Our Approach

Multidisplinary Research Focused on Neurosteriods

Building upon their long-standing multidisciplinary and multi-departmental collaborations already in place at Washington University School of Medicine, scientists at the Taylor Family Institute for Innovative Psychiatric Research will initially focus their attention on neuroactive steroids. These molecules, which are produced in the nervous system from cholesterol, have the ability to alter brain function and may play an important role in regulating cognition, emotion and motivation.

Current evidence suggests that changes in neurosteroid levels are associated with mood disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, alcoholism, sleep disorders, chronic pain, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease. Research findings also suggest that the production of neurosteroids in the brain may be affected by stress and by particular disorders such as depression.

Institute scientists believe that replacing or enhancing these depleted neurosteroid levels with synthetic neuroactive steroids may be effective in alleviating altered stress responses allowing the brain to function more normally.

The core faculty members in the Institute are conducting collaborative inter-disciplinary research on natural and synthetic neurosteroid molecules and investigating those substances as potential anesthetic agents as well as possible treatments for psychiatric illnesses.

Investigators involved in the Institute have expertise in chemical synthesis, molecular biochemistry, ion channel biology, cellular and synaptic neurobiology and behavioral testing in animal models.

The core team of researchers with the Institute involves a team of internationally-recognized, interdisciplinary experts and has produced the following:

  • 60 publications spanning the last five years
  • 700 novel chemical compounds
  • 7 pending patents

The development of neurosteroid molecules in the lab offers unique ways to alter brain networks and ultimately provide new treatment alternatives for those affected by psychiatric disorders. In addition to the potential for developing new sedatives and anesthetics, neurosteroids offer the potential to have a broad impact on many different types of psychiatric illnesses, including those associated with:

  • Stress / depression
  • Memory disorders
  • Chronic pain
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Neuropsychiatric trauma
  • Autism
  • Epilepsy
  • Schizophrenia
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