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Release: Immediate

UI researcher receives $300,000 grant to study mental disease

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa researcher and his collaborators have received $300,000 from the EJLB Foundation to study the neurophysiology of brain cells. They hope their research leads to a better understanding of the neural basis of emotional disorders, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety disorders.

Ralph Adolphs, Ph.D., UI assistant professor of neurology, will lead the UI investigation along with collaborators Dr. Matthew Howard, UI associate professor of surgery, and Dr. Hanna Damasio, UI Foundation Distinguished Professor of neurology. In addition to the trio, the study will involve a team of other UI researchers trained in epilepsy, neurosurgery, neurology and neurophysiology.

Adolphs and his colleagues will work with patients who have depth electrodes implanted in their brains for monitoring seizures. Through the depth electrodes, the investigators will record the electrical activity of single neurons.

"This provides a very rare opportunity to carry out single-cell neurophysiology in awake humans," Adolphs said. "We are specifically interested in recording responses from a structure called the amygdala, which appears to be involved in emotions."

The UI team will compare their findings from the depth electrodes to the data obtained from other methods in humans and animals.

Adolphs' grant is one of seven that the EJLB Foundation funded this year. The EJLB Foundation funds international basic neuroscience research with the goal of gaining better insight into mental diseases. The UI project is expected to last three years.