2023 Research Fund Awardee

SIRS Awards the 2023 Research Fund Award

SIRS is committed to directly supporting early career researchers who have important and novel ideas that may have immediate effects on improving the lives of people with schizophrenia. SIRS established a Research Fund Award for this purpose. The award is intended to provide research funds for junior investigators who have an important idea or hypothesis to test but are lacking in research funds to do so.

The Schizophrenia International Research Society (SIRS) has awarded the 2023 Research Fund Award to two individuals:

Awardee #1: Caitlin Ridgewell, M.P.H., Ph.D.
NIH T32 Postdoctoral Scholar
Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorders Program
McLean Hospital

A message from Professor Cheryl Corcoran, Awards Committee Chair
There is a need for improved therapeutics for schizophrenia beyond current antipsychotics, which are nearly all dopamine antagonists. One target is gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) inhibitory neurotransmission, which modulates both dopaminergic and glutamatergic excitatory neurotransmission. A corresponding promising treatment is supplementation with allopregnanolone, a naturally occurring neurosteroid metabolite of progesterone that is a robust GABA agonist and which additionally is neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory. Allopregnanolone levels are low in schizophrenia, but its association with positive symptoms, cognitive deficits and stress sensitivity remains unknown. For this award and pilot study, Dr. Caitlin Ridgewell will conduct an auditory startle stress test in a cohort of 20 individuals with schizophrenia and 10 age and sex matched controls, and determine the effects of stress on serum allopregnanolone, and corresponding changes in psychotic symptom severity and executive function. If an effect is found, including in replicated studies, then allopregnanolone supplementation may benefit some individuals with schizophrenia, especially those with stress-related symptoms and cognitive impairment. We wish Dr Ridgewell every success with her project!

Awardee #2: Kiran Basawaraj Bagali, DPM, DNB in Psychiatry

PhD Scholar and Clinical Research Training Fellow
Department of Psychiatry, NIMHANS, Bengaluru, India

A message from Professor Cheryl Corcoran, Awards Committee Chair
Non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) has been a promising avenue for therapeutics in schizophrenia, especially for its cognitive impairment. Little is known, however, about whether NIBS could also specifically improve language impairment in schizophrenia. An appropriate target is the bilateral anterior temporal lobes (ATL), which act as a “semantic hub” for “semantic cognition”, which is the ability to use, manipulate and generalize knowledge to support verbal and non-verbal behavior. In schizophrenia, there are impairments in both semantic retrieval and verbal fluency, which could plausibly improve with targeted stimulation of the “semantic hub.” In this open-label proposal, Dr. Bagali will apply two sessions of one-hour intermittent theta burst stimulation (iTBS) to MRI-located left ATL in individuals with schizophrenia with the goal of remediating their verbal fluency impairments. Secondary outcomes of interest include natural language processing (NLP) indices of lexical diversity, symptoms, and social function, as well as functional connectivity and task-related activation in the ATL. This study is important as there are few evidence-based treatments to improve language production in schizophrenia, impairment of which causes significant impairments in function. We wish Dr. Bagali the best of luck in his proposal!



Professor Cheryl Corcoran

Awards Committee Chair

Support the Research Fund Award

The SIRS Research Fund Award has proven invaluable to supporting the research development of early career researchers. Through past donations, SIRS has provided three research fund awards to junior investigators. The 2019 awardee, Yoji Hirano of Kyushu University in Japan, used an MRI biofeedback method to alleviate auditory hallucinations in patients. The 2020 SIRS Research Fund Award went to Leandro Valiengo from Sao Paolo, Brazil. The funds enabled the use of a unique non-invasive procedure called biophotomodulation in a treatment trial for alleviating the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. The 2021 funds went to Dr. Vuyokazi Ntlantsana from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and were used towards a Brief Relaxation, Education and Trauma Healing (BREATHE) in patients with first episode psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder. In 2022 the funds went to Dr. Kwun Nam Chan from the University of Hong Kong in China. Now in 2023, the funds were awarded to two individuals, Dr. Caitlin Ridgewell at McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA and Kiran Basawaraj Bagali at NIMHANS in Bengaluru, India.

It is estimated that 1 in every 100 people in the world live with schizophrenia. Even more live with psychosis. Now more than ever there is a need for increased research funding for schizophrenia research around the world. Consider supporting early career researchers and junior investigators with project ideas that would improve the lives of people with schizophrenia by donating to the SIRS research award.

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