The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded a four-year, $9 million contract to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and five other academic medical centers to create a network of Treatment Units for Research on Neurocognition and Schizophrenia (TURNS). The research will test the effectiveness of new drug treatments for the cognitive deficits of schizophrenia. The project will be directed by Stephen R. Marder, M.D., at UCLA with investigators at Harvard's Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, Duke University, Durham, Washington University, St. Louis, and Nathan Klein Institute, New York.
Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disease. Approximately 1 percent of the population develops schizophrenia during their lifetime — more than 2 million Americans suffer from the illness in a given year. Although available medications are reasonably effective in treating the positive symptoms of the illness such as hallucinations and delusions, recent research indicates that cognitive impairments in areas such as attention, memory and problem solving are responsible for much of the disability associated with the disease.
"Unfortunately, the medications currently available do little to remedy this aspect of the illness. Consequently, many patients have serious residual symptoms and only one in five are able to recover sufficiently to work," said Thomas R. Insel, M.D., director of NIMH.
The NIMH approach is built on the assumption that progress in developing new treatments will require collaboration between the best academic, government and industry scientists. The TURNS is one component of a multipronged NIMH effort to stimulate academic and industry sponsored research focused on cognitive deficits in schizophrenia. It follows completion of the Measurement and Treatment Research for Cognition in Schizophrenia (MATRICS). The goals of MATRICS are to identify the most promising science-based ideas regarding the neurochemical basis of these deficits, and to achieve a broad academic, industry and regulatory agreement on the best way to measure cognition in clinical trials.