"Agency: Nobel Winners Transformed Mental Health " 
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 "Agency: Nobel Winners Transformed Mental Health "

Monday October 9 5:48 PM ET
Agency: Nobel Winners Transformed Mental Health

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The three scientists awarded the Nobel prize
for medicine on Monday transformed understanding
not only of how the brain works, but of the underlying causes of
memory and of many mental illnesses, researchers say.

Their work with neurotransmitters -- the message-carrying chemicals
that brain cells use to communicate with one another --
showed just how complex the brain is, Dr. Steven Hyman, director of
the National Institute of Mental Health, said.

Paul Greengard of New York's Rockefeller University, Eric Kandel of
Columbia University, also in New York, and Swede
Arvid Carlsson, formerly of the University of Gothenburg, share the
nearly $1 million award, announced by Sweden's
Karolinska Institute.

``This prize recognizes work that is critical for understanding the
higher function of the brain, the complexity of the brain and
ultimately our ability to store memories,'' said Hyman, who added that
his institute had helped fund the work of Greengard and
Kandel for more than 30 years.

``Our bodies and brains are made up of about 100 million cells. The
way these cells talk to each other is by releasing a
chemical which talks to the next cell in the chain. There are more
than 100 of these known and one of first discovered was
dopamine,'' Hyman said.

``I am delighted that three neuroscientists have been recognized this
year for their seminal contributions to our understanding of
how signals are communicated between nerve cells,'' Dr. Story Landis,
Director of Intramural Research for the National
Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), another of the
National Institutes of Health that funded their work,
said in a statement.

``Each has provided an essential link in establishing the cascade of
biochemical reactions within nerve cells by which
neurotransmitters alter nervous system function. Further, their
studies clearly establish the relationship between molecules and
behavior. This adds up to tremendous leaps in our understanding of how
the human mind learns and remembers, paving the
way to advances in treating a host of neurological and psychiatric

Carlsson started the ball rolling more than 40 years ago by showing
how dopamine works in the brain, Hyman said.

``Dopamine has turned out, of all the neurotransmitters, to be the
most involved in common human illnesses including
Parkinson's, manic-depressive illness and schizophrenia,'' he said.

``A lot of the work of these investigators deals with the nitty-gritty
mechanisms by which short-term signals are turned into
long-term changes in the brain,'' Hyman added.

``That is important because those mechanisms are going to be targets
of development for better treatments for schizophrenia,
for mood disorders, for Parkinson's, for drug {*filter*}ion and many other
illnesses which in many ways are illnesses of neural

Parkinson's is caused when specific cells that produce dopamine in the
brain are destroyed. The result is a range of symptoms
from shakiness to difficulty moving. {*filter*} that make dopamine more
available can treat Parkinson's for a while, but there is no

In schizophrenia, researchers have discovered an excess of dopamine in
the brain.

At first using the sea slug but later working with mice, Kandel showed
memories are formed as a consequence of short and
long-term changes in the biochemistry of nerve cells.

Greengard found that dopamine and other neurotransmitters do not
simply turn neurotransmitters on and off, but alter their
functional state.

Sat, 29 Mar 2003 03:00:00 GMT
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