Granted: Permission to Discover

Grants support groundbreaking research

Three Emory faculty members—the most of any university— received 2017 Distinguished Investigator Awards from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.

In addition to Professor of Psychology Patricia Brennan, one-year $100,000 grants were presented to J. Douglas Bremner and Andrew H. Miller, both of Emory’s School of Medicine.

The annual awards support creative, pioneering research toward the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of psychiatric disorders.

“One of the advantages of these foundation grants is that they are more willing to take risks by supporting new technology,” says Bremner, a professor of psychiatry and radiology and director of the Emory Clinical Neuroscience Research Unit.

Bremner’s research focuses on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and its relationship with the vagus nerve, the body’s longest, which runs from the brain stem to the abdomen and is responsible for many functions of the involuntary nervous system.

“Vagus is also involved in the regulation of inflammatory markers,” Bremner explains. “Elevated inflammatory markers can affect your health, mood, motivation. We see this in depression and PTSD as well.”

Direct electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve is sometimes used to treat depression, but the process is costly and delivers only modest benefits. Bremner is working on a noninvasive vagal nerve stimulation device that delivers electrical stimulation to the vagus through a patch applied to the neck.

There’s a revolution going on in immunology, according to Miller, the William P. Timmie Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, that has profoundly improved the treatment of many diseases including cancer, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

Miller’s research project, “Cellular Immune Mechanisms of Inflammation in Depression,” employs high-resolution, single-cell analysis of specific immune cells to determine the key molecules in the immune system that affect the brain.

By identifying immunologic biomarkers, ”we can then develop targeted immunotherapeutic strategies for depression and other psychiatric diseases,” he says.

Email the Editor

Share This Story