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Dudek to Receive A.E. Bennett Research Award

By Eddy Ball
April 2009

A.E. Bennett Award winner Serena Dudek
A.E. Bennett Award winner Serena Dudek (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS Principal Investigator Serena Dudek, Ph.D., will be honored on May 16 by the president of the Society of Biological Psychiatry at the 64th Annual Scientific Convention and Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia. The theme of the 2009 meeting is "Modern Neuroscience Methods to Understand Plasticity and Development of Psychiatric Disorders." Dudek, who joined NIEHS in 2001, is the head of the NIEHS Synaptic and Developmental Plasticity Group.

Dudek will receive the A.E. Bennett Research Award for basic science research in biological psychiatry. The awards are intended to stimulate international research in the field by young investigators.

Dudek was nominated by NIEHS Principal Investigator David Armstrong, Ph.D., acting chief of the Laboratory of Neurobiology. Armstrong praised Dudek as "one of the youngest luminaries in one of the most dynamic and distinguished fields in neuroscience..., [an investigator who has made] many important contributions to characterizing and understanding the mechanisms of synaptic plasticity in the developing brain."

Founded in 1945, the Society of Biological Psychiatry Exit NIEHS is the leading professional organization in the integration, advancement, and promulgation of science relevant to psychiatric disorders. It published the journal Biological Psychiatry, one of the most selective and highly cited journals in the field of psychiatric neuroscience. The A.E. Bennett Neuropsychiatric Research Foundation funds the annual awards of $2,000 each in basic science and clinical science.

After citing several examples of Dudek's "groundbreaking research on the mechanism of synaptic plasticity" in his nominating letter, Armstrong pointed to what he considers "perhaps her most important work to date, which was published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. Exit NIEHS The study found that long-term weakening of synaptic contacts could lead to synapse loss in hippocampal slice cultures, reflecting the driving force of experience on brain development. "Because the finding has important links to diseases such as schizophrenia that have synapse loss as a major component of the pathology," Armstrong continued, "this paper was highlighted by the Faculty of 1000 and was chosen by NIEHS leaders to be part of a congressional briefing on NIEHS research into potential targets of environmental toxicants that impair human cognitive potential."

Armstrong's nomination was supported by letters from John H. Gilmore, M.D., the Thad and Alice Eure Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and Charles F. Zorumski, M.D., the Samuel B. Guze Professor, head of Psychiatry, and professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

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