2011 News

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  • November 23, 2011

    Antipsychotic Meds Tied to Diabetes in Kids

    The antipsychotic drugs that are increasingly being used to treat bipolar disorder, autism and other mental disorders in children may come with an increased risk of diabetes, a new study suggests. Previous research has linked the so-called second-generation antipsychotics to an increased risk of diabetes in adults. And there's been some evidence that the drugs can cause weight gain in children.

    The new findings, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, add to concerns that the medications may ultimately lead to diabetes in some kids. And it's the growing use of the drugs in kids—particularly for conditions in which the benefit is unclear—that makes the potential diabetes risk concerning, according to Dr. Jonathan Mink, chief of child neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.

    These medications can be very helpful in certain settings, said Mink, who is also part of a pediatric advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In September, the panel recommended that the agency keep monitoring the risks of weight gain and diabetes in children on antipsychotics.

  • November 21, 2011

    Nerve Cells Key to Making Sense of Our Senses

    The human brain is bombarded with a cacophony of information from the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin. Now a team of scientists at the University of Rochester, Washington University in St. Louis, and Baylor College of Medicine has unraveled how the brain manages to process those complex, rapidly changing, and often conflicting sensory signals to make sense of our world.

    The study, published online Nov. 20 in Nature Neuroscience, represents the first direct evidence of how the brain combines multiple sources of sensory information to form as accurate a perception as possible of its environment, the researchers report.

    The discovery may eventually lead to new therapies for people with Alzheimer's disease and other disorders that impair a person's sense of self-motion, says study coauthor Greg DeAngelis, professor and chair of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester. This deeper understanding of how brain circuits combine different sensory cues could also help scientists and engineers to design more sophisticated artificial nervous systems such as those used in robots, he adds.

  • November 8, 2011

    Autistic Children May Have Too Many Brain Cells, Study Says

    The brains of autistic children have far more neurons in the prefrontal cortex than the brains of kids without autism, finds a new study that could advance research into the disorder. For the first time, we have the potential to understand why autism gets started, said study author Eric Courchesne, a professor of neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and director of the Autism Center of Excellence.

    The prefrontal cortex is key to complex thoughts and behaviors, including language, social behavior and decision-making. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is closely linked with executive function, including planning, reasoning and very high level cognition, said Lizabeth Romanski, an associate professor of Neurobiology & Anatomy at the University of Rochester Medical Center, who was not involved with the research. The mesial prefrontal cortex is thought to be important to social and other behavior and emotions.

  • November 3, 2011

    Jacqueline Williams, Major Lab Collaborator, Appointed to Prestigious Leadership Positions

    Jacqueline P. Williams, Ph.D., a University of Rochester faculty member and internationally recognized expert in radiation biology, has been named to leadership positions at three of the leading radiation oncology and research organizations in the world.

    The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) named Williams chair of its Scientific Research Council at the Society's 53rd annual meeting, held in Miami Beach, Fla. Williams was also recognized as one of 21 distinguished members that received ASTRO's Fellow designation at a ceremony during the meeting.

  • October 19, 2011

    Neuroscience Alumnus Receives Robert Doty Award

    Dr. Peter Shrager and Dr. Steven Raiker at the 2011 Neuroscience Retreat.

    Stephen Raiker, Ph.D., a former student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program, has received the Robert Doty Award of Excellence in recognition of outstanding dissertation research in neuroscience. Through his thesis research, Dr. Raiker joined the laboratory of Dr. Roman Giger and began collborating with Dr. Peter Shrager, who ultimately became his co-advisor.

    Dr. Raiker's research on the physiological role of Nogo receptors in axon plasticity and regeneration culminated in two publications in The Journal of Neuroscience, one as co-first author and one as first author. He was a contributing author on two additional papers plus a review article, and he presented his research at several international meetings. After defending his thesis, Dr. Raiker was subsequently selected as the 2011 recipient of the Vincent du Vigneaud Commencement Award for Meritorious Research. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Thomas Schwarz in the F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center at Children's Hospital Boston.

    Dr. Robert Doty was a leading brain researcher who helped create what is now the world's largest organization of neuroscientists, the Society for Neuroscience. Dr. Doty had served the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry since 1961, a central figure to a team of people that has made the University an internationally recognized powerhouse in neuroscience.

