News Release: Research, School of Medicine, Yerkes

Oct. 16,  2009

Emory Neuroscientist Receives Prestigious Freedman Award

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. 


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 schools of medicine, nursing, and public health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; the Emory Winship Cancer Institute; and Emory Healthcare, the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center has a $2.3 billion budget, 17,000 employees, 2,300 full-time and 1,900 affiliated faculty, 4,300 students and trainees, and a $4.9 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta.

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