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Vol. LVII, No. 18
September 9, 2005
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'Godfather of Synaptic Chemistry'
Snyder To Give NIH Director's Lecture, Sept. 14

 
Dr. Solomon Snyder  
Dr. Solomon H. Snyder, a long-time grantee of the National Institute of Mental Health and director of the department of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, will present the NIH Director's Lecture on Wednesday, Sept. 14 at 3 p.m. in Masur Auditorium, Bldg. 10.

In his lecture titled, "Messenger Molecules of Life and Death," Snyder will describe his most recent work on a newly discovered pathway that is pivotal for normal cell death to occur and strategies for blocking the process. His work in this area has implications for treating neurologic disorders such as stroke and neurodegenerative ailments such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. The lecture is sponsored by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Snyder, a psychiatrist by training, has been called the "godfather of synaptic chemistry" in reference to his groundbreaking work on synapses, the point at which one brain cell transmits a message to another through the release of chemicals called neurotransmitters. For decades, he pioneered discoveries about communication mechanisms within and between brain cells. His career has focused on understanding the cellular mechanisms by which neurotransmitters and drugs alter brain function.

His discovery of the opiate receptors — receptors in the brain that bind to morphine and other opium-based drugs — in the early 1970s was recognized with the Lasker Award and is widely credited with launching a generation of research into the class of neurotransmitters known as neuropeptides, receptors and behavior. His techniques and discoveries led to the design of new drugs to treat mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, depression and anxiety.

Snyder has also made contributions to understanding second messengers, which communicate information from hormones and neurotransmitters to the cell's interior. In particular, he identified and isolated the receptor for the second messenger IP3 and demonstrated its significance in regulating calcium in cells. In addition, he has worked on the molecular basis of smell, including identifying, isolating and cloning the odorant binding protein, which carries odorants from the air to receptors in the back of the nose.

More recently, his laboratory has uncovered important new roles for gases such as nitric oxide and carbon monoxide, and atypical amino acids, such as D-serine, which act like neurotransmitters.

Snyder first came to NIH as a college student to work with Dr. Donald Brown, a young research associate in the Laboratory of Clinical Science, NIMH, headed by Dr. Seymour Kety, a renowned researcher in biology-based psychiatry. Snyder graduated from Georgetown University School of Medicine in 1962 at age 23 and then spent 2 years as a research associate at NIH with Dr. Julius Axelrod, who later won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. He completed his psychiatric residency at Johns Hopkins in 1968 and became a full professor there in 1970. Since 1980, he has been Distinguished Service professor of neuroscience, pharmacology and psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, in addition to his role as director of the neuroscience department.

Snyder has received numerous professional honors and holds six honorary doctorates. In March 2005, he received the National Medal of Science, the nation's highest science honor, which was bestowed on him by President Bush at a White House ceremony. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the American Philosophical Society.

He is the author of more than 1,000 journal articles and several books, including Uses of Marijuana (1971), Madness and the Brain (1974), The Troubled Mind (1976), Biological Aspects of Abnormal Behavior (1980), Drugs and the Brain (1986) and Brainstorming (1989).

He serves on the editorial boards of eight publications, including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for which he is senior editor. He is a past president of the Society for Neuroscience. He has also been a member of the board of directors of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health for 12 years.

Snyder's lecture will be webcast at http://videocast. nih.gov. Sign language interpretation will be provided. For more information/accommodation, contact Hilda Madine at (301) 594-5595 or hmadine@nih.gov.

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