Program For Genetics and Psychoses

Principal Investigator: Vishwajit L. Nimgaonkar

Our Mission....

To identify genetic variants and environmental factors conferring susceptibility to severe psychiatric disorders,so as to understand their pathogenesis to enable rational therapeutics, genetic counseling and prevention.

The Program for Genetics and Psychoses was established with the dual goals of finding better treatment for severe mental illness and to train persons interested in conducting mental health research. Over the past twenty five years, both goals have expanded considerably. In order to find better treatment, we initially sought to find genetic factors that increase risk for mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. This work has now extended to research into environmental factors, such as viral infectious agents that cause brain damage. We are also investigating drug based and therapy based treatments for schizophrenia. Our training initially focused on US citizens; it has now extended to several nations. We have trained psychiatrists and research scientists from India and Egypt who have returned to their home institutions and now have independently funded research units. We have also trained visiting scientists from Korea and Turkey. While our initial training was geared towards post-doctoral trainees and senior researchers, we now train graduate students and undergraduates.

Our current projects have various goals. Research underway in Egypt explores the potential beneficial effect of adjunctive treatment with Sodium Valproate in improving clinical symptoms and cognitive function among persons diagnosed with schizophrenia. In India and the U.S., we are exploring the same potential benefits of Valacyclovir treatment, as there are some preliminary findings which indicate the HSV 1 virus, typically treated with Valacyclovir, may have a detrimental effect on cognition. In our laboratory, we are studying induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and the effect of viral infections on the brain. We also conduct gene expression studies, seeking to better understand the underlying genetic factors that may create a predisposition to mental illness. Please explore our website for more information on our studies.


Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, 3811 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213