MGH Research Scholars Program
The MGH Research Scholars Program was established to support early career researchers with innovative yet unproven ideas that have the potential to transform the future of medicine. Funded 100% through philanthropy, this program gives researchers the freedom and flexibility they need to follow the science wherever it leads. History has shown that brilliant scientists who are given free rein to explore new frontiers make the greatest, often unexpected, advances.
Dara Manoach, PhD, is looking for new strategies to treat schizophrenia by targeting brain wave patterns produced in the brain known as sleep spindles.
Abnormal Sleep Spindles in Schizophrenia: Treatable Endophenotypes that Link Risk Genes to Impaired Cognition
Schizophrenia affects 1% of the population worldwide and the largest share of its staggering cost results from unemployment due to cognitive disability.
Although sleep plays a critical role in cognition, abnormal sleep has generally been overlooked as a potential contributor to cognitive disability in schizophrenia.
This oversight is important as effective treatments for cognitive disability are lacking and abnormal sleep is a potential treatment target.
My group demonstrated that patients with schizophrenia have impaired sleep dependent memory and linked this deficit to a profound reduction in sleep spindles, which are brain waves that enhance memory during sleep.
We also showed that the sleep spindle deficit in schizophrenia can be treated. Our present research involves examining sleep spindles and their relation to memory in young at-risk relatives of schizophrenia patients. This will determine whether spindle deficits are a marker of genetic vulnerability to schizophrenia and will inform strategies aimed at prevention.
We are now using genetic information to identify the brain bases of spindle deficits and to develop and test treatments for spindle-related cognitive deficits. This research program has the potential to transform the understanding and treatment of schizophrenia, to prevent its onset and to improve its outcome.