Campus News

February 2, 2011

Exploring the social brain

New center focuses on research discoveries, treatments for autism and schizophrenia

By Holly Korschun

Researchers in a new Emory center are increasing scientific understanding of the social brain and making discoveries about how brain biology influences normal social behaviors and social disorders. 
The Center for Translational Social Neuroscience (CTSN) will be the common ground for researchers who are translating discoveries in the laboratory into new treatment strategies for disorders such as autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia, in which social disruption is a core symptom.
These researchers will focus on drug discovery to reduce social deficits in autism and other disorders, and will utilize rodent models to nonhuman primate models to identify novel drug therapies. The researchers will also train the next generation of scientists who can translate discoveries made in animals into treatments for humans.

Neurobehavioral researchers at the new center include:

• Director Larry Young, chief of the Division of Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychiatric Disorders, Yerkes National Primate Research Center and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences (biology of social relationships and bonding);

Frans de Waal, director of the Living Links Center at Yerkes (primate social behavior);

Ami Klin, chief of the Marcus Autism Center and director of the Center for Autism Research in the Department of Pediatrics (early diagnosis) and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar; and

Stephen Warren, chair of the Department of Human Genetics in (genetics in autism).

Using multidisciplinary approaches and state-of-the-art technology, center scientists will explore the neurobiology of pro-social behaviors, including cooperation, compassion, bonding and social reciprocity. They will analyze genomics, cellular biology, systems neuroscience and behavioral biology.

"The CTSN will foster intellectual exchange and collaboration between basic and translational researchers and clinicians at Emory and across the Atlanta community," says Young. "Research in animal models has the potential to transform clinical practice, and research in clinical populations can provide novel insights into the organization of the social brain."

The center will provide a unique training opportunity for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and clinical residents through symposia, workshops, journal clubs and courses focused on integrating basic and clinical social neuroscience.

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