Leading the Vanguard: Lisa Monteggia

Lisa Monteggia smiling

Lisa Monteggia, Ph.D., is Barlow Family Director of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, a Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Investigator, and professor of Pharmacology. Her research interests focus on the molecular and cellular basis of neural plasticity as it pertains to psychiatric disorders. She is working to elucidate the mechanisms underlying antidepressant efficacy. She is also studying the role of MeCP2, the gene linked to Rett syndrome, on synaptic plasticity and behavior. Her research encompasses molecular, cellular, behavioral, biochemical, and electrophysiological approaches.

In the interview below, Monteggia shares what inspires her research in developmental disabilities, what she’s learned through her work, and how membership with the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center helps her achieve her goals.

Tell me about your attraction to developmental disabilities research.

While I do not have a personal connection to developmental disabilities, I have encountered numerous children with these disorders and witnessed how difficult it is to take care of a child with such a disability. There is clearly an urgent need to discover novel treatments that will improve the lives of children.  My lab pursues research focused on neuronal alterations underlying behaviors relevant to neurodevelopmental disorders.  This knowledge will hopefully facilitate treatment advance.

What are your current research interests and what challenges do they address?

Our research is focused on elucidating neuronal communication deficits that underlie behavioral abnormalities that occur with neurodevelopmental disorders.  Our expectation is that uncovering the malfunction at the neuronal level will enable us to design treatments that will counter these cellular abnormalities and help alleviate behavioral problems with fewer side effects.

 Do you have a story that illustrates the impact of your work?

We have identified key mechanisms that underlie action of neuropsychiatric treatments. These mechanisms bear substantial significance for the treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders as they are currently used to modify several behavioral abnormalities associated with these disorders.  We are currently examining how some of these specific treatments may improve symptomology, and more specifically whether these drugs can correct specific neuronal deficits associated with neurodevelopmental disorders.

What are your reasons for becoming a Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) Member?

Our research focus is on a particular neurodevelopmental disorder, Rett syndrome.  We are privileged to have unparalleled resources available to us from the VKC to study the neurobiology of this disorder and work towards treatment advance.  We believe that this understanding will translate into a better understanding of other neurodevelopmental disorders with potential implications for improved treatment.

Elizabeth Turner is associate director of VKC Communications.

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