  • October 19, 2011

    Neuroscience Holds Annual Retreat

    Faculty members, students, staff, and postdoctoral fellows at the 2011 Neuroscience Retreat.

    On October 17, 2011, the 2011 Neuroscience retreat was held at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, NY. There was a great turnout for the event with 147 faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows, and students in attendance.

    Some of the highlights included M.D./Ph.D. student, Mike Wu, winning the award for the best student poster, Sustained Interleukin-1β Expression Severely Impairs Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis Despite Voluntary Running and Emily Kelly, an NBA post-doctoral fellow, winning the award for the best postdoc poster, Ultrastructural Distribution of ICAM-5 (Telencephalin) in Mouse Visual Cortex.

    The retreat was capped off by several intriguing lectures and presentations, a poster session, great food, and a terrific keynote/Notter lecture by Dr. Carol Barnes.

  • October 4, 2011

    Has Your Brain Already Crystallized?

    As it turns out, keeping pace in ever-more-electronic world is no small feat for the aging brain. That's because our mental circuitry – the most frequently used neuron pathways, like well-traveled roads – tends to crystallize into a series of expressways over time. But that doesn't mean paving new paths (by, say, learning in middle age) is a lost cause – it just demands special learning techniques and a little more patience.

    That's heartening news for adults who are headed back to school, shifting careers in later life, or simply want to be lifelong learners, says neuropsychologist Dr. Mark Mapstone. In the clip below, he sheds more light on our amazing (and aging) brains.

  • October 4, 2011

    NBA Assistant Professor, David Kornack, Ph.D., Awarded Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching

    Dr. David Kornack as he receives his award from Alexis Pilato, Class of 2014

    Assistant Professor David Kornack, Ph.D., in the department of Neurobiology & Anatomy, has received The Manuel D. Goldman Prize for Excellence in First Year Teaching. This prize was established in 1981 in memory of Manuel D. Goldman and is awarded each year by the first year class to recognize a member of the faculty for excellence in first year teaching.

    Dr. Kornack, who is very popular among the NBA and NGP students, teaches the first year medical course, Human Structure and Function and the neuroscience course, Mind, Brain & Behavior. He also co-directs a course with Dr. Kathy Nordeen for the Neuroscience majors called NSC 203: Laboratory in Neurobiology and directs the course NSC 302: Senior Seminar in Neuroscience. In addition, he lectures in the undergraduate courses, BCS 249: Developmental Neurobiology and BME 258: Human Anatomy.

  • October 4, 2011

    NBA Associate Professor, Dr. Barbara Davis, Ph.D., Honored for Excellence in Teaching

    Associate Professor Barabara Davis, Ph.D., in the department of Neurobiology & Anatomy, has once again been honored for excellence in teaching. She has been honored six times recently (five years in a row) for Commendations for Excellence in Teaching in the First Year (2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), and was the recipient of the Alumni Association Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2006. A faculty member at the University of Rochester since 1984, this is Dr. Davis's 16th teaching award since 1995.

    Dr. Davis is currently the course director for the anatomic sciences strand of HSF where she teaches anatomy and histology. She also teaches the carbohydrate metabolism section of Molecules to Cells, teaches in the Mind Brain Behavior course, a human anatomy course (BME 258) for the Biomedical Engineering department, the anatomy component of the SURF program, and runs the Prematriculation Human Biology course. Additionally, she is also the director of the Medical Education Pathway.

  • September 28, 2011

    NGP Graduate Student Receives F30 NIH Individual Predoctoral Fellowship

    Neuroscience graduate program student, Phillip Rappold has received an F30 NIH Individual Predoctoral Fellowship for 3 years, entitled Role of mitochondrial dynamics in Parkinson's disease processes and therapeutics.

  • September 27, 2011

    Stop Stroke Before it Stops You - 4 Things You Should Know

    Ask any number of men what they think their odds of having a stroke are, and you might find many of them believe stroke is frighteningly unpredictable and can attack like a bolt from the blue – without warning, trailing death and disability in its wake.

    That idea is dangerously wrong. The truth is that a stroke is the bullet at the end of a very long barrel and there is a lot you can do to dodge it.

    The path to stroke can be started by heart disease – especially if you have an irregular heartbeat. It also can be started by arterial disease – especially if there is a build-up of plaque in the arteries of the neck. The chain of events that begins with cardiovascular disease and ends in stroke can take years, or even decades to evolve. You probably will not know that it is happening.

