Opening the Black Box of a Mental Crash
Schizophrenia affects more than one per cent of the population, regardless of social or cultural backgrounds. Today, it’s not yet possible to cure this disease, but a few of the symptoms can be alleviated, thanks to antipsychotic medications. Schizophrenia and the large number of closely related psychoses cause patients and their families enormous distress, and have a very high cost for Canadian society.
The schizophrenic’s brain, like everyone else’s, has neurotransmitters that communicate information between different areas of the brain. Two of these systems, the dopamine and glutamate systems, play roles in the biology of schizophrenia. However, even though incredible advances have been made in recent years, precise knowledge of nerve cells, their relationships, and their exact roles in integrated functions still represent a black box for modern neurobiology.
As Canada Research Chair in Neurobiology of Mental Disorders, Dr. Bruno Giros has been a pioneer in the molecular characterization, cloning and study of a large number of dopamine and glutamate receptors and transporters. These represent some of the main targets for widely used psychotropic drugs. He is also one of the leading scientists developing the first genetic models in mice that could allow us to link these molecules to integrated brain functions, and let us model certain types of psychosis.
Bringing together both fundamental research and clinical needs, Giros’ studies will keep focusing on the molecular networks made up of dopamine and glutamate receptors and transporters.
This comprehensive knowledge will let researchers develop and study refined animal models and identify new drug targets for antipsychotic medications for schizophrenia and other brain disorders and diseases. His work may help patients live relatively normal lives, and could eliminate some of the societal costs of a still-mysterious disorder that turns far too many young Canadian lives upside down.