2015 News

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  • August 28, 2015

    Carney lab looks beyond inner ear in quest for better hearing aids

    Laurel Carney, Ph.D.

    Most hearing aids on the market today are designed to mimic what happens in our inner ear — specifically the amplifying role of the outer hair cells.

    However, the lab of Laurel Carney, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, is studying what happens beyond the inner ear — in the complex network of auditory nerve fibers that transmit the inner ear's electrical signals to the brain, and in the auditory center of the midbrain, which processes those signals.

    Therein lies the key to creating hearing aids that not only make human speech louder but clearer, Carney believes.

    An important focus of her research uses a combination of physiological and behavioral studies, and computer modeling, to study the 30,000 auditory nerve fibers on each side of our brain that transmit electrical signals from the inner ear. Critical to this is the initial transduction of mechanical energy to electrical signals that occurs in the inner h air cells of the inner ear's organ of Corti.

    This is critical for shaping the patterning of responses in the auditory nerves, and the patterning of those responses at this first level, where the signal comes into the brain, has a big effect on the way the mid brain responds to the relatively low frequencies of the human voice, Carney explained.

    In people with healthy hearing, the initial transduction results in a wide contrast in how various auditory nerve fibers transmit this information. The responses of some fibers are dominated by a single tone, or harmonic, within the sound; others respond to fluctuations that are set up by the beating of multiple harmonics, Carney said. In the mid brain, neurons are capable of assimilating this contrast of fluctuating and nonfluctuating inputs across varying frequencies. They begin the process of parsing out the sounds of speech and any other vocalizations that involve low frequencies. A better understanding of how this process works in the midbrain, Carney believes, could yield new strategies for designing hearing aids.

    A lot of people have tried to design hearing aids based just on what is going on in the inner ear, but there's a lot of redundancies in the information generated there. We argue that you need to step back and, from the viewpoint of the midbrain, focus on what really matters. It's the pattern of fluctuations in the auditory nerve fibers that the midbrain responds to. The sort of strategies we're suggesting are not intuitive. The idea of trying to restore the contrast in the fluctuations across different frequency channels has not been tried before. The burden is on us to prove that it works, she added.

    To that end, Carney works closely with Joyce McDonough, Professor of Linguistics, in exploring how auditory nerve fiber transmissions play a role in coding speech sounds. Her lab also works closely with that of Jong-Hoon Nam, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and of Biomedical Engineering, whose inner-ear studies were described in this newsletter last week. Carney shares what her lab is learning about the interface of auditory nerve fiber signaling with the brain, and in return, we try to include in our models a lot of the nonlinear properties of the inner ear that he (Nam) has been working on. By interacting with his lab, we hope to continue to modernize our model as he discovers more, Carney said.

  • August 10, 2015

    FDA Approves Tool for Diagnosing Dementia in a Doctor's Office

    Dr. Charles Duffy M.D., Ph.D.

    A small company started by a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester has moved closer to providing doctors with what he says is a simple, computer-based tool to help detect early signs of Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia.

    Cerebral Assessment Systems has received marketing approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for Cognivue, a cognitive-assessment tool that functions somewhat like a video game. A patient can perform the inexpensive and simple test while a time-strapped primary-care physician tends to other patients. The 10-minute, non­invasive examination can detect subtle lapses in the brain’s perceptual ability that may signal the early stages of mental decline caused by dementia.

    The federal government's approval to market the device comes as Alzheimer's researchers everywhere step up the pursuit for easier and more inexpensive ways to identify dementia in its earliest stages.

    Look, there is a late-life tsunami of late-life cognitive decline coming at us, and health-care providers are standing on the beach, said Charles J. Duffy, a neurology professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center who founded the company. What we are all about is making cognitive care part of primary care.

    Read the article from the Washington Post.

  • July 23, 2015

    Work of Liz Romanski Recognized by the University Research Community

    Dr. Lizabeth Romanski

    Researchers Pinpoint Brain's Audiovisual Processing Center

    A new study is helping scientists more precisely understand how the brain stitches together sensory information such as sound and images, insight that could shed new light on conditions such as Autism. The research, which appears in the Journal of Neuroscience, identifies an area of the brain in the frontal lobe responsible for working memory and sensory integration.

    Work in our laboratory is aimed at understanding how auditory and visual information are integrated since we know this process is crucial for recognizing objects by sight and sound, communicating effectively, and navigating through our complex world, said Lizabeth Romanski, Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of Rochester Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy and co-author of the study.

    Our recent study demonstrates that the prefrontal cortex plays an essential role in audiovisual working memory, and when this area is switched off our ability to remember both the auditory and visual cues is impaired, said Bethany Plakke, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Romanski lab and co-author of this study.

