Carrie E. Bearden
Associate Professor in Residence, Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences and Psychology
Her research aims to understand genetic, cognitive and neurobiological risk factors for the development of child- and adolescent-onset neuropsychiatric disorders. Dr. Bearden’s work examines these questions through two complementary lines of research: 1) The investigation of intermediate cognitive, neuroanatomic and temperament traits associated with the development of psychosis and /or mood disorder; and 2) The study of neurobehavioral manifestations of syndromes with an identified genetic origin.
Much of this work to date has focused on the 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome, a genetic disorder which results in a disruption of early neuronal migration and confers a particularly high risk for psychosis. Dr. Bearden’s research group has an ongoing study of autistic spectrum features in children with this syndrome, funded by the UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment (CART). This project involves comprehensive phenotyping (i.e., dimensional measures of autistic traits, neurocognition, and structural and functional neuroanatomy) which will be examined in relation to genetic variation at the 22q11.2 locus.
In collaboration with Alcino Silva, Dr. Bearden’s lab is also now conducting translational studies of the neural basis of cognitive disability in children with another genetic disorder,Neurofibromatosis I, one of the most common single-gene disorders affecting neurologic function in humans. A newly funded R34 (exploratory intervention) grant will examine a potential pharmacologic treatment for cognitive disability in NF1, the HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor lovastatin, which acts as a potent inhibitor of Ras activity and is commonly used for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia. The rationale for this novel intervention is based on findings from the mouse model of the disorder, in which lovastatin treatment was able to reverse the biochemical, electrophysiological and cognitive deficits associated with NF1 (Li et al. Curr Biol. 2005). This study represents one of the first translational clinical trials for developmental learning disabilities.
Dr. Bearden is also a faculty member in the Brain Research Institute, and Associate Director of the Center for Assessment and Prevention of Prodromal States (CAPPS), a research clinic for adolescents at ultra-high risk for developing psychosis.