  • September 22, 2011

    NGP Graduate Student Receives Irving L. Spar Fellowship Award

    First year student in the Neuroscience graduate program, Jennifer Stripay has been selected by the faculty to be this year's recipient of the Irving L. Spar Fellowship Award. Jennifer's selection was based on her outstanding credentials and the faculty opinion that she has unusual potential for future meritorious contributions in her field. The Irving L. Spar Fellowship Award honors the memory of Dr. Spar, a former Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in the School of Medicine and Dentistry. It is awarded annually to a deserving gradaute student entering the School through the Graduate Education in the Biomedical Sciences Program.

  • September 20, 2011

    Need More Memory (No, We’re Not Talking RAM)

    Searching frantically for misplaced car keys. Fumbling for the name of a new acquaintance. Providing an accurate eye-witness testimony. Treasuring past moments with a loved one lost. What, exactly, is this thing we call “memory”? How do our brains manage to process, store and recall so much sensory footage – even lifeless data, like phone numbers – almost reflexively?

    Neuropsychologist Dr. Mark Mapstone co-directs URMC's memory care clinic, which features a team of neurologists, psychiatrists, a geriatrician, a neuropsychologist, a psychometrician (expert in measuring psychological function), a social worker and a nurse practitioner. He weighs in on these and other burning questions in the clip below.

  • September 16, 2011

    NSC Alumna Publishes New Book

    Sandra Aamodt, a Neuroscience graduate from the University of Rochester in 1994, has recently published a new book, Welcome to Your Child's Brain. This is the follow up to her 2008 book (co-authored with Sam Wang) entitled, Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life. Sandra is the former Editor in Chief of Nature Neuroscience.

  • September 8, 2011

    MSTP, NSC Graduate Student Receives F30 Fellowship

    MSTP, NSC graduate student, Adrianne Chesser, has received an F30 Fellowship from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, for her project entitled: Mitochondrial Dynamics Underlie Gene-Environment Interactions in Parkinson's. The mission of the NIEHS is to reduce the burden of human illness and disability by understanding how the environment influences the development and progression of human disease.

  • September 7, 2011

    Stem Cell Efforts to Treat Neurological Disease Bolstered With $4.5 Million

    Human oligodendrocytes and astrocytes generated from human neural progenitor cells.

    The endeavor to find better treatments or perhaps even one day a cure for a host of debilitating and fatal neurological diseases has been bolstered by an influx of funding from a mix of private and public sources.

    he laboratory headed by Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, has received $4.5 million in new funding to further its efforts to use stem cells and related molecules to treat several feared disorders for which there are currently no cures – including multiple sclerosis, Huntington's disease, and fatal childhood diseases known as pediatric leukodystrophies.

  • August 31, 2011

    2011 NGP Students Receive Funding From NINDS

    Recently the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) awarded several of our Neuroscience graduate students training grants. This year, a first year NGP student, Jennifer Stripay, as well as second year students, Kelli Fagan, Julianne Feola, John O'Donnell, Fatima Rivera-Escalera, Grayson Sipe received funding. NINDS is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with it's continuing mission to reduce the burden of neurological disease - a burden borne by every age group, by every segment of society, by people all over the world.

  • August 29, 2011

    Healthy Living: Batten Disease

    Staring at a computer screen wasn't exactly what Nicole Newhouse envisioned for her career. It didn't take long for her to find a subject that sparked a new passion. Newhouse said, You have children that are dying. Point blank, you have children that are dying. Newhouse is enrolling patients in the first controlled clinical trial for batten disease. We don't have a cure right now. We can't tell parents 'you take this and your child's going to be ok, said Newhouse.

    Batten disease is a neurological disorder that usually appears in children ages four to eight years old. Early symptoms of the disease include sudden vision problems. That's quickly followed by a loss of motor skills, mental impairment and eventually death. Try to imagine what it's like for the parents to watch their child basically dying before their eyes. Over many years, it's the kind of thing that as a physician you see and think you know I want to do something to help, said Dr. Jonathan Mink, professor in the departments of Neurology, Neurobiology & Anatomy, Pediatrics, and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochster Medical Center.

  • August 24, 2011

    'Bubble Boy' Kids Living Normally After Gene Therapy: Study

    More than a dozen children with so-called bubble boy disease are alive and well, with functioning immune systems, nine years after undergoing gene therapy to correct their disorder, researchers report. Most of the patients attend school with other children, something that probably would have been fatal without treatment.

