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November 02 , 2007

Science and Psychiatry

Groundbreaking Discoveries in Molecular Neuroscience


Solomon Snyder has been instrumental in the establishment of modern psychopharmacology – as a pioneer in the identification of receptors for neurotransmitters and drugs and in the explanation of the actions of psychotropic agents. Science and Psychiatry is a collection of some of his best scientific papers, publications ranging over forty years that represent important advances in psychopharmacology and molecular biology. Audacious and unanticipated when they first appeared, these papers opened up new areas of understanding and revolutionized the modern study of the brain. Republished here, they show why fundamental research into the "messengers of the mind" is as essential for clinicians as for researchers.

Many of these papers have clear clinical relevance, offering insight into modern neuroscience to help make sense of the bewildering array of available psychotropic medications and point the way toward more effective and safer agents. Others describe the underpinnings of psychopharmacology that practitioners need to know, especially regarding the role of receptors in drug action. Each of the nine groups of research articles is accompanied by a commentary by a well-known authority, putting the discoveries in perspective and providing a broad overview of subjects ranging from characterization of the enkephalins to serotonin receptor subtypes. The final set of papers focuses on apoptosis, the general process of cell suicide, where Snyder's work with bilirubin holds promise for treating neurodegenerative disorders. And in a closing piece, "The Audacity Principle in Science," Snyder speculates about factors conducive to creativity and efficacy in scientific discovery.

The articles particularly describe four groups of extraordinary discoveries for which Snyder is widely recognized: • Identification of opiate receptors, providing keys to understanding pain perception• Characterization of the IP3 receptor, exploring its role as a target for lithium treatment in manic-depressive disorders• Establishment of nitric oxide as a transmitter in the brain, radically transforming conceptualizations of neurotransmission• Discovery that D-serine is the normal stimulus for the glycine site of the NMDA receptor, providing new insight into the regulation of the receptor important for learning and memory Hailed as one of the preeminent scientists of the past twenty years, Snyder is a consummate researcher who confesses to remaining obsessed with the need to "think thoughts no one else has thought before." Science and Psychiatry clearly shows how that urge accounts for the diversity of challenges he has taken on as it conveys the origins of modern psychopharmacologic practice.

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