Voelcker Academy

Research Symposium 2010


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Flor Cita Dunn

Translating the language of Mental Disorders: Using BACE1KO Mice as a Model of Schizophrenia

Flor Cita Dunn

Mentor: Dr. Consuelo Walss-Bass

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental illness that affects a person’s thinking, behaviors, and emotions. It is characterized by a number of positive symptoms (more distinct and abnormal behaviors) and negative symptoms (more passive decline in normal behaviors). Positive symptoms may include: hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, and disorganized speech and thoughts. Negative symptoms may include: lack of emotion, alogia (poor speech), anhedonia (loss of pleasure in formerly pleasurable activities), and avolition (absence of motivation). Schizophrenia is diagnosed by a clinician who evaluates the presence of symptoms, their persistence over time, and any occupational or social impairment that result from those symptoms. It can sometimes be difficult to properly diagnose the disorder because of the extensive list of DSM-4 criteria, which are identified on the basis of observation of phenotypical symptoms and overlap of symptoms with other disorders such as bipolar disorder and depression. As of today there is no blood test, MRI, or other biologically based diagnostic test to accurately confirm the diagnosis of schizophrenia. Our goal is to identify a biological marker behind the disorder. We are studying the genes and mutations involved in schizophrenia to be able to more easily diagnose the disorder and to better treat it.