NMU Studies New Class of Schizophrenia Drugs
NMU has secured a three-year, $185,000 grant from the National Institutes of Mental Health for research on a new class of medications that might offer a better treatment for schizophrenia.
Adam Prus (Psychology) will lead the study. He said schizophrenia medications are generally effective in controlling paranoia and hallucinations—the most common symptoms associated with the disease—but they are less successful in targeting cognitive deficits. Schizophrenia can adversely impact attention and short- and long-term memory, leading to extremely high unemployment rates and homelessness.
“We’re going to test a new class of drugs to see if they can specifically address the cognitive symptoms,” Prus said. “Some of the drugs were made by a researcher at Mayo Clinic we’ve been collaborating with and the others are from Parke-Davis [a subsidiary of Pfizer]. Ours is the only lab I’m aware of that will focus on whether these drugs will improve cognitive functioning. We’ll conduct memory and attention studies in laboratory rats to see if performance improves. We will also study the neurochemical actions taking place in the brain when the drugs are on board to see if they alter activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is the critical region for memory and attention.”
Prus said there were two goals associated with this particular NIMH grant: funding the research project and training students at universities the size of Northern as opposed to the large research institutions.
“We had to address how we would involve undergraduate students,” he said. “There will be 10-15 students in the lab every semester and this grant will enable us to pay them hourly wages to work on the project. They will receive a good training program in biomedical research.”