West Virginia Universitys Dr. Han-Ting Zhang has received the 2008 Young Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD), the world’s leading donor-supported organization dedicated to funding psychiatric disorder research.

Zhang, an assistant professor in the WVU Department of Behavioral Medicine, will receive $60,000 over the next two years to study neurogenesis and the possible development of new antidepressants.

In the brain, new neurons are continually born throughout adulthood. During this process, called adult neurogenesis, many of the new neurons die shortly after their birth, but a number of them survive and are integrated into the surrounding brain tissues.

The function of neurogenesis is not clear,Zhang said.However, we do know that neurogenesis is involved in the mediation of antidepressant activity. Im hoping to find a way to use an enzyme to regulate this process of neurogenesis and antidepressant activity.

Zhang hopes his work will lead to new medications for treating depressive disorders, which affect 17 million people in the United States.

NARSAD created the Young Investigator Award to help the most promising scientists who are now entering research (i.e., postdoctoral fellows, advanced-standing medical residents and assistant professors) to generate pilot data necessary for larger grants.

The young scientists who participate in our grant program represent the very best in their respective areas of expertise, NARSAD President Geoff Birkett said.Their work will accelerate progress in the study of all areas of psychiatric disorders and is leading not only to better treatments but also, we are confident, to cures.

For more information on the WVU Department of Behavioral Medicine, visitwww.hsc.wvu.edu/som/bmed.