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National Institute Director Ranks UB Researcher's Work In Top Five Findings of 2011

Release Date: January 10, 2012

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The NIMH director cited as one of the year's top findings Dietz's research on how depression in families is passed on to the next generation.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Thomas R. Insel, MD, director of the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health, has selected research by a University at Buffalo professor as one of the top five most important findings of 2011.

In his Director's blog on the "NIMH's Top Ten Research Advances of 2011," Insel includes at number five "Epigenomics: How Experience Alters Behavior" and references research by David Dietz, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Dietz is lead author of a study published in the Journal of Biological Psychiatry, whose preliminary findings indicate that depression in families is passed on to the next generation primarily through behavioral interactions between parents and offspring, not through genetics.

"This recognition speaks to the quality and impact of Dr. Dietz's research," says Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, chair and professor of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. "We are proud to have Dr. Dietz as a faculty member at UB and look forward to his future discoveries."

The research, conducted by Dietz and co-authors at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, where Dietz had formerly been based, and Utrecht University in the Netherlands, also was presented at the annual meetings of the Society of Neuroscience in November and the American College on Neuropsychopharmacology in December. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Insel states in the blog: "Research suggests that epigenetics may also be a sort of programming language through which experience can have lasting effects on behavior, not only in an individual over a lifetime, but across generations. This effect was demonstrated in a 2011 study of male mice exposed to social defeat—repeated bullying by another aggressive male…The bullied males developed behavior resembling depression, and in subtle ways, so did their offspring. This was true even though contact between mother and bullied father was brief and took place well before the birth of the young, suggesting that epigenetic mechanisms played a role."

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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Ellen Goldbaum
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