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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

UNC Professor Awarded Distinguished Investigator Grant by Brain and Behavior Research Foundation

Dr. Cynthia Bulik, professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, is one of 17 scientists awarded a Distinguished Investigator Grant from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.

[Photo: Dr. Cynthia Bulik]

Dr. Bulik also is Distinguished Professor of Eating Disorders in the UNC School of Medicine’s department of psychiatry and founding director of the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders.

Recipients of the one-year, $100,000 grants are seeking new potential targets for understanding and treating a wide range of neuropsychiatric disorders that affect one in five people, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, schizophrenia and psychosis.

Dr. Bulik’s proposal, Binge Eating Disorder Genetics Initiative (BEGIN), is a large-scale investigation designed to identify genes that contribute to bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder.

Recipients of the 2017 Distinguished Investigator Grants were selected by the Foundation’s Scientific Council, which is composed of 176 leading experts across disciplines in brain and behavior research. The council includes two Nobel Laureates, two former directors of the National Institute of Mental Health, as well as the current director, four recipients of the National Medal of Science, 13 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 26 chairs of psychiatric departments, and 52 members of the National Academy of Medicine.

“By funding creative research that explores new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat psychiatric disorders, the Distinguished Investigator Grants support and encourage established scientists to advance our understanding about mental illness, and brain and behavior disorders,” said Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, foundation president and chief executive officer. “These grants serve as seed capital for new approaches that might otherwise go unfunded.”

“As funds for research from the National Institutes of Health have declined by 20 percent over the past decade, the foundation’s Distinguished Investigator Program has become extraordinarily important for the field and its potential to help severe mental illness,” said Dr. Jack D. Barchas, chair and Barklie McKee Henry Professor of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, and psychiatrist-in-chief at Weill Cornell Medical College, New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Paine Whitney Clinic, who chairs the Scientific Council’s Distinguished Investigator selection committee.

“This year’s Distinguished Investigators use a remarkable range of methodologies to sharpen current treatments and define potential new targets, including previously unstudied or understudied neuroregulators, interactions and circuits, using newer and more precise methods and improved psychosocial approaches,” Dr. Barchas said. “We were impressed by the variety of new approaches, which could prove helpful or even transformative, and will be supported by this seed capital.”

The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation is committed to alleviating the suffering caused by mental illness by awarding grants that will lead to advances and breakthroughs in scientific research. Since 1987, the foundation has awarded more than $380 million to fund more than 5,500 grants, involving 4,500 scientists in more than 547 institutions around the world.

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