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National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Jules Asher
National Institute of Mental Health

News Advisory

Videocast: Gene Shapes Efficiency of Brain’s "Executive"
What: The unfolding story of how a common version of a gene shapes the efficiency of the brain’s prefrontal cortex — hub of “executive” functions like reasoning, planning and impulse control — and increases risk for mental illness will be told by Daniel R. Weinberger, M.D., at this year’s G. Burroughs Mider Lecture, “Complex Genetics in the Human Brain: Lessons from COMT.”
Why: The lecture will be broadcast live on the web and later archived at http://videocast.nih.gov.
When: October 12, 2005, 3:00-4:00 p.m. ET.
Where: Building 10, Jack Masur Auditorium, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, Maryland, or http://videocast.nih.gov.

More Information: Weinberger will explain why such psychiatric genetics has proven to be a daunting challenge, using as an example the gene that codes for catecho-O-methyltransferase (COMT), the enzyme that breaks down the chemical messenger dopamine. A tiny variation in its sequence results in different versions of the gene. One leads to more efficient functioning of the prefrontal cortex, the other to less efficient prefrontal functioning and slightly increased risk for schizophrenia. New studies are revealing complex interactions between the tiny glitch and other variations within the gene, and with environmental events, such as teenage marijuana use, that may bias the brain toward psychosis.

Weinberger is Director of the Genes, Cognition and Psychosis Program at the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health. The program uses brain imaging, post-mortem analysis and molecular approaches to understand how genes work in the brain to produce schizophrenia.
See: http://calendar.nih.gov/app/MCalInfoView.aspx?EvtID=11488

Who Should Attend: Science and medical reporters, interested public.

Hosts: National Institutes of Health.

Note to Editors: Webcast url: http://videocast.nih.gov.
NIH Record story: http://www.nih.gov/nihrecord/2005/10072005Record.pdf#nameddest=story4.

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