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Brain research foundation lauds VU’s Winder, Park

Dec. 5, 2013, 8:59 AM

Vanderbilt University’s Danny Winder, Ph.D., professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, is among 15 scientists nationwide to receive NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grants this fall for their “cutting-edge” research.

The one-year, $100,000 grants are awarded by the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, formerly known as NARSAD, the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression.

Danny Winder, Ph.D.

A neuroscientist whose research focuses on addiction biology and synaptic plasticity, Winder was chosen for his work on corticotropin-releasing factor signaling in the BNST region of the brain. His work could lead to new therapeutic targets for depression.

Winder is among 10 current and former Vanderbilt faculty members who have won Distinguished Investigator grants since 1994.

Sohee Park, Ph.D., the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Psychology, received an award earlier this year for her study of novel social cognitive interventions for individuals with psychosis, including virtual reality exercises and simulations, to increase the level of engagement in individualized social training for real-life activities like job interviews.

“An exciting aspect of the awards is the degree to which they either attempt to answer an important question or help to identify new potentially game-changing targets for treatment,” Jack Barchas, M.D., chair of the Distinguished Investigator Grant Selection Committee, said in a news release.

Sohee Park, Ph.D.

“Even in the best of funding times they have been extremely important,” said Barchas, who also chairs the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. “Now they are absolutely essential for seed funding for new directions which would otherwise be impossible.”

Other current, full-time Vanderbilt faculty members who have received Distinguished Investigator grants are Randy Blakely, Ph.D., who has received two awards, P. Jeffrey Conn, Ph.D., Ariel Deutch, Ph.D., and Heidi Hamm, Ph.D. They, along with Park and Winder, are faculty members of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute.

Winder also is among 50 at Vanderbilt who received NARSAD Young Investigator Grants as post-doctoral fellows or assistant professors since 1990, and Park is among four Vanderbilt faculty members who have been awarded NARSAD Independent Investigator Grants.

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