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Distinguished Scientist Lecture March 31, 2017, 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm Starzl Biomedical Science Tower, Room S120

Unique Molecular Regulation of the Newly Evolved Prefrontal Circuits Afflicted in Schizophrenia: Exposing Vulnerabilities

 Amy F. T. Arnsten, PhD

 Professor of Neuroscience and Psychiatry
Yale University School of Medicine






Dr. Amy F.T. Arnsten is Professor of Neuroscience at the Yale University School of Medicine and a founding member of the Kavli Institute of Neuroscience at Yale. Her interests in the neurobiology of mental disorders began when she was still in college, volunteering at the Greystone Park State Hospital in New Jersey.

Dr. Arnsten received her B.A. with Honors in Neuroscience from Brown University in 1976 (creating the major in Neuroscience), and her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of California, San Diego in 1981. Following her doctoral studies, Dr. Arnsten performed a brief post-doc with Dr. Susan Iversen at the University of Cambridge in England, and then joined the lab of Dr. Patricia Goldman-Rakic at Yale University in 1982, whose pioneering work revealed the neurobiological basis of working memory in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC). Arnsten joined the Yale faculty in 1986 as an Assistant Professor. Her research elucidates the molecular mechanisms that dynamically regulate the strength of dlPFC network connections, with the overarching goals of understanding how insults lead to cognitive impairment, and how pharmacological treatments can restore and protect dlPFC function. Her lab utilizes a range of techniques- e.g. multiple label immunoelectron microscopy and in vivo single unit recording with iontophoresis, to identify the intracellular signaling mechanisms that rapidly alter network strength. Arnsten’s research has revealed that the molecular mechanisms that evolved in primate cortex to enhance mental flexibility, confer vulnerability when there is loss of regulation due to genetic or environmental insults. Her work has led directly to new treatments for prefrontal disorders now in widespread clinical use: (1) guanfacine (IntunivTM), approved by the FDA for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and also used off-label to treat a broad spectrum of prefrontal disorders; and (2) prazosin, a compound which protects the prefrontal cortex from the deleterious effects of stress in animals, and is used in patients, veterans and active duty soldiers with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Dr. Arnsten received an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award in 2013, and the Goldman-Rakic Prize for Outstanding Research in Cognitive Neuroscience in 2015. 

Learning Objectives.  At the conclusion of this lecture, participants will be able to:

  1. Understand the neuronal circuits in prefrontal cortex that generate mental representations needed for abstract thought, and are most afflicted in schizophrenia.
  2. Describe the unique molecular regulation of these circuits that render them especially vulnerable to atrophy, e.g. with stress exposure.
  3. Understand how genetic insults in schizophrenia may impact these circuits, and strategies for pharmacotherapies to protect these circuits based on this new knowledge.

Continuing Education Credit:  The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.  The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine designates this educational activity for a maximum of 1.5 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditsTM.  Each physician should only claim credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.  Other health care professionals are awarded .15 continuing education units (CEUs), which are equal to 1.5 contact hours.  In accordance with Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education requirements on disclosure, information about relationships of presenters with commercial interests (if any) will be included in materials which will be distributed at the time of the conference.  WPIC is approved by the American Psychological Association to offer continuing education for psychologists.  WPIC maintains responsibility for this program and its contents.  This program is being offered for 1.5 continuing education credits. 

For more information regarding this lecture, please contact Frances Patrick at