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Vol. LVII, No. 20
October 7, 2005

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Weinberger To Give Mider Lecture, Oct. 12

The unfolding story of how common versions of a gene shape the
Dr. Daniel R. Weinberger  
efficiency of the brain's executive hub and increase risk for mental illness will be told by Dr. Daniel R. Weinberger at this year's G. Burroughs Mider Lecture, "Complex Genetics in the Human Brain: Lessons from COMT," Oct. 12 at 3 p.m. in Masur Auditorium, Bldg. 10. Weinberger is director of NIMH's Genes, Cognition and Psychosis Program, which uses brain imaging, post-mortem analysis and molecular approaches to understand how genes work in the brain to produce schizophrenia.

Weinberger will explain why such psychiatric genetics has proven to be a daunting challenge, using as an example the gene that codes for catecho- O-methyltransferase (COMT), the enzyme that breaks down the chemical messenger dopamine. A tiny variation in the gene results in different versions. One leads to more efficient functioning of the prefrontal cortex, the executive hub, the other to less efficient prefrontal functioning and slightly increased risk for schizophrenia. New studies are revealing complex interactions between the tiny glitch and other variations within the gene and with environmental events such as teenage marijuana use that may bias the brain toward psychosis.

At the end of 2003, Science magazine ranked this and related lines of research as the second most important scientific breakthrough of the year.

Weinberger began his NIMH career in 1977 at NIMH's research center at St. Elizabeths Hospital. He was founding chief of the NIMH Clinical Brain Disorders Branch, which moved to the Clinical Center in 1998. His group has pioneered studies on the role of abnormal brain development in schizophrenia, defined dysfunctional neural systems and identified genetic mechanisms of risk and genetic effects that account for variation in human cognitive functions and temperament.

Board-certified in both psychiatry and neurology, Weinberger is a member of National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, is current president of the American College of Psychopharmacology and sits on the editorial boards of 16 scientific journals. He has degrees from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and did a psychiatric residency at Harvard University Medical School and a neurology residency at George Washington University. He has published over 400 scientific articles and authored or edited six books.