“BBRF Young Investigators represent a new generation of scientists who will pioneer breakthroughs in mental health research,” said Jeffrey Borenstein, President and CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, which will provide $10.3 million to 150 awardees selected from a pool of more than 1,000 applicants. “With these grants, outstanding researchers are able to pursue bold new ideas to answer important questions or help identify potentially game-changing targets for treatment. The awards function as seed funding for new directions that would otherwise be highly unlikely.”
Breton-Provencher is working to understand the neurobiology of attention to better diagnose ADHD and disruptive behavior, and to develop potential treatments. To do so he studies the neurotransmitter noradrenaline (NA) in a brain region called the locus coeruleus (LC), specifically looking at circuits connecting the LC to the motor and prefrontal cortices, and their involvement in sustained attention and cognitive flexibility. His experiments will seek to determine how NA activity affects cortical computations in neurons during attention, which could aid in understanding the heterogeneity of ADHD dysfunctions.
Above: Locus coeruleus noradrenergic neurons appear in red and GABAergic ones are in cyan. An NA neuron recorded in Breton-Provencher's 2019 Nature Neuroscience study is white.
Last year Breton-Provencher, Sur and colleagues published a study in Nature Neuroscience in which NA and LC-prefrontal circuits had central roles in helping the brain control levels of arousal so that an animal can stay alert but not get overly excited when focus is necessary.
"I am very honored to be receiving the Young Investigator Award from BBRF, which will support my research on the role of noradrenaline in learning and attention that I am currently conducting at MIT,” Breton-Provencher said. “As I am about to start my own lab by the summer of 2021 at the Université Laval in Québec City, the award will also be a tremendous help for this transition period.”