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Sacramento, Calif.-ย— The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has selected Michael Minzenberg of UC Davis as a recipient of a 2009 Clinical Scientist Development Award for his pioneering work in treating schizophrenia.

A physician and assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Minzenberg studies the neurochemical systems that regulate cognitive, emotional and social processes and how this circuitry goes awry in personality disorders and schizophrenia. He is one of only 14 physician-scientists nationwide selected in 2009 to receive foundation support of $135,000 per year for three years for biomedical discoveries and their translation into new treatments, preventions and cures for human diseases.

The funding will help Minzenberg find out if a novel medication called modafinil, which elevates neurotransmitter functions, can restore cognitive processes that are impaired in schizophrenics. He will track the effectiveness of the drug using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the prefrontal cortex, which controls executive abilities such as planning, using rules, inhibiting inappropriate actions and prioritizing sensory input.

‘There are many effective treatments available for the psychopathology of schizophrenia, but relatively few for its ancillary effects,’ said Minzenberg. ‘This new funding will help advance the use of fMRI in determining if a promising medication can reduce or even alleviate altogether some of the persistent cognitive outcomes of the illness. I am deeply honored by the foundation’s support of this important work.’

The foundation’s Clinical Scientist Development Awards support projects addressing a variety of critical health issues. The funding is intended to help researchers establish project teams and protect a portion of their professional time for clinical research.

‘We are pleased to support the outstanding investigators who are recipients of this year’s Clinical Scientist Development Awards,’ said Ed Henry, president of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. ‘We hope the foundation’s grants will provide the stability and flexibility they need to help ensure the successful launch of their independent clinical research careers.’

The UC Davis Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences is rapidly expanding the understanding of psychiatric illness and ways to improve patient care through innovative basic science and translational research, clinical studies, medical education and clinical practice. Significant areas of expertise include addiction disorders, aging and mental health, anxiety and mood, neuroimaging, forensic psychiatry, and child and adolescent psychiatry.

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