Speaker: Sandra Halonen, Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology
Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Time: 4 PM
Place: Procrastinator Theater, Strand Union Building
Title: Toxoplasma Gondii and Brain Disorders: A Common Brain Pathogen as Possible
Etiological Agent of Schizophrenia and Other Neurological Disorders
Summary: Toxoplasma gondii is a ubiquitous protozoan parasite and is one of the most common infections in man, with approximately 30 percent of the worlds population harboring a latent infection. Although chronic infections have been considered as “latent,” recent studies have indicated a correlation of chronic Toxoplasma gondii infection with neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, depression and suicide, and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, cryptogenic epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. A better understanding of these neurological mechanisms would represent major steps forward in terms of defining the role of Toxoplasma in brain disorders in individuals, and in planning appropriate therapeutic and prophylactic interventions.
About the speaker: Dr. Halonen received her bachelor’s and master’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She received her Ph.D. from Louisiana State University in zoology where she specialized in parasitology and immunology and began working on the protozoan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. She did her post-doctoral work at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Department of Neurology in New York City, where she began studies on the effect of the parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, in the brain of AIDS patients and immunosuppressed individuals. She came to Montana State University in 2003 and is currently an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology where she has continued her studies on Toxoplasma in the brain.