    With gene therapy, clinicians remove the patient's own bone marrow, isolate the stem cells, correct the gene and reinsert it into the patient, explained William J. Bowers, associate professor of neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y. This field came on with huge promise, then hit a few bumps and now . . . we're starting to see more and more of these successes, added Bowers.

  • August 17, 2011

    Award to Neuroscientist Boosts Mental Health Research

    Brain areas involved in making decisions about rewards are highlighted.

    A Rochester neuroscientist whose laboratory research has already helped patients has received a prestigious award to explore new opportunities to help people with conditions like schizophrenia, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and addiction.

    Suzanne Haber, Ph.D., professor of Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, has received a Distinguished Investigator Grant from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. She is one of 15 scholars nationwide to receive the award, also known as a NARSAD award (the foundation was previously known as the National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Depression). Each recipient receives $100,000 toward new research aimed at alleviating the suffering caused by mental illness.

    Haber is a world leader uncovering and understanding the wiring in a highly sophisticated part of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain involved in decision-making that involves reward and potential risk. The prefrontal cortex is what prompts us to forego a box of cookies for breakfast, for instance, so we can reach our long-term weight-loss goal, or that helps keep a student studying late at night in the quest to obtain her college degree, instead of partying with friends.

  • June 29, 2011

    Neuroscientists Find Famous Optical Illusion Surprisingly Potent

    Scientists have come up with new insight into the brain processes that cause an age-old illusion, first documented by Aristotle. The illusion is called the Motion Aftereffect by today's scientists, but why does it happen, though? Is it because we are consciously aware that the background is moving in one direction, causing our brains to shift their frame of reference so that we can ignore this motion? Or is it an automatic, subconscious response?

    Davis Glasser, a doctoral student in the University of Rochester's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences thinks he has found the answer. The results of a study done by Glasser, along with his advisor, Professor Duje Tadin, and colleagues James Tsui and Christopher Pack of the Montreal Neurological Institute, will be published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). In their paper, the scientists show that humans experience the Motion Aftereffect even if the motion that they see in the background is so brief that they can't even tell whether it is heading to the right or the left.

  • May 31, 2011

    First Controlled Clinical Trial for Juvenile Batten Disease to Start

    After years of building hope for a treatment, Rochester researchers and clinicians will begin the first controlled clinical trial for Juvenile Batten disease this summer, thanks to $1 million in grants from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Batten Disease Support and Research Association (BDSRA). The trial will examine whether mycophenolate mofetil, a drug FDA-approved to suppress the immune system and prevent organ rejection in children, is safe for these children and whether it can slow or halt the progression of the fatal neurodegenerative disease.

    Families have been anxiously awaiting word on when we could launch this clinical trial, said Frederick Marshall, M.D., principal investigator of the trial and Associate Professor of Neurology. Juvenile Batten Disease is very rare, but the families are very close and well-informed about potential treatments. They have been watching the progress of this research and hoping for the day when we could launch the trial.

    Juvenile Batten disease is a lysosomal-storage disease that strikes seemingly healthy children and progressively robs them of their abilities to see, reason and move. It ultimately kills them in late adolescence or young adulthood. Batten disease is in the same family of diseases as Krabbe disease to which former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly lost his son, Hunter, in 2005.

  • May 13, 2011

    Neuroscience Student Wins Vincent du Vigneaud Award

    Neuroscience graduate student, Steven Raiker has won this year's Vincent du Vigneaud Award for meritorious research by a Ph.D. student in the Medical School. Raiker, who recently defended his thesis entitled, The Nogo-66 Receptor, NgR1, Regulates Structural and Functional Plasticity at Schaffer Collateral-CA1 Synapses, was advised by Drs. Roman Geiger and Peter Shrager.

  • May 13, 2011

    Two Defective Proteins Conspire to Impair the Nerve Cell’s ‘Powerhouse’ in Alzheimer Disease

    Two proteins that are abnormally modified in the brains of patients with Alzheimer disease collude, resulting in ill effects on the crucial energy centers of brain cells, according to new findings published online in Neurobiology of Aging. The research raises the possibility that pathological forms of two proteins, amyloid beta and tau, which make up the pathological hallmarks of the brains of Alzheimer patients – plaques and tangles – may work in tandem to decrease the survival of brain cells.

