Anissa Abi-Dargham, Expert In Psychiatric Brain Imaging, Receives Narsad Award

NEW YORK - (June 11, 2008) Anissa Abi-Dargham, M.D., of Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI), has been selected by the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) to receive its prestigious Distinguished Investigator Award.

NARSAD, a leading charity dedicated to funding research on psychiatric disorders, will provide Dr. Abi-Dargham a one-year grant of $100,000 to advance her research on schizophrenia.

Anissa Abi-Dargham, M.D. Dr. Abi-Dargham is professor of clinical psychiatry (in radiology) at CUMC and director of the Division of Translational Imaging, NYSPI, and also directs Clinical and Imaging Research at the Lieber Center for Schizophrenia Research. She is one of 15 outstanding scientists receiving NARSAD’s 2008 Distinguished Investigator Award. This highly competitive grant program is designed for investigators of brain and psychiatric disorders who have established themselves as leaders in their fields.

Dr. Abi-Dargham will apply imaging technology to determine the value of treating patients who show symptoms of being potentially at high risk for schizophrenia before illness actually appears.

Evidence from imaging studies indicates the presence in schizophrenia of excess transmission of the neurotransmitter dopamine in subcortical areas of the brain. Currently, it is unknown whether such excess dopamine function is already present at the preliminary, or prodromal stage, in patients who will go on to develop schizophrenia, thus warranting antipsychotic treatment at that preliminary stage. If Dr. Abi-Dargham can ascertain this through PET imaging, a technology that is becoming widely available, it could develop into a clinically useful test for early detection and treatment and thus offer better prevention against severe psychosis.

“NARSAD awards enable bright scientists like Dr. Abi-Dargham to move their research forward in times when funding for research is so difficult,” said Lee Goldman, M.D., executive vice president for health and biomedical sciences at Columbia University and dean of the faculties of health sciences and medicine at CUMC. “On behalf of Columbia University Medical Center, I offer congratulations to Dr. Abi-Dargham on her receipt of this Distinguished Investigator Award.”

“Dr. Abi-Dargham exemplifies the kind of individual we try to single out for the Distinguished Investigator Award: an outstanding scientist, representing the very best in the field, with an important body of work behind her, and currently pursuing innovative and promising research,” said Herbert Pardes, M.D., president of NARSAD’s Scientific Council, who is also president and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. The council, comprised of 103 prominent neuroscientists, reviews the research proposals NARSAD receives and annually recommends grants.

“The work of Dr. Abi-Dargham is extremely impressive, and, like that of our other 14 Distinguished Investigator awardees, has very real potential to produce insights that will lead to new approaches to treatment for serious mental illness,” commented Jack Barchas, M.D., chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and chair of the committee that selected the winning proposals.

NARSAD’s 2008 Distinguished Investigator Award recipients are involved in a wide variety of vital research projects, ranging from the genetics of mental illness to innovative brain imaging studies. Their work should bring new scientific insight to such conditions as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety and childhood developmental disorders, as well as other disorders affecting adults and children.

This award was created to support highly significant research by established scientists—full professors or their equivalent—who are on the cusp of a breakthrough, or who are poised to test an innovative new idea that has the potential to make a significant advance in a given area of research.

NARSAD raises funds to advance research on the causes, treatment and prevention of psychiatric disorders. Since it began giving grants in 1987, as the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, NARSAD has awarded more than $234 million through 3,474 research grants to nearly 2,700 scientists at 428 institutions in the U.S. and 27 other countries. For additional information on the work of NARSAD, the research it supports, and various psychiatric disorders, visit the organization’s Web site at


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Abi Dargham, CUMC, Distinguished Investigator Award, NARSAD