The Department of Psychiatry has basic research programs in several different areas. There is a major emphasis on understanding the full biological activity of antipsychotic drugs. This includes the induction of weight gain and diabetes by second-generation (atypical) antipsychotics, and the enhancement of neurite outgrowth and cell viability by atypical drugs such as olanzapine and clozapine. Novel mechanisms of drug action are being investigated at the molecular and cellular levels. We have identified important kinase signaling pathways (Akt and ERK) that are impacted by the atypical drugs. In addition, the department has an active research program focused on the use of model organisms, specifically the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, to study the effects of antipsychotic drugs on lipid metabolism and neuronal development. This work has led to significant new observations linking the drugs to calcium-calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II signaling, serotonin production, and behavioral adaptation. The department is also active in drug discovery research with the goal of producing the next generation of antipsychotic drugs. This effort includes biological screening of chemical libraries, molecular modeling, and the design of novel lead compounds. Various faculty, residents, graduate students, and research associates have contributed to this work over the years. Exciting research opportunities are available for residents, especially in the third and fourth years of the residency program.
Current researchers involved in the psychiatry program:
Donard S. Dwyer, Ph.D.
Eric Aamodt, Ph.D. (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology)