Mark A. Geyer, Ph.D.
Mark A. Geyer, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, and director of the Neuropsychopharmacology Unit of the Mental Illness Research, Clinical and Education Center at the VA San Diego Healthcare System, has been elected as a Fellow of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
An honor bestowed upon members by their peers, the AAAS Fellow designation was awarded to Geyer “for groundbreaking and extremely influential work in the development of an animal model of sensory gating deficits in schizophrenia,” the AAAS said in its announcement of the award.
Geyer and 307 additional 2004 honorees will be announced in the AAAS News & Notes section of the journal Science on October 29, 2004. He was the only UCSD faculty member elected this year. Current AAAS Fellows include more than 40 UCSD faculty members.
Geyer was elected as an AAAS Fellow for his work with animal models to study abnormalities in information processing experienced by schizophrenia patients. His goal is the development of better drug treatments for this devastating mental illness that affects more than two million Americans and one percent of the world’s population.
Schizophrenia patients have an inability to inhibit, or “gate” irrelevant stimuli. People are constantly bombarded with a multitude of external and internal stimuli, and most individuals are able to select those stimuli that are most relevant to current activities and goals, while screening out – or gating – irrelevant stimuli. Schizophrenia patients are unable to filter the trivial from essential information and stimuli in everyday sensory input. They, therefore, have troubles navigating in everyday life activities because they are easily distracted, confused and become disorganized.
In more than 30 years of research, Geyer and his colleagues and students have been able to demonstrate deficits in forms of sensorimotor gating in both humans and animals. He has been able to mimic in animals the gating deficits seen in patients by manipulating brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. He has accomplished this in rats by administration of several drugs of abuse, including hallucinogens and amphetamines, which elicit behavioral characteristics and brain chemistry that mimic the sensorimotor gating abnormalities in human schizophrenics.
Geyer was the first researcher to identify genetic models of gating deficits using mutant mice that have genetically engineered abnormalities in the same neurotransmitters that are affected by the drug administrations. Nothing that schizophrenic disorders are caused by a combination of genetic and developmental influences, Geyer also was the first to demonstrate that schizophrenia-like gating deficits are evident in adult rats that have been socially isolated as young animals, without the administration of any drugs. He and his students have used these rat and mouse models to study how antipsychotic drugs used to treat schizophrenics work and to identify new and improved drugs for these patients. Virtually all pharmaceutical companies searching for new antipsychotic medications now use his animal models of gating deficits in their drug discovery programs.
Geyer has been a member of the UCSD faculty since 1972, after receiving his Ph.D. in psychology from UCSD. His research is supported by multiple grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and a Distinguished Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD). He is co-chair of the Neuropharmacology Committee and chair of the New Approaches Committee of the NIMH/UCLA program called Measurement and Treatment Research to Improve Cognition in Schizophrenia (MATRICS), which works to establish a clear path to the registration by FDA of drugs for the amelioration of cognitive deficits in schizophrenia, independently of treating psychotic symptoms. Geyer has published more than 280 peer-reviewed papers and many invited reviews and chapters. He is currently an editor for the journals Psychopharmacology and Neuropharmacology, and on the editorial board of several other journals, and on the Scientific Council of NARSAD.
The tradition of AAAS Fellow began in 1874. The AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal, Science (www.sciencemag.org). AAAS was founded in 1848 and serves some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals.
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