Shahza Somerville, Ph.D.


Biological Sciences 2007

Area of Doctoral Study: Neuroscience and Cognitive Science
Undergraduate Institute: Morgan State University

Research Advisor: Rosalinda Roberts, Ph.D.

Current Position: Medical Writer/ Regulatory Affairs Specialist, ExecuPharm

Description of Research

The striatum is a brain region associated with emotion and cognition. Studies have measured blood flow in patients with Schizophrenia (SZs) and have shown that the striatum has a decreased metabolism compared to normal controls (NCs). This decreased metabolism has been associated with the presence of auditory hallucinations. My research test the hypothesis that this decreased striatal metabolism is the result of abnormalities in mitochondria, the energy producing organelles of the cell. The electron microscope will be used to compare mitochondrial number in human postmortem tissue from SZs to NCs. In addition to mito. number, mitochondrial function will also be measured and compared between groups using cytochrome oxidase staining. Cytochrome oxidase is part of complex IV of the electron transport chain and indicates the amount of energy in the form of ATP that mitochondria produce. A majority of patients with schizophrenia are taking antipsychotic medication to relieve psychotic symptoms. Blood flow studies have shown that antipsychotic medication normalizes the decreased metabolism of SZs, but only when psychotic symptoms improve. The effects of antipsychotic drugs on mitochondria will be tested in rats. Rats will be given antipsychotic drugs for 4 months and the mitochondrial number and function will be measured. This research aims at giving insight into the cause of the psychotic symptoms that are associated with schizophrenia and how antipsychotic medications act to decrease these psychotic symptoms.

Article on Shahza Somerville’s research work