Anna Monika Foundation 2019

The Anna Monika Foundation is proud to anounce the prize winners of the Anna Monika competition 2019.  In view of a number of excellent applications it was a quite difficult task for the jury to come up with a selection. Nevertheless, the decision follows the outstanding nominations in the history of the Anna Monika Foundation.

A first prize has been awarded to Andrew H. Miller, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta Georgia, USA for his work on identifying biomarkers and targets on the effects of inflammation on the brain to develop novel treatments for depression. His laboratory has made many seminal contributions to the field of brain-immune interactions. First and foremost is his groundbreaking study using a biologic antagonist to the inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor (TNF) for patients with treatment resistant depression. Based on this work Dr. Miller has further elucidated the relative importance of CRP as a translational biomarker. His group has demonstrated that CRP is an excellent proxy for other inflammatory markers in the plasma as well as the brain. Relative to understanding how inflammation affects behavior, using multimodal neuroimaging and non-human primate studies, his laboratory has demonstrated that inflammation affects reward processing, motivation and ultimately anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, by inhibiting the synthesis and release of dopamine. This work has culminated with the demonstration that in depressed patients an elevated CRP is associated with alterations in functional connectivity within reward circuitry that in turn is associated with anhedonia in patients with major depression .

A second prize has been awarded to Diego A. Pizzagalli, Harvard Medical School, Boston Massachusetts, USA for his neuroimaging studies related to dopamine and personalized treatment of depression. His findings provide evidence that major depression, particularly with recurring episodes and perception of being trapped by stressful situations, is characterized by decreased striatal dopamine transporter expression, which might reflect a compensatory down-regulation due to low dopamine signaling within mesolimbic pathways. Moreover, he has demonstrated that rostral anterior cingulate cortex theta activity has incremental predictive validity and that acute enhancement of dopaminergic transmission potentiated reward-related striatal activation and corticostriatal functional connectivity in depressed individuals, suggesting that targeted pharmacological treatments may normalize neural correlates of reward processing in depression.

Another second prize has been awarded to Manuel Mameli, University of Lausanne, Switzerland for his work characterizing the habenula as a crucial structure related to the pathophysiology of depression. His research shed light on the cellular mechanisms underlying depressive-like phenotypes in addiction and mood disorders, ultimately opening avenues for potential future treatments. This may help to elucidate the molecular events occurring during long-lasting activity-dependent changes in the efficacy of synaptic transmission in anatomically-defined neural circuits.