Brain's immune system to be topic of Biobehavioral Health Founders Day event

Andrew Miller, William P. Timmie Professor and Vice Chair for Research in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, will present the keynote lecture “Immune System Targets in the Brain in Depression: Impact on Neurotransmitters and Neurocircuits” at 3:30 p.m. April 23 in the Ruth Pike Auditorium, located in 22 Biobehavioral Health Building on Penn State's University Park campus. Prior to the lecture, student presentations will be held from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., and a poster reception will be held from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the same location. All events are free and open to the public.

The lecture is part of the Third Annual Founders Endowment for Excellence and Innovation Research Day, hosted by the Department of Biobehavioral Health (BBH) in the College of Health and Human Development. Each year, the day features a world-renowned scientist who conducts research important and central to the field of biobehavioral health, according to Christopher Engeland, associate professor, and Anne-Marie Chang, assistant professor, of BBH and organizers of the event.

Miller’s lecture will address the impact of the immune system on the brain as it relates to depression. His work has demonstrated that during immune activation, inflammatory cytokines can access the brain and interact with the metabolism of the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate, while altering neurocircuits relevant to motivation and reward, as well as anxiety and alarm.

His research group conducted the first clinical trial examining the efficacy of a cytokine antagonist for the treatment of depression, providing a template for current clinical trials using immunotherapeutic, anti-inflammatory strategies to treat mood disorders.

Miller has authored more than 250 scholarly publications and edited a book titled “Depressive Disorders and Immunity.”

The day is made possible through support from the BBH Founders Endowment for Excellence and Innovation. The endowment was created in 2011, the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Department of Biobehavioral Health. The fund was established by Anne C. Petersen, a former dean of the College of Health and Human Development, and her husband, the Rev. Douglas Petersen.

The fund supports initiatives and activities that enhance the educational and/or outreach efforts of the department in ways that foster innovation, excellence and the advancement of science and knowledge.