Flora M. Vaccarino, M.D., who studies the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric disorders and has elucidated how neural stem cells self-renew, survive, and differentiate, has been named Harris Professor of Child Psychiatry.
Members of Vaccarino’s laboratory study the proliferation and differentiation of neural stem cells during prenatal and postnatal development and after injury, as well as the diversity and function of astroglial cells in neuropsychiatric disorders. A member of the faculty at the Yale Child Study Center and in the Department of Neurobiology, Vaccarino was the principal investigator of a 2003 study which found that patients with Tourette’s syndrome have fewer GABA interneurons in their brains than those without the syndrome. She is known in the neuroscience community for discovering the role of fibroblast growth factors in the growth of the cerebral cortex during mammalian development.
She recently helped found the Program in Neurodevelopment and Regeneration, an interdepartmental initiative that will use induced pluripotent stem cells as a research tool to understand neuronal development in individuals with specific neuropsychiatric disorders.
Vaccarino earned her medical degree at Padua Medical University in Italy and studied neuropharmacology and cell biology at the National Institutes of Health as a research fellow before starting her residency in psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine. After her residency, Vaccarino studied developmental biology and genetics, and joined the Yale faculty in 1994. Also affiliated with the Yale Stem Cell Center, Vaccarino became a full professor in 2009.
Her honors include a National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) Young Investigator Award, a Lustman Award from Yale, two Tourette’s Syndrome Association Awards, a Women in Research and Education Award from the National Science Foundation, and a NARSAD Independent Investigator Award.