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Pitt Adolescent Brain Specialist Appointed to Prestigious NIH Advisory Committee

First Ever University Faculty Member to Serve in Such Position

PITTSBURGH, April 9, 2009 —
Beatriz Luna, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, has been selected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to serve as a member of the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD). Since 1966, the ACD has advised the NIH Director on policy and planning issues important to the NIH mission of conducting and supporting biomedical and behavioral research, research training and translating research results for the public.

As a member of this prestigious committee, and the first from the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Luna will join six other new advisors as they support and counsel the NIH Director on matters of planning, managing and coordinating the programs and activities of all 27 NIH components.

“Dr. Luna’s selection for this position is well-deserved recognition for her extensive research in the field of psychiatry,” said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “Her commitment to adolescent brain research makes her ideal for this important role as a highly capable steward of the NIH’s vision.”

“We are most pleased that Dr. Luna is the occupant of this significant position which provides support to the NIH as it leads the way toward important medical discoveries that improve people’s health and save lives,” said David J. Kupfer, M.D., Thomas Detre professor and chair, Department of Psychiatry.

Dr. Luna’s primary research focuses on using innovative brain imaging technologies, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), to characterize how the brain mechanisms underlying cognitive skills mature during adolescence. Her work provides insight into how vulnerabilities inherent to adolescence lead to psychopathology and risk-taking behavior, and is central to the recent view that brain function continues to be immature during adolescence.

Dr. Luna is the founding director of the Laboratory for Neurocognitive Development at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), and training faculty in the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition and the Center for Neuroscience at UPMC. She was born in Santiago, Chile, received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the American University in Washington, D.C., her Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, and her Master’s degree from Duquesne University. In 2005, she received the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering for her pioneering work investigating the neural basis of developmental changes in behavior through adolescence.

About the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine:

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is one of the nation’s leading medical schools, renowned for its curriculum that emphasizes both the science and humanity of medicine and its remarkable growth in National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant support, which has more than doubled since 1998. For fiscal year 2007, the University ranked sixth out of more than 3,000 entities receiving NIH support with respect to the research grants awarded to its faculty. As one of the university’s six Schools of the Health Sciences, the School of Medicine is the academic partner to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). Their combined mission is to train tomorrow’s health care specialists and biomedical scientists, engage in groundbreaking research that will advance understanding of the causes and treatments of disease and participate in the delivery of outstanding patient care.

About the NIH:

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation’s Medical Research Agency — is comprised of 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and investigates the causes, treatments and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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