Our Conte Center is devoted to investigating brain disorders such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. We pool our expertise in diverse scientific fields and recent technological breakthroughs to answer basic questions about how brain-related disorders take hold and how we can treat or reverse their effects.
We recently found that the immune system, which destroys invading viruses and bacteria, shapes the wiring of the brain by destroying unneeded connections. Like firemen doing a controlled burn to thin out a crowded forest, the immune system removes excess connections in the brain so the remaining connections grow stronger. However, like the controlled burn, the process can backfire if too much is removed or if it happens at the wrong time. We believe that this biological miscalculation leads to a variety of brain disorders, depending on where and when the miscalculation happened.
Our research center sits at the nexus of immunology, neuroscience, and genetics. We seek to find out how the immune system affects neurons within the brain and how genetics can modify this pruning process. Our Conte Center is led by Beth Stevens, who is an expert in brain development. She leads a team that investigates how the brain’s wiring changes due to the immune system’s impact. Mike Carroll, who is an expert in the immune system, leads a team to investigate how the immune system carries out its function in the brain. And Steven McCarroll, who is an expert in human genetics, leads a team that investigates how genetics impacts the immune system and brain.