Schizophrenia research nets HBI member CIHR award
HBI member, Vina Goghari’s research on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder has won her recognition from the Canadian government in the form of a prestigious Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) New Investigator Award.
Given to Canada’s brightest young researchers in the early stage of their careers, the New Investigator Award is a salary award providing select scholars with $60,000 a year for a five year period. The award protects 75 per cent of Goghari’s time for research.
In Goghari’s case, it was her research on neuroimaging the brains of people with schizophrenia and investigating how those brain abnormalities relate to their difficulty in social settings that netted her the coveted career development award.
Neuroimaging is a way of looking at the brain in vivo.
“We can look at the brain’s structure and at what parts of the brain are active when a person is engaging in certain types of behavior,” explains Goghari. She is currently on sabbatical in London, U.K. expanding her skill set at an international centre on psychosis research.
“We know these disorders are associated with brain dysfunction. This methodology actually lets you look at the brains of people with schizophrenia when they’re doing certain things, like looking at the faces of others and processing that information, to see how their brains compare with people who don’t have these difficulties.”
Better understanding this is invaluable, says Goghari, because “the better we understand the biological markers of what’s happening in the brain, the better chance we have of developing a targeted intervention.”
The CIHR New Investigator Award is not the only honour bestowed upon Goghari this year. She also received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Development Grant. With this she has begun a study on the development of adolescents’ ability to understand the mental states of others and how that may relate to both empathy and bullying.
Both achievements are important to Goghari. “It tells me: ‘You’re doing important work,’” she says. “The kind of work that Canada wants to invest in.”
Head of the University of Calgary’s department of psychology David Hodgins agrees. “I think it’s a feather in Vina’s cap to have her productivity and potential recognized and supported,” he says. “She’s really doing interesting things.”
By Heath McCoy
Posted August 14, 2012