Garbled GABA and Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a devastating psychiatric disorder that affects one per cent of the population worldwide. It typically becomes manifest during late adolescence and early adulthood. Schizophrenia is estimated to have cost the Canadian economy $2 billion in 2004 alone.
Dr. Graziella Di Christo studies defects in the GABAergic circuitry, such as schizophrenia and epilepsy. GABAergic neurons produce GABA, a substance found in the central nervous system and a key element in the brain’s circuitry. When this circuitry stops working properly, several brain diseases start to loom.
As Canada Research Chair in Neural Circuit Development, Di Christo looks into the cellular and molecular mechanisms that form, mature and change parts of GABAergic synapses. Synapses not only get nerves talking to one another, they circulate information about how the body is supposed to work. If we understand how GABAergic synapses change, we can better understand how brain diseases begin.
Her larger goal is to further our understanding of how alterations in the GABAergic process may affect how the brain processes information. Ultimately, it could be at the root of complex brain diseases, and Di Christo’s research could help design a targeted treatment strategy.