Researcher Seeks Causes of Addiction, Schizophrenia

A researcher who studies the circuitry of the brain’s prefrontal cortex and how alterations in the communication between neurons are related to schizophrenia and drug addiction has joined the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

Dr. Sven Kroener, who came to UT Dallas from the Medical University of South Carolina, is an assistant professor of neuroscience.

Kroener’s research focuses primarily on understanding the neurophysiological basis of memory and exploring potential treatments that may enhance cognition in patients suffering from schizophrenia, drug addiction and other disorders.

Kroener’s decision to move to UT Dallas was prompted by his interest in working with current neuroscience faculty members on projects related to his own.

“I feel very fortunate to have joined a school with a collegial atmosphere and where there are a number of people that share my own scientific interests,” Kroener said. “I also like the diversity in the student body, and I have several smart and hard-working students in my lab already.”

Kroener’s work explores  dysfunctions that disrupt the circuits of the prefrontal cortex that underlie so-called “working memory.” The term refers to the brain’s ability to hold information on-line to structure complex thought and behavior.

Kroener studies the network properties that underlie the neuronal activity required for working memory, using electrophysiological recordings and behavioral analyses. Kroener is particularly interested in the role of inhibition in the network, and how the activity of GABAergic interneurons (which have been identified as a main locus of change in schizophrenia) are affected by dopamine. 

A second line of research in Kroener’s lab is the role of the prefrontal cortex in drug addiction. In the development of addiction, normal brain processes required for learning may be adversely co-opted by the drugs being abused. In recent years the prefrontal cortex has garnered a lot of attention in the context of addiction because of its importance in decision making.

Projects in Kroener’s laboratory examine how drugs such as cocaine and alcohol can alter synaptic transmission and receptor function in the prefrontal cortex. Such changes in cell communication could affect the ability of the prefrontal cortex to regulate impulsive behaviors related to drug-seeking and relapse. A detailed understanding of the cellular mechanisms that govern behavior is crucial to devise intervention strategies that have a maximal chance of success.

“UT Dallas has provided me with great space in a state-of-the-art facility, which greatly facilitates my work,” Kroener said. “Basic science often requires a lot of expensive equipment and infrastructure, and with a string of recent hires that include myself, the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences is clearly making a commitment and an investment in the future.”

“We are very pleased to have Sven join our program in neuroscience, said Dr. Bert Moore, dean of the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. “He brings creative, convergent methods to enhance our understanding of debilitating human conditions such as addiction and schizophrenia. This work expands our student training and research profile, with points of contact both here and at UT Southwestern.”

“I feel very fortunate to have joined a school with a collegial atmosphere and where there are a number of people that share my own scientific interests,” Dr. Sven Kroener says.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].