Michael Platt Earns NIH Award for Neural Circuitry Work

May 3, 2016

Michael Platt, James S. Riepe University Professor, has received a five-year, $2.9 million Method to Extend Research In Time, or MERIT, award from the National Institute of Mental Health to continue his work on the neural circuits that mediate complex social cognition. Program staff and scientific advisory board members within the NIH nominate candidates for these awards, which go to fewer than 5 percent of NIH-funded investigators across all disciplines.

Platt’s research funded by this grant aims to optimize and understand treatments for people with disorders like autism, social anxiety or schizophrenia who often have trouble with basic social functions such as following another person’s gaze. The scientific community studying these often looks to brain imaging or post-mortem analysis, but those methods frequently lack insight into the actual neurophysiology at play.

“These are the kinds of social behaviors that are difficult to model in mice or other animals that don’t pay attention to each other in the way people do,” Platt said. “What we’ve been developing for a long time are non-human primate models in which all of these behaviors are observed and in which we can actually monitor and manipulate neurological activity in the same circuits identified in people as important.”

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