Wednesday, 6 March 1996, 12:00AM

Drugs Against Mental Illness

Baroness Greenfield of Otmoor

Neurons communicate using chemicals, the release of a ‘transmitter’, from one brain cell on to the next. By modifying how these transmitters are made in the brain, their availability, the molecular target of their action, or indeed their removal, therapeutic drugs can combat a diverse range of brain disorders.

Although it might seem straightforward to design drugs that target a particular transmitter system in the brain and hence ‘cure’ a disorder, we shall see the situation is far more complex in that there is not a simple one to one matching of one transmitter to one disorder.

The sixth lecture in the series on Exploring the Brain.

Baroness (Susan) Greenfield CBE is a scientist, writer, broadcaster, and member of the House of Lords. Professor Greenfield was the Gresham Professor of Physic between 1995 and 1999. Her area of special sceintific interest is the physiology of the human brain, particularly Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

Upon her appointment to the Physic chair at Gresham College, Professor Greenfield wrote the following:

"I shall use the Gresham appointment to advance the public's undertsanding of the brain. This subject holds an immediate fascination for virtually everyone, because it embraces a wide range of issues, at least one of which has touched most people's lives or fired a particular interest: infant development, use and abuse of drugs, strokes, schizophrenia, brain scans, and the physical basis of consciousness are all topics of immediate meaning to the general public. Although many people are intrigued by the brain, they have no means of discovering even the most basic and well established facts. The average person is discouraged by the plethora of specialist terminology which can so easily keep the brain as an inaccessible mystery. Although this mystery remains, even for those such as myself who have studied it for some twenty-five years, it is important for as many people as possible to appreciate the extent opf what we do know."

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