    For the complete article visit the URMC Newsroom.

  • July 22, 2015

    Brian Ho wins scholarship competition

    Brian's work showing axons originating from cells in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis overlying the dorsal tier subpopulation of dopamine cells (pink dots).

    Congratulations to Brian Ho, a rising senior at the University of Rochester, who has been in the Fudge lab since January. Brian was the winner of a competition sponsored by Delta Sonic, that assists promising students with a cash scholarship. In our lab, Brian's work focuses on how brain regions involved in threat responses, such as the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and central amygdala nucleus, interact with specific dopamine neuron subpopulations.

  • July 22, 2015

    Danielle deCampo makes the move with Golisano Children's Hospital

    Danielle deCampo makes the move with Golisano Children's Hospital

    Danielle is completing a sub-internship in Pediatrics this summer--and they moved the hospital! The amazing undertaking of relocating from the old Pediatrics ward to beautiful new building took everyone's efforts. (Danielle is second from right).

  • July 20, 2015

    Babies' expectations may help brain development

    Infants can use their expectations about the world to rapidly shape their developing brains, researchers have found.

    A series of experiments with infants 5 to 7 months old has shown that portions of babies' brains responsible for visual processing respond not just to the presence of visual stimuli, but also to the mere expectation of visual stimuli, according to researchers from the University of Rochester and the University of South Carolina.

    That type of complex neural processing was once thought to happen only in adults—not infants—whose brains are still developing important neural connections.

    We show that in situations of learning and situations of expectations, babies are in fact able to really quickly use their experience to shift the ways different areas of their brain respond to the environment, said Lauren Emberson, who conducted the study at the University of Rochester's Baby Lab while a research associate with Richard Aslin in the department of brain and cognitive sciences.

    For more information, visit the University of Rochester Newscenter.

  • July 7, 2015

    Researcher Wins Auditory Neuroscience Award

    Laurel Carney, Ph.D.

    Laurel Carney, a professor of Biomedical Engineering, has been recognized for her work by the premier scientific organization in the field of acoustics. The Acoustical Society of America has awarded Carney the William and Christine Hartmann Prize in Auditory Neuroscience.

    It's truly a great honor to receive an award created by Bill and Christine Hartmann, two of my role models, said Carney. I welcome the challenge to emulate their life of discovery, presentation, publication, service, and education throughout the world.

    William and Christine Hartmann established the award with a donation to recognize and honor research that links auditory physiology with auditory perception or behavior in humans or other animals. William Hartmann is a physicist, psychoacoustician, and former president of the Acoustical Society of America. His contributions to the field involved pitch perception, signal detection, modulation detection, and the localization of sound.

    In her research lab, Carney is working to better understand how the brain translates sounds into patterns of electrical impulses. By studying physiology, human hearing, and computer models, Carney hopes to learn how the brain distinguishes sounds in noisy environments and why even a small degree of hearing loss can lead to major problems. Her ultimate goal is to develop effective strategies to help people who have experienced hearing loss.

    Carney earned her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University and professor of biomedical engineering at Syracuse University before joining the faculty at the University of Rochester in 2007, where she serves as professor in three departments—biomedical engineering, neurobiology and anatomy, and electrical and computer engineering.

    For additional information, visit the Rochester Newsroom.

  • July 1, 2015

    Mink Receives First Ever Tourette’s Association of America Award

    Jonathan Mink, M.D., Ph.D., chief of Child Neurology at Golisano Children’s Hospital, is the first recipient of the Tourette Association of America’s Oliver Sacks Award for Excellence. The award, named for the famous British neurologist, was to be presented at the First World Congress on Tourette Syndrome and Tic Disorders, but due to a scheduling conflict, representatives from TAA instead traveled to Rochester to present him with the award in a surprise ceremony.

    The award is in recognition of his many years of leadership, mentorship, research, and care on behalf of all people touched by Tourette syndrome and tic disorders around the world.

  • June 22, 2015

    Upcoming NGP PhD Defenses

    Two NGP students are presenting their defense seminars next week.

    Wei Sun defends on Monday June 29th and Adam Pallus defends on July 1st

    To read their abstracts, visit the Defense Seminars site.

  • June 14, 2015

    Kerry O'Banion presents at the CTSI Workshop - Patent Infringement: COX Fighting

    Kerry O'Banion, interim chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, and University President Emeritus Thomas Jackson will present Patent Infringement: COX Fighting, from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 17, in Helen Wood Hall Auditorium. The event is part of the CTSI workshop series, Good Advice: Case Studies in Clinical Research, Regulation, and the Law.

