of identifying much-needed novel therapeutic targets.