Drs. Rafiq Huda and Max Tischfield are both Assistant Professors in the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience and have received the Young Investigator Award from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (BBRF). The two year grant supports early career scientists in establishing their scientific careers.
Dr. Tischfield will be examining sensory and cognitive disturbances that underlie attention deficit in Tourette Disorder. ADHD is highly comorbid with Tourette Disorder, and is a chronic aspect that is often more debilitating than tics themselves. He will study how specific loss of Celsr3, a gene highly linked to Tourettes, affects the reticular thalamus, as this brain region has been implicated in sensory processing, attention, and neuropsychiatric disease by training typical and mutant Celsr3 mice in an attention task called the Five Choice Serial Reaction Time Task, in which mice must learn to pay attention to brief light stimulus to receive a food reward. This task has been used in humans with Tourette's, but this will be the first use of the task in genetic mouse models for the disorder.
Dr. Huda will be researching how PFC processing contributes to alcohol-related behaviors. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) exacts a major personal, economical, and societal toll. Given its high lifetime prevalence (~20%), there is an urgent need to understand the underlying neurobiological mechanisms to develop novel therapeutic strategies for treating AUD. The brain's interoceptive system coordinates the perception of internal bodily processes associated with physiological stress and arousal and contributes significantly to negative emotional states that drive compulsive alcohol use. Thus, interoceptive neural circuits represent a potential target for mitigating the effect of aberrant physiological signaling on compulsive alcohol use. He will be researching how a component of the interoceptive system, the anterior cingulate cortex, contributes to alcohol-related behaviors. These experiments will define novel cortical mechanisms of aberrant interoceptive processing that contribute to compulsive alcohol use and lay the groundwork for developing novel neural circuit-based therapies for AUD.
(from left: Dr. Rafiq Huda, Dr. Max Tischfield)
BBRF Young Investigator Grants provide each scientist with up to $35,000 per year for two years totaling $70,000 to enable promising investigators to either extend research fellowship training or begin careers as independent research faculty. The goal of the YI program is to help researchers launch careers in neuroscience and psychiatry. Since 1987, BBRF has awarded more than $269 million in Young Investigator Grants around the world.