  • June 10, 2015

    Laurel Carney Awarded the 2015 William and Christine Hartmann Prize in Auditory Neuroscience

    Laurel Carney, Ph.D.

    Laurel H. Carney has been awarded the William and Christine Hartmann Prize in Auditory Neuroscience by the Acoustical Society of America (ASA). The award was presented at the 169th meeting of the ASA on 20 May 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

    The William and Christine Hartmann Prize in Auditory Neuroscience was established in 2011 through a generous donation by Bill and Chris Hartmann to the Acoustical Society of America to recognize and honor research that links auditory physiology with auditory perception or behavior in humans or other animals.

    The Acoustical Society of America provides an important scientific home for researchers pursuing questions related to sound and hearing. This group has positively shaped many of our careers, especially by providing access to an incredible group of mentors and role models. Receiving an award created by Bill and Christine Hartmann, two of my own role models, is truly a great honor. This award presents a challenge for me to emulate their life of discovery, presentation, publication, service, and education throughout the world, said Carney.

    The goal of Dr. Carney's research program is to understand how the brain hears. The initial response of brain cells to sound is a complicated pattern of electrical pulses, a pattern that is modified and interpreted by millions of cells in many parts of the brain. Studies of physiology, human hearing, and computer models are combined to understand how this process works in listeners with normal hearing, so that an answer can be found to the question: How is the brain so good at hearing in noisy environments? Another goal is to understand why only relatively small amounts of hearing loss cause significant problems. Why does background noise (such as that in a busy restaurant) become so problematic for people with hearing loss? Answers to both of these questions will lead to better strategies for aiding listeners with hearing loss.

    For more information, visit the Department of Biomedical Engineering story.

  • June 9, 2015

    Foxe Appointed to Head Neuromedicine Research at URMC

    John J. Foxe, Ph.D., a nationally-regarded scientist in the field of neurobiology, has been named the research director of the DelMonte Neuromedicine Institute (DNI) and the Kilian J. and Caroline F. Schmitt Chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

    The University of Rochester has long been home to some of the nation's most innovative and groundbreaking research in the field of neuroscience and neuromedicine, said Joel Seligman, president of the University of Rochester. John's appointment signals our determination to make this field a centerpiece of our progress as a University and Medical Center.

    I am honored to be taking the helm of the DNI at this incredibly exciting time in modern neuroscience research, said Foxe. The University of Rochester is already world-renowned for its superb work in this field and we now have the opportunity to build an even stronger presence. Tens of millions of Americans suffer from a major mental illness each year, be it depression or anxiety, a major psychotic disorder, or Alzheimer's disease, stroke, or addiction. And the list goes on. The National Institutes of Health estimates that only about half of these people ever receive treatment. We can and we must do better. It is only through research that we can develop new effective treatments and I am committed to placing the DNI and the University of Rochester at the very forefront of these efforts.

  • June 4, 2015

    $10 Million Grant Funds Center to Study OCD at UR School of Medicine and Dentistry

    Suzanne Haber, Ph.D.

    Suzanne Haber leads a research team to investigate OCD. She says the disease is characterized by intrusive, ruminating thoughts (obsessions), and impulses to carry out repetitive behaviors (compulsions), despite the awareness by most patients that these behaviors don't make sense.

    The goal of a new $10 million grant awarded to the scientists is to improve our understanding of the brain networks that play a central role in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Together with leading mental health researchers at four other institutions in the U.S., they will pinpoint specific abnormalities within the brain circuits that are associated with the disease and use this information to guide new treatment options for the three million-plus Americans who live with the disorder.

    The five-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) establishes a new Silvio O. Conte Center for Basic and Translational Mental Health Research at the University of Rochester. Conte Centers are designed to bring scientists with diverse but complimentary backgrounds together to improve the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders.

    For more information, please visit the URMC newsroom article.

  • May 11, 2015

    Ben Crane Awarded Nicholas Torok Vestibular Award by the American Neurotology Society

    Otolaryngology associate professor, Benjamin Crane, MD, PhD, was awarded the Nicholas Torok Vestibular Award by the American Neurotology Society at the 50th Annual meeting in Boston on April 25th. The title of his presentation was An automated vestibular rehabilitation method for unilateral vestibular hypofunction.

    The $1500 award is offered by the Society for the best lecture on an innovative observation, experience or technique in the field of Vestibular Basic Science, i.e., physiology, pathology or subjects serving clinical progress.

    Congratulations Ben!

  • March 10, 2015

    Congratulations to Nguyen Mai

    Nguyen Mai, MD/PhD student

    Congrats to Nguyen Mai, MD/PhD student, in Dr. Marc Halterman's lab for receiving an individual fellowship F30 from NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for her work on Role of lung-brain coupling on neutrophil priming and reperfusion injury following global cerebral ischemia.

