Brain & Behavior Research Foundation awards grants to three researchers

Three Washington University in St. Louis researchers have received Young Investigator Grants from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. The foundation is committed to alleviating the suffering caused by mental illness by supporting research that will lead to advances and breakthroughs in scientific research.

The $70,000 grants help junior investigators launch innovative basic, translational and clinical research studies that will help move the fields of psychiatry and neuroscience forward and ultimately improve the lives of those with mental illness. The researchers are:

  • Kirsten Gilbert Alberts, assistant professor of psychiatry at the School of Medicine. Gilbert aims to identify neural and behavioral characteristics that predict increased risk of child obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder and anorexia nervosa. This knowledge could help in developing interventions to lessen the severity, course and impairment of multiple child mental illnesses.
  • Keith Hengen, assistant professor of biology in Arts & Sciences. Studying how depression impacts neural networks in a key brain structure involved in affective regulation, Hengen aims to identify the set points that define healthy function and understand how they are compromised in disease. This could lead to novel targets for intervention in depression and anxiety.
  • Emma Johnson, postdoctoral research associate in psychiatry at the School of Medicine. Johnson is studying marijuana use during pregnancy. Using placental tissues along with information about birth outcomes, newborn and infant cognitive and emotional development, and brain structure, she is learning about the impact of prenatal cannabis exposure on placental epigenetics — an important mechanism through which genes are regulated.

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