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Zora Kikinis’s research interests include combining genetics and neuroimaging to investigate the etiology of schizophrenia. In 2008 Dr. Kikinis received a National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) Young Investigator Award.
Zora Kikinis is currently focused on two projects:
Schizophrenia in velocardiofacial syndrome patients: Velocardiofacial syndrome (VCFS or 22q11DS) is a genetic disorder with a short deletion in one of the two chromosomes 22 and with a very high incidence of schizophrenia. Approximately 30% of the patients with this genetic disorder develop schizophrenia. In this project we are studying the genotype, clinical presentation, and structural MRI and DTI. The overall goal is to identify patterns in the data that distinguish VCFS patients with schizophrenia symptoms from subjects with the genetic disorder but without schizophrenic symptoms, and from matched normal controls.
Brain white matter pathology and its association with genetic variants: The goal of this project is to identify changes in the white matter in patients with schizophrenia as compared with normal controls. Results from morphometric MRI and DTI analysis will be correlated to clinical findings, neuropsychological measures and to variants of the genotype. This project, entitled “White Matter Changes in Subjects with Neuregulin 1 Haplotype HAP-ICE and ErbB4 Schizophrenia Risk Haplotypes” was the topic of the NARSAD young investigator award (2008) and has received additional funding from Harvard Catalyst Clinical Research Center Junior Investigator Laboratory Support Awards (2011).
Dr. Kikinis trained in Switzerland and received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the Biocentrum, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland. Before joining the PNL, she worked at MIT and Tufts University, on regulation of gene expression and its implication in the fields of cellular iron homeostasis, obesity and diabetes at the cellular level and in mouse models. After taking time off to care for her family, she has reentered her career to coordinate a multidisciplinary project combining genetics and neuroimaging in order to investigate the etiology of schizophrenia.