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Upstate pediatric mental health researchers receive $2.8 million federal grant

Researchers in the Department of Psychiatry at Upstate Medical University received a $2,895,964 award through the Mental Health Research Grants program at the National Institute of Mental Health to fund a project entitled “Longitudinal Family/Molecular Genetic Study to Validate Research Domain Criteria,” which will be completed over the next five years. This research could revolutionize the way that neuropsychiatric disorders are diagnosed in children, moving from a subjective model to one that has its roots in biology.

“We’re taking a fresh approach to the concept of ‘gene hunting,’” explains Stephen Glatt, PhD, director of the Psychiatric Genetic Epidemiology and Neurobiology Laboratory at Upstate and one of the directors of the grant. “Instead of assuming that current diagnoses have unique genetic underpinnings, we’re looking to redefine the disorders based on genetic variations and more basic cognitive abilities that might generalize across diagnostic boundaries.” Combining genetic data with cognitive performance may provide a better basis for a new diagnostic system that is less subjective than the one currently used.

Instead of studying one disorder in-depth, the study will seek genes that increase susceptibility toward a wide variety of childhood psychiatric disorders.  The researchers will analyze how disorders, genes and cognitive abilities run in families, and they hope to study 700 families over the course of the next five years. The aim is to study 500 families with one or more children with mental health concerns and 200 families with two or more children that are developing typically.

For more information, visit Psychiatric Genetic Epidemiology and Neurobiology Laboratory at Upstate.

Caption: Stephen Glatt, PhD, director, Psychiatric Genetic Epidemiology and Neurobiology Laboratory at Upstate Medical University and one of the directors of the grant.

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