Lawson associate scientist Dr. Lena Palaniyappan has won the Canadian College of Neuropsychopharmacology (CCNP)’s 2017 Young Investigator Award for outstanding contributions to the field of neuropsychopharmacology.
The Young Investigator Award is given for basic research or clinical research in alternating years. This year’s award was presented for clinical research. Scientists who have completed their post-doctoral or residency training 10 years ago or less are considered for the award.
Dr. Palaniyappan uses neuroimaging tools to study the processes that operate in the brain when patients experience symptoms of mental illness, including psychosis – repeated voices or visions (hallucinations) and disturbing thoughts (delusions). For many patients, it is not possible to prevent psychosis or reverse the condition fully. Through their research, Dr. Palaniyappan and his team are working to fully characterize the illness and create new treatments.
Recently he led a study that showed it is possible to use information from the brain’s connectivity maps to alter the chemistry of selected brain regions. The hope is that this approach can be used to target precise areas of dysfunction rather than altering the properties of the entire brain to treat psychiatric symptoms.
“Receiving this award highlights the importance of brain imaging in discovering new therapies for brain-based disorders,” says Dr. Palaniyappan. “I feel very inspired looking at the achievements of past recipients as many of them have gone on to change how we think about the brain and mind.”
Dr. Palaniyappan is the medical director of the Prevention and Early Intervention Program for Psychoses (PEPP), a community-focused mental health program located at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC). He is also an associate professor at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.
“With the increasing sophistication of tools to understand the mysteries of the human brain and the world-renowned expertise available in London, there has never been a better time to study psychiatric disorders,” adds Dr. Palaniyappan. “I hope we will soon be able to use brain scans to provide patient-specific information on prognosis and monitor the effects of treatments.”