Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Aryn Gittis

Neuroscientist Aryn Gittis Receives NARSAD Young Investigator Grant

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University neuroscientist Aryn Gittis has been named the recipient of a NARSAD Young Investigator Grant from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. NARSAD Young Investigator grants enable early career scientists to explore new and innovative ideas that have the potential to further the understanding and treatment of brain and behavior disorders.

Gittis, who is an assistant professor in biological sciences and a member of the joint Carnegie Mellon/University of Pittsburgh Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, will use the two-year grant to study the neuronal mechanisms that underlie compulsive behavior. Compulsive behavior, which can include things like excessive cleaning, repetitive movements and ritualistic behavior, can be a symptom of a number of neurological and psychiatric disorders including obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, Tourette's syndrome and Parkinson's disease. Such behaviors have been linked to dysfunction in the neural circuits known to control movement.

"Aryn's work already has been instrumental in identifying novel circuit elements that play key roles in the control of movement. Through her innovative experimental work and analysis I think that she will continue to push forward the boundaries and improve our understanding of mechanisms that are impaired in many disorders of movement," said Nathan Urban, the Dr. Frederick A. Schwertz Distinguished Professor of Life Sciences and head of the Department of Biological Sciences at Carnegie Mellon.

Through this grant, Gittis will use transgenic mice to study these circuits and attempt to identify specific populations of neurons involved in motor suppression and compulsive behavior. After identifying these populations of neurons, she will then see if selective activation or deactivation of the neurons can start or stop compulsive behavior. Ultimately, the results of her research could help to identify new targets for therapies that could help to control compulsive behaviors.

NARSAD Young Investigator grants allow scientists to gather pilot data that will help them to provide a "proof of concept" for their work. This support is invaluable to young scientist as it helps to lay the groundwork for future funding opportunities. The NARSAD grants, which have funded researchers since 1987, have led to many breakthroughs in mental health research.

Carnegie Mellon has been a leader in research on brain science, psychology and learning. To learn more about Carnegie Mellon researchers solving real-world problems in neuroscience, visit

By: Jocelyn Duffy,, 412-268-9982