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Interview with Ewa Andrzejak

Ewa Andrzejak:
Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin,
Neuroscience Researcher

1. What is your field of research?

I have always been fascinated by the intricate workings of the human brain and mind, their interactions, and what happens when they cease to function properly. I have specialised in medical neurosciences where I focus on the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying neuropsychiatric disorders. In particular, my research delves into the intriguing territory of what happens when the immune system turns against the brain, manifesting in conditions such as psychosis, hallucinations and amnesia.

In addition to my work in molecular neurobiology, I venture into the fascinating field of psychedelics and meditation. Exploring how these modalities can alter our state of consciousness expands our understanding of the mind and opens new doors to potential treatments for mental health disorders.

2. Why are you participating in “Berlin is looking for a Sciencefluencer”?

Figuring out how the brain works and what it means to the health of our minds is a truly fascinating endeavour, and I would like to share this excitement with as many curious minds as possible! Despite high interest in these topics, science is often published in a form, language and detail which make it difficult to approach. Especially in the era of misinformation, hearing about research straight from the scientists is both engaging and increases its credibility. I would love to contribute to breaking down these barriers and I view the "Sciencefluencer" program as a fantastic opportunity for me to share complex scientific concepts in a more accessible yet accurate way.

3. What challenges do you face when you become a Sciencefluencer?

As I am at the beginning of this journey, it is still somewhat challenging to find the right balance between technical detail and accessibility. Translating complex concepts into digestible content without oversimplifying is a delicate art! Each digital platform is also its own universe and I’m learning how to navigate their specific audiences and dynamics.

4. What are your most important findings in your particular field of research?

In the course of my scientific studies, I contributed new insights in the field of autoimmune encephalitis, a brain autoimmune disease manifesting in both psychiatric and neurological symptoms. Here, patients produce antibodies - molecules of the immune system - which inexplicably target their own brain. During my PhD, I identified a novel mechanism at play: these autoantibodies disrupt the function of a specific group of neurons in cortex - namely, inhibitory neurons. As a result, this disruption drives neuronal networks into a hyper-active state, losing their ability to self-regulate.

These findings are particularly exciting as similar mechanisms have been implicated in schizophrenia, suggesting potential common mechanisms across various neuropsychiatric disorders. It is a remarkable feeling when my research, amidst the excitement but also hard work, opens avenues for fresh perspective on understanding and treating complex brain-related conditions.

5. What are your goals for the future?

Having gained expertise in the molecular and cellular mechanisms of neuropsychiatric disorders, I am now passionate about transitioning towards developing effective interventional treatments for patients. In particular, I am excited about delving into the clinical applications of different modalities inducing altered states of consciousness, such as psychedelics, meditation, or breathwork. Exploring these avenues holds significant promise for the treatment of depression, PTSD and other psychiatric diseases. This new path combines my scientific curiosity with a deep commitment to improving lives of those affected by neuropsychiatric conditions and I’m excited to see what comes out of it!