Short biography Dr. Zhang is an Associate professor in Psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Medical School at Houston. He has been taking comprehensive studies in cognition, biomarkers including oxidative stress, neuroinflammation, neurotropins, neuro-electrophysiology and neuroimaging, genetics and clinical psychopharmacology in schizophrenia and drug dependence/addiction research. He is an invited reviewer for over 40 peer-reviewed journals and on the editorial board for 3 journals, with more than 230 published articles in the international journals.
Research Interests My research efforts have been primarily directed toward advancing our understanding of schizophrenia and developing better treatments. One set of our studies focuses on the role of viruses and other infectious agents along with immune dysfunction as possible causes of schizophrenia. Our research group employs molecular techniques to systematically study immune, genetic, and infectious abnormalities in schizophrenia. At the present, two Stanley Medical Research Institute (SMRI)-supported clinical trials aimed at determining the possible effect of antimicrobial chemotherapy and immune adjustor on the symptoms and clinical course of schizophrenia have been completed. A second set of our studies utilizes a translational approach to understand addiction vulnerability in patients with serious mental disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression. Our main focus has been on tobacco addiction co-morbidity. Our studies have attempted to understand the effects of nicotine, nicotinic agents and cigarette smoking on cognitive endophenotypes associated with schizophrenia. Currently, we are examining the effects of nicotinic allosteric modulators and agents in smokers and non-smokers with schizophrenia. We have completed a NIH-supported clinical trial in these areas: 1) Nicotinic antagonists for the treatment of cognitive deficits and psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. 2) Smoking cessation medication trials in schizophrenia using non-nicotinic agents and nicotine replacement. Our third research focus has been on oxidative metabolism in schizophrenia. An ancillary theme is research on the association of free radical metabolism with the pathophysiology of tardive dyskinesia (TD), a movement disorder commonly occurring in patients treated chronically with antipsychotic drugs. Our interest in this area has led to studies that underlined the importance of the antioxidant in the outcome of schizophrenia, as well as TD treatment. A fourth research focus of our group is genetics of psychiatric illness. We study a range of behavioral phenotypes including schizophrenia and nicotine dependence. In addition we study a range of intermediate phenotypes, such as neuroimaging measures, electrophysiological measures, and neuropsychological tests. Current studies include a NIH (NIDA)-funded association study, with the goal of identifying genes predisposing to schizophrenia, or to comorbidities in schizophrenia, including nicotine dependence, diabetes, TD, weight gain/obesity and suicide.