Newly arrived NERF member Sebastian Haesler received a Brain & Behavior Research Foundation 2012 NARSAD Young Investigator Grant from the New York, USA-based nonprofit organization. The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation is committed to alleviating the suffering caused by mental illness by awarding grants that will lead to advances and breakthroughs in scientific research.
Schizophrenia and depression cause severe distress in affected individuals and strongly impair their daily functioning. Both brain and behavior disorders together affect about 10% of the American population and present a growing economic burden to society. The dopamine system in the brain, which is best known for its role in processing rewarding and aversive experiences, has been linked to both anhedonia, one of the core symptoms of depression and the positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Moreover, depression is highly comorbid with schizophrenia. However, the mechanism of how dopamine dysfunction relates to the observed symptoms in the two mental illnesses is currently not well understood. The funded research project will examine how the dopamine system performs neural computations related to reward processing, and explore the possibility of a common mechanism underlying the etiology of both mental disorders.