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Yerkes Researcher Receives Prestigious Freedman Award

October 15, 2009

Media Contacts

Emily Rios, 404-727-7732,; Kathi Baker, 404-727-9371,

The National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD), the leading charity supporting research on mental illnesses, recently presented its 2009 Freedman Award to Kerry Ressler, MD, PhD, associate professor of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine.

Ressler, who is also a researcher at Emory’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and a member of the Atlanta-based Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, was chosen for “recognition of his research in mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.”

The Freedman Award honors outstanding basic psychiatric research initiated by early career scientists who have received NARSAD grants. Ressler received NARSAD Young Investigator grants in 2002 and 2005.

“This is a well-deserved award for Dr. Ressler,” says Stuart Zola, PhD, director of the Yerkes Research Center. “He is a leader in the field and a role model for translating basic research into clinical applications to improve human health. His colleagues at Yerkes and Emory join me in congratulating him.”

Ressler’s research is focused on uncovering the biological mechanisms that cause fear. He believes the keys to preventing and treating fear and anxiety lie in understanding the genetics and neurobiology that control emotion and emotional learning.

In partnership with researchers Michael Davis, PhD, Yerkes Research Center and Emory University School of Medicine, and Barbara Rothbaum, PhD, Emory University School of Medicine, Ressler developed and tested a treatment for anxiety-related disorders using D-cycloserine (DCS) in combination with exposure-based psychotherapy to diminish the underlying fear response. The first clinical trials were so encouraging that more than 10 additional clinical trials are under way to examine the effect of DCS on PTSD and other anxiety and fear-based disorders.

NARSAD began giving grants in 1987 as the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression. The charity established the Freedman Award in 1998 in memory of Daniel X. Freedman, MD, a pioneer in biological psychiatry and a founding member of NARSAD’s Scientific Council.

For nearly eight decades, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, has been dedicated to conducting essential basic science and translational research to advance scientific understanding and to improve the health and well-being of humans and nonhuman primates. Today, the center, as one of only eight National-Institutes of Health-funded national primate research centers, provides leadership, training and resources to foster scientific creativity, collaboration and discoveries. Yerkes-based research is grounded in scientific integrity, expert knowledge, respect for colleagues, an open exchange of ideas and compassionate quality animal care.

Within the fields of neuroscience and infectious diseases, the center’s research programs are seeking ways to: develop vaccines for infectious and noninfectious diseases, such as AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease; treat cocaine addiction; interpret brain activity through imaging; increase understanding of progressive illnesses, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s; unlock the secrets of memory; determine behavioral effects of hormone replacement therapy; and advance knowledge about the links between biology and behavior.

The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service. Its components include the Emory University School of Medicine, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, and Rollins School of Public Health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University; and Emory Healthcare, the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia. Emory Healthcare includes: The Emory Clinic, Emory-Children's Center, Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown, Wesley Woods Center, and Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center has a $2.5 billion budget, 17,600 employees, 2,500 full-time and 1,500 affiliated faculty, 4,700 students and trainees, and a $5.7 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta.

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