NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Zhiping Pang, MD, PhD, of New Providence has received the 2012 Freedman Prize from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.

Pang received the prize in honor of his success in developing a novel way to study synaptic dysfunction of brain and behavior disorders, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. 

Pang is an assistant professor of neuroscience and cell biology, and a researcher at the Child Health Institute of New Jersey at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)–Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

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The award was presented at a ceremony on Friday, July 27 in New York City.

“Dr. Pang is a truly outstanding scientist who is working to better understand how dysfunction in brain development may lead to neurological and behavioral disorders in children. We are very proud that he has been recognized with the 2012 Freedman Prize,” said Arnold B. Rabson, MD, director of the Child Health Institute of New Jersey, Laura Gallagher Endowed Chair of Developmental Biology and professor of Pharmacology, Pediatrics, and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. “The basic science research that Dr. Pang conducts will lead to a better understanding of brain and behavioral disorders, as well as improved therapies for diseases such as schizophrenia, and neurodevelopmental disorders including autism.”

Brain function relies on information flow from one neuron to another, a process that primarily takes place in specialized structures called synapses. Research has demonstrated that dysfunction in synaptic transmissions, which are tightly regulated by calcium ions, leads to mental disorders. According to Dr. Pang, researching this process is crucial to understanding how the brain works, as not only does a failure in the process lead to mental health disorders, but it also may be linked to disorders in feeding behavior that lead to obesity in humans.

Pang received medical training at the Fourth Military Medical University in Xi’an, China, and in 2007 earned his doctorate in neuroscience at The University of Texas Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Dr. Pang completed his postdoctoral training at Stanford University before joining Robert Wood Johnson Medical School as a resident faculty member at the Child Health Institute of New Jersey in 2011. 

In 2008 and 2011, Pang received the Young Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD), now known as the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, which is dedicated to identifying the causes, improving treatments and developing prevention strategies for mental illnesses. The Freedman Prize was established in 1998 in memory of Daniel X. Freedman, MD, to recognize outstanding basic mental health research by a young investigator.