Hannah Elam just published her first-author paper in Translational Psychiatry entitled “Orexin receptor antagonists reverse aberrant dopamine neuron activity and related behaviors in a rodent model of stress-induced psychosis.”
Elam explained that this paper is important because she and the team at the Lodge lab are always striving to find treatments that can be quickly and effectively translated to humans.
“One of the therapeutic drugs used in this study, Suvorexant, is already an FDA-approved drug, which makes this work even more exciting,” she said. “While most drugs that are studied preclinically must undergo rigorous safety and efficacy training in humans before they can be used, the safety profile of Suvorexant is already well known.”
Elam explained that the goal of this paper was to study a novel therapeutic for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and comorbid psychosis. In addition to the debilitating symptoms of PTSD, most patients diagnosed with PTSD also experience another psychiatric diagnosis, including psychosis.
“Unfortunately, stress-induced psychosis remains understudied and undertreated. This paper utilizes a rodent model of PTSD to explore a potential new treatment option for people experiencing symptoms of psychosis, in addition to PTSD,” she said.
She explained that treatment for PTSD and comorbid psychosis is currently limited and can be accompanied by unpleasant side effects.
“Although this is just one study, it provides evidence for a novel treatment option for individuals experiencing PTSD-induced psychosis,” she said. “There is still work to be done but our goal is to provide the foundational research needed to advance treatment options.”
Elam plans to continue to investigate whether or not these drugs can alleviate inappropriate fear responses in my rodent model.
“I’m currently using the same drugs used in this paper and examining their ability to reduce PTSD-like symptoms in a rodent model of PTSD,” she said. “One of the hallmark symptoms of PTSD is an inappropriate fear response and we can model this in rats using a fear conditioning and extinction paradigm.”
This is Hannah’s first scientific publication and she explained that she is thankful to her mentor, Dr. Daniel Lodge, and the rest of the Lodge lab for their continuous help and guidance throughout her time in graduate school.
“I’m incredibly excited about this milestone! The only way science can advance is through scientists sharing their work. I love being able to contribute to the pool of knowledge on PTSD and psychosis and hope that this work can inspire even more research on this topic,” she said. “This is a really exciting milestone for me but I definitely did not get here without the help of my lab. I’m looking forward to publishing more work with them in the future!”
Read “Hannah Elam: Soldiers Also Suffer From Psychosis Along with PTSD” to learn more about her research.