Montana State University

April 23 lecture to focus on link between parasite and brain disorders

April 12, 2013 -- MSU News Service

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
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BOZEMAN -- A free public lecture about the connection between the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii and brain disorders will be given on Tuesday, April 23, at Montana State University. 

Sandra Halonen, an associate professor in MSU's Department of Microbiology, will present "Toxoplasma gondii and Brain Disorders: A Common Brain Pathogen as Possible Etiological Agent of Schizophrenia and Other Neurological Disorders" at 4 p.m. in the Procrastinator Theater in the Strand Union Building. A reception will follow.

Toxoplasma gondii is a ubiquitous protozoan parasite and one of the most common infections in humans, with approximately 30 percent of the world's population harboring a latent infection. Although chronic infections have been considered as "latent," recent studies have indicated a correlation between chronic Toxoplasma gondii infection and neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, depression and suicide, and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, cryptogenic epilepsy and Parkinson's disease. According to Halonen, 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. 

Halonen has been studying Toxoplasma gondii since she was a doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She did her postdoctoral work at Albert Einstein College of Medicine's Department of Neurology in New York City, where she began studies on the effect of the parasite in the brain of AIDS patients and immunosuppressed individuals. She came to MSU in 2003 where she has continued her studies on Toxoplasma in the brain.

Halonen's lecture is presented by the Kopriva Science Seminar Series, which is funded through an endowment created by Phil Kopriva, a 1957 microbiology graduate from MSU. Kopriva, who died in 2002, also created an endowment to fund the Kopriva Graduate Fellowship Program, which provides support and opportunities for graduate students in the College of Letters and Science, particularly in the biomedical sciences. The series features four to six seminars annually, with talks provided by MSU graduate students, faculty members and guest speakers. For more information about this and other Kopriva lectures, visit http://www.montana.edu/lettersandscience/kopriva.html.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu