SABINA BERRETTA, MD
- Harvard title(s): Associate Professor of Psychiatry (Neuroscience)
- McLean title(s): Director, Translational Neuroscience Laboratory
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Telephone: 617-855-3484
- Fax: 617-855-3850
- Office Address: MRC3 room 316 - Mailstop 149
- Bio: Dr. Berretta begun her research career in 1982, as an undergraduate student in the Dept. of Human Physiology, University of Catania, Italy. There, she participated in investigations on the electrophysiology and anatomical connectivity of the cerebellum. In 1988, she briefly joined the group directed by Drs. C. Batini and R. Kado at the Laboratoire de Neurobiologie Cellulaire et Moléculaire, CNRS, Gif-sur-Yvette, France, to participate in in vitro electrophysiological investigations as part of her research training. In 1989, Dr. Berretta received her M.D. degree and continued her research work in the Dept. of Human Physiology, University of Catania, as a Postdoctoral fellow. In 1990, she moved to the U.S. to work with the research group directed by Dr. A.M. Graybiel, in the Dept. of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, at MIT. First as a Postdoctoral Fellow, and then as Research Scientist (1995), she investigated the effects of cortical activation on striatal neurons using immediate early gene expression as a way to monitor neural ensemble responses. Her studies demonstrated that stimulation of the motor cortex differentially affects gene expression in distinct neuronal populations within the caudoputamen and that dopaminergic inputs modulate such response. In 1997, Dr. Berretta's deepening interest in brain disorders, and in particular in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, prompted her to join McLean Hospital. As a member of the Program for Structural and Molecular Neuroscience, directed by Dr. F.M. Benes, Dr. Berretta developed a rodent 'partial' model designed to mimic dysfunctions of the amygdala in subjects with schizophrenia, and show that such dysfunction may contribute to changes in the hippocampus described in these patients. In 2000, she became an independent investigator and founded the Laboratory for Translational Neuroscience at McLean Hospital.
Dr. Berretta has devoted her career to the study of the pathophysiology of major psychoses. Emerging from her investigations is the idea that sets of interconnected brain regions involved in emotion and cognitive processing, such as the amygdala and entorhinal cortex, are involved in both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Within these regions, overlapping cell populations and molecular and neurotransmitter systems are affected in both disorders. Yet, key differences with regard to cellular and molecular aspects as well as pathophysiological mechanisms are also observed, that may underlie different clinical presentations, pharmacological responsivity and prognosis. Recently, results from her group have shown that distinct brain extracellular matrix proteoglycans are robustly expressed in human astrocytes and, as extracellular matrix condensations surrounding specific neuronal populations, show a highly segregated distribution in the human amygdala. Marked abnormalities affecting the interactions between glial cell populations and extracellular matrix were demonstrated in subjects with schizophrenia. These results suggest for the first time that components of the extracellular matrix involved in neural development and adult plastic functions may play a key role in the pathophysiology of this disease. Given the key regulatory role played by the extracellular matrix on a broad range of developmental and adult neural functions, Dr. Berretta has proposed that extracellular matrix abnormalities may represent a unifying factor contributing to disturbances of neuronal migration, synaptic connectivity, and neurotransmission in SZ. This novel model offers a conceptual framework within which one can begin to integrate many seemingly unrelated aspects of our current understanding of neural and glial disturbances in SZ at the genetic, molecular, cellular, developmental, and system levels. Dr. Berretta and her research group are currently investigating the pathophysiological mechanisms of extracellular matrix abnormalities and their interactions with cellular and neurotransmitter systems known to be affected in schizophrenia.
- Curriculum vitæ: (PDF format)
- Publications: Pubmed search for Berretta S[au]