(July 26, 2010 – Toronto, ON) The Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute’s Dr. John Roder, Senior investigator and Canada Research Chair in Learning and Memory, was recently elected into the Royal Society of Canada, in recognition of his pivotal research in schizophrenia, anxiety, epilepsy, depression, and other brain illnesses.
An original member of the Lunenfeld since the Institute’s inception in 1985, Dr. Roder has significantly advanced immunological and neuroscience research at Mount Sinai Hospital, and among the international scientific community.
“When I first heard about this wonderful honour, I was awestruck and of course very happy to be elected into the Society,” said Dr. Roder. “Apparently I’ve been doing something right, and my peers noticed!”
Dr. Roder has led a prodigious career marked by milestone breakthroughs in both immunological and neurobiological research. His unique vision and discoveries have provided new insights and approaches to understanding diseases and injuries that affect nerve growth and function, including psychiatric disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, autism and spinal cord injury, as well as learning and memory.
In August 2009,Dr. Roder published a study offering new evidence that a faulty version of a gene known as ATP1A3 is linked to epileptic seizures in mice. In addition to research in epilepsy, Dr. Roder made important discoveries in the genetics of learning and cognition. Last summer, he and other investigators discovered a molecular link between intelligence and curiosity, which may lead to the development of new drugs to improve learning.
“We’re all very proud of John’s many achievements in understanding the molecular basis of neurological diseases,” said Dr. Jim Woodgett, the Lunenfeld’s Director of Research. “John inspires us all with his remarkable capacity for original thought and his amazing passion to improve the future for millions of Canadians suffering from mental health disorders.”
Dr. Roder also made national headlines in 2007 for his groundbreaking research in schizophrenia. In a pivotal study, Dr. Roder demonstrated for the first time in mouse models that malfunction of the gene DISC 1, previously associated with schizophrenia and depression, causes symptoms of those disorders. This was the first study to discern a common genetic link between the two illnesses—a discovery Dr. Roder hopes will one day lead to new, more effective treatments for schizophrenia.
“From a psychiatric point of view, this was important. It could change the way we think about diagnosis and could open the door to new treatments,” said Dr. Roder.
Dr. Roder is currently exploring the role of neuronal connections (synapses) in long-term potentiation (LTP), learning and memory using engineered mice that lack specific receptors for neurotransmitters. His lab is investigating the complex cascade of events that lead to LTP—the means by which memory is established.
The Royal Society of Canada is devoted to recognizing excellence in learning and research, as well as celebrating accomplishments in the arts, humanities and sciences. The Society consists of nearly 2,000 fellows who are selected by their peers for outstanding contributions to the natural and social sciences, arts and humanities.