2024 Basic Research Award

Sabina Berretta Named the 2024 Basic Research Awardee

Sabina Berretta M.D.; Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; Director of the Translational Neuroscience Laboratory, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School; Director, Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center (HBTRC), McLean Hospital; Member, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research.

Sabina Berretta, MD, began her research training at Institute of Human Physiology, University of Catania, Italy. In 1990, she joined the laboratory directed by Dr. A. M. Graybiel in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, where she worked on neural circuitry linking the motor cortex to basal ganglia. In 1997, Sabina moved to McLean Hospital - Harvard Medical School to work in the laboratory directed by Dr. F. Benes. There she developed an animal model designed to investigate GABAergic abnormalities in schizophrenia and developed her work on human brain tissue.

In 1999, Sabina became the director of the Translational Neuroscience Laboratory at McLean Hospital. She and her team conduct investigations on the biology and pathophysiology of psychiatric symptoms. Their studies focus on neural circuits involved in emotion processing, including the amygdala, prefrontal cortex, medial thalamus, entorhinal cortex and olfactory system. Her group has published extensively on the role of these brain regions in emotion dysregulation across several brain disorders. One of her most recent papers (Nature, March 6th 2024, in collaboration with Dr. Steve McCarroll) reports on a neuron/astrocyte coordinated program supporting synaptic plasticity in the human prefrontal cortex, and its disruption in schizophrenia and aging.

In 2014, Sabina became the director of the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center (HBTRC), one of six NIH NeuroBioBank sites. Her work with the HBTRC aims to make research on nervous system disorders possible. The HBTRC does this by collecting brain donations from persons suffering from neurological, psychiatric and neurodevelopmental conditions and distributing them to investigators across the world.

I receive the SIRS Basic Research Award with immense gratitude. A researcher is like a neural cell – on its own it is meaningless, it cannot function or even survive. It needs its immediate milieu, the cells surrounding it within its brain region, its intrinsic and direct connectivity and larger neural networks, all the way to the whole body and its environment to make an effective functional contribution. If I am able to make mine, to contribute to efforts to shed light on the biology of brain disorders with the ultimate hope of relieving suffering, it is only because I am a cell within an organism. An organism made by our research team in the lab (with whom I am fortunate to work every day), our collaborators and colleagues at McLean Hospital – Harvard Medical School, all SIRS members who so generously honor me with such a prestigious award, the research community world-wide – our larger neural network, and our society, providing resources to make research possible. To all, I owe my most deep-felt gratitude.

Our research in the lab is on the human brain, donated postmortem. I am profoundly indebted to all brain donors and their families, whose generosity, foresight and trust make research on brain disorders possible. This Award is dedicated to them.

A Message from Dost Ongur

I am delighted that Dr. Sabina Berretta has been recognized with the 2024 SIRS Basic Research Award. Dr. Berretta is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry (Neuroscience) at Harvard Medical School, director of the Translational Neuroscience Laboratory and director of the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center (HBTRC) at McLean Hospital.

Dr Berretta’s research focuses on the biological underpinnings of psychosis, emotion regulation, and its dysregulation in brain disorders. Her group uses a combination of human postmortem brain studies, primary cultures obtained from human postmortem brain and natural language processing-based algorithms applied to health records from brain donors' and live persons with brain disorders. A well-established line of studies in Dr. Berretta’s laboratory investigates the role of the extracellular matrix (ECM) in the dysregulation of brain activity. Over several years, her investigations have demonstrated markedly dysregulated expression of ECM components affecting the interactions between glia, neurons and ECM in schizophrenia. Her publications have inspired a growing field of work on the ECM in brain function and neuropsychiatric disorders. As the Director of the HBTRC, Dr. Berretta promotes rigorous research on brain disorders by overseeing and expanding a state-of-the-art brain tissue repository, including developing novel approaches and methodologies to research on postmortem human brain. The HBTRC is a national brain tissue repository funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) as part of the NeuroBioBank. It more than doubled its annual budget under Dr. Berretta’s leadership, allowing for substantial restructuring of the HBTRC space, website, database and staff architecture, as well as a growing collaborative network. Dr. Berretta has taken this national resource in schizophrenia research to new heights and the field benefits greatly from this contribution. Dr. Berretta is a global leader in schizophrenia basic scientific research. On a personal note, she is a deep and careful thinker who delves into complex challenges in her work, and when she publishes the results of her work we can all be assured that the best mind has done the best work on that topic. Dr. Berretta is a wonderful choice to receive the SIRS Basic Research Award. I congratulate her accomplishment for receiving this prestigious Award.

Wordpress Social Share Plugin powered by Ultimatelysocial