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 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 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 6, 2011

    MSTP Student Elected to Board of SNMA

    Bisi Lawal, an M.D./Ph.D. student at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, has been elected to the board of directors of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA). Lawal, a native of Houston, is the regional director for medical schools in New York and New Jersey. The SNMA is the nation's oldest and largest, independent, student-run organization focused on the needs and concerns of medical students of color.

  • 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 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.

  • 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 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 3, 2011

    UR Research Group Wins Provost Multidisciplinary Research Award

    A current study by researchers at the University of Rochester entitled, Perception of Music and Language through Auditory Interference, has been selected as the recipient of the Provost Multidiscipliary Research Award.

    The work is based on the ability to filter interfering auditory signals from a primary stream is a basic aspect of social and musical communication. Musical performance requires continuous attention to a complex auditory signal: how does this expertise interface with the processing of linguistic signals? Is auditory filtering ability facilitated by musical training?

    In order to explore the above questions, this study brings together researchers with expertise in the following fields:

  • 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 1, 2011

    Laurel Carney Awarded Engineering Professor of the Year

    Congratulations to Professor Laurel Carney, who was recognized by the Student Association as the Engineering Professor of the Year at the prestigious annual University of Rochester Undergraduate Research Symposium. Undergrad Travis Bevington, BME '12, said, in presenting the award, Even with all of her research, Professor Carney manages to find time to spend countless hours with students on projects and it really proves how much she cares about our success as students. She really serves as an outlet to different opportunities that students might be unaware of, such as finding a lab position or research opportunity. Beyond the classroom, Professor Carney is always in high demand for letters of recommendation—students really feel like she takes the time to get to know all of us, even if her deck of cards in class can be quite intimidating! (Dr. Carney has a deck of playing cards, with one card for each student. Cards are drawn during class to direct questions to the students.)

    Said Professor Carney about the award, Since coming to UR 4 years ago, I've been greatly impressed by the quality of the undergraduates here and have really enjoyed my classes. Receiving this recognition from the students is a great honor. On the other hand, I think it provides objective evidence that my courses are too easy; I intend to remedy this situation as quickly as I can!

  • 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.

  • 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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