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Unraveling the mysteries of the brain

Alan Flurry

Georgia Magazine builds out a nice roundup of Parkinson’s research at UGA with implications ranging from the journey beloved former coach Mark Richt to the legacy of the late U.S. senator Johnny Isakson. Fundamental to the research and the breakthroughs that will follow is the Brain and Behavioral Sciences Program in the department of psychology:

As chair of the Behavioral and Brain Sciences Doctoral Program in the Psychology Department, [Jennifer] McDowell has spent decades trying to unravel the mysteries of the brain. And with the help of her team, she’s made a lot of progress. 

Growing up, McDowell was raised by a counselor mother and a scientist father. “I was always interested in the basis of depression or what causes schizophrenia. What drives the differences in people who experience these kinds of illnesses?” says McDowell, a professor of psychology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. 

Through her career in cognitive neuroscience, she gets to integrate the two fields, applying their techniques to her study of psychosis.

Psychosis is diagnosed based on clinical symptoms. But in McDowell’s lab, researchers are working to identify behavioral, cognitive, and biological differences in groups of patients who have been diagnosed.  

“Psychosis can have devastating consequences. Finding a way to more accurately categorize people with psychosis should lead to both better treatment strategies and better outcomes for patients,” she says. 

The Bio-Imaging Center has long been a vital campus resource, allowing researchers a more comprehensive understanding of the connections between behavior and disorders while helping the university continue to attract great faculty and graduate students. Seeing beyond inadequate treatment regimes and drugs represents the next frontier in mental health care. Thanks to these inspiring scholars and scientists, that tomorrow gets closer every day.

Image: chair of the Behavioral and Brain Sciences Doctoral Program Jennifer McDowell. Photo by Peter Frey/UGA

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