    The idea that amyloid beta and tau may work together to cause mischief in the brain has been an evolving theme among scientists for a number of years, said Gail Johnson, Ph.D., professor of Anesthesiology and the corresponding author of the paper. The precise relationship between the two pathologies is unclear, but there may be a synergy between the two when it comes to their effects on mitochondria in Alzheimer disease.

  • April 7, 2011

    MSTP, NSC Graduate Student Susan Lee Receives Trainee Travel Award

    MSTP and Neuroscience student, Susan Lee has received a Trainee Travel Award to present her research at the Organization for Human Brain Mapping's 17th Annual Meeting in Quebec City, Canada on June 26-30, 2011. Susan is currently working in Dr. Loisa Bennetto's lab on Audiovisual Integration During Language Comprehension: The Neural Basis of Social Communication in Autism and Typical Development.

  • March 22, 2011

    Pre-Conception and Early Pregnancy Iron Deficiency Harms Brain

    A mother's iron deficiency early in pregnancy may have a profound and long-lasting effect on the brain development of the child, even if the lack of iron is not enough to cause severe anemia, according to a University of Rochester Medical Center study published in the scientific journal PLoS One.

    What convinced us to conduct the present study were our preliminary data suggesting that cells involved in building the embryonic brain during the first trimester were most sensitive to low iron levels, said Margot Mayer-Proschel, Ph.D., the lead researcher and an associate professor of Biomedical Genetics at URMC.

    Co-author Anne Luebke, Ph.D., an associate professor of Biomedical Engineering and Neurobiology & Anatomy at UR, suggested and directed the use of ABR testing, which can detect the speed of information moving from the ear to the brain.

  • February 17, 2011

    NSC Graduate Student Awarded NIH Individual Predoctoral Fellowship Award

    Crystal McClain, a graduate student in Neuroscience, was awarded an NIH Individual Predoctoral Fellowship Award. Crystal currently works in the Goldman Lab and studies the signaling pathways of both fetal and adult glial progenitor cells, and the molecular bases for the fate decisions that determine whether progenitors become oligodendrocytes or astrocytes, a key determinant of both remyelination and gliosis after injury.

  • January 18, 2011

    Robert Doty, Eminent Neuroscientist, Dies at 91

    Robert Doty

    It is with deep personal sadness that I inform the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, as well as the broader neuroscience and UR community, that our own Bob Doty passed away on Friday, January 14th, 2011. Bob had been a monumental presence in our midst for decades, and was arguably our most eminent neuroscientist on campus (read an autobiographical SFN publication written by Dr. Doty). A friend to many, and admired by all who knew him, we will miss his remarkable and steadfast presence among us, as well as his routine appearance at seminars--always with that extraordinary flair for insightful questions and comments. It was truly fitting that our last departmental winter banquet was held in honor and celebration of Bob near his 90th birthday. At the wishes of Bob's family, plans for a memorial will be considered in the spring.

    - Gary D. Paige, M.D., Ph.D., Chair Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy

  • January 17, 2011

    Dr. Gary Paige Featured on Second Opinion Episode

    Dr. Gary Paige, Chair and Professor of Neurobiology & Anatomy, was a featured panelist on the web-based TV show, Second Opinion. The basis of this show was dizziness and vertigo of which Dr. Paige is an expert. Dr. Paige also runs the Balance Disorders and Dizziness Clinic at the University of Rochester.

  • January 14, 2011

    Microglia: A Standing Ovation, Please!

    Structure of a Synapse

    New research from the Majewska Lab at University of Rochester Medical Center is revealing even more reasons to stand up and applaud the microglia. It turns out that microglia serve more than immune functions. They are essential to learning and memory. This research suggests that a lot of what is going on in that synaptic gap is engineered by the microglia.

    The research team, led by Ania Majewska, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the department of Neurobiology & Anatomy, used two imaging techniques to study the microglia in the animals' brains during these various stages. When the lights were off, microglia contacted more synapses, were more likely to reach toward a particular type of synapse, tended to be larger, and were more likely to destroy a synapse. When the lights came back on, most of those activities reversed.

    The finding that activity among microglia changed in response to visual inputs was, in itself, surprising. Just the fact that microglia can sense that something has changed in the environment is a novel idea, says Majewska.

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