  • March 10, 2015

    VasoMark advances to the next phase!

    The VasoMark Team

    A group of students from Neuroscience Graduate Program and Neurosurgery Residency Program have teamed up to compete in the National Institutes of Health Neuro Startup Challenge. This new effort offers pre- and post-doctoral students from biomedical, legal, and business backgrounds the opportunity to compete for licenses to patented technologies from the NIH portfolio.

    The teams model a business around the intellectual property, and seek startup funding from partnering angel investor and venture capitalist firms in order to bring the proposed technology to the biomedical marketplace. The NGP and Neurosurgery team, named VasoMark, selected two patents for the development of a minimally invasive diagnostic for the detection of primary and recurrent malignant brain tumors. VasoMark successfully completed Phase I of the competition, where they developed a two-minute elevator pitch and executive summary describing their intended entrepreneurial use of the selected technology. They are currently developing a business plan and live investor pitch describing their business model, intended market, and future areas of expansion for their selected patents.

  • February 13, 2015

    Mouse Model Helps Researchers Target Deadly Brain Disease

    At upper left, a healthy astrocyte (a supportive brain cell) is shown in blue between green sheaths of myelin, which are produced by oligodendrocytes, the tentacled objects also seen in green.In individuals suffering from Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, JC viruses (red particles) first infect the astrocyte (upper right) and mutate, eventually causing the astrocyte to explode (bottom image). The viruses then infect the oligodendrocytes.

    When University researchers Steven Goldman and Maiken Nedergaard created a mouse model whose brains consisted of both animal neurons and human glia cells, their study initially focused on findings that the human cells essentially made the mice smarter.

    However, they also created a powerful new platform for researchers to study human glial cells in experimental animals. And that is providing new insights into Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML).

    The study, out today in the journal Cell Stem Cell, suggests that the evolution of a subset of glia called astrocytes – which are larger and more complex in humans than other species – may have been one of the key events that led to the higher cognitive functions that distinguish us from other species.


    For more information please visit the URMC Newsroom article.

  • February 4, 2015

    NBA Faculty Candidate: Krishnan Padmanabhan, PhD

    Krishnan Padmanabhan, PhD

    Faculty candidate Dr. Padmanabhan, Junior Fellow Crick-Jacobs Center for Theoretical and Computational Biolgy The Salk Institute of Biological Studies, will present the talk The Role of Diversity in the Neural Computations Monday, February 23rd at 2:00pm in K-307 (3-6408)

    Abstract

    A key question in neuroscience is to understand how neuronal circuits process sensory information and generate behaviors in response to that information. Consider the sense of smell for instance. In a single sniff, mammals can synthesize data about dozens of volitile chemical compounds to create a singular unified perception, like the smell of coffee. In the olfactory system of mice, feedforward projections from the principle cells of the main olfactory bulb relay information about these odors directly to cortical regions as an early step toward forming a sensory percept. Feedback projections from these cortical areas back to early olfactory structures dynamically impact the way incoming odor information is processed based on such features as experience, memory and brain state. How these two computations are done, and how the olfactory system uses these computations to generate behavior remain open questions.

    In my talk, I will discuss our recent work tackling 2 aspects of this process.

    1. How the biophysical properties of neurons improves information transmission in the feedforward direction.
    2. How the anatomy of connections from the higher processing areas may reveal key computational principles about sensory processing.
  • February 1, 2015

    MSTP Announces 40th Anniversary Celebration!

    Edward M. Eddy Rubin

    The Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) is excited to announce a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the MSTP NIH training grant on Friday, October 9, 2015.

    The keynote speaker will be an MSTP alumni from the Class of 1980: Edward Rubin, MD, PhD, Director, DOE Joint Genome Institute.

    Edward M. Eddy Rubin is an internationally-known geneticist and medical researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, where he became head of the Genomic Sciences Division in 1998. In 2002 he assumed the directorship of the DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI) to lead the JGI ’s involvement in the Human Genome Project (HGP).

    For more information and schedule of events for the day, please visit the MSTP 40th Anniversary page.

  • January 12, 2015

    NIH Neuro Start Up Challenge

    Several neuroscience graduate students and clinicians from the University of Rochester are involved in the NIH Neuro Start Up Challenge and have developed their elevator pitch and executive summary as part of the public voting phase. We encourage the neuroscience community to visit their Showcase page and provide votes and constructive feedback on the discussion board this week. Public voting will run Monday, January 12th through Friday, January 16th.

    Team: University of Rochester- 8&9.A (Inventions 8 and 9)

    Company Name: VasoMark

    Showcase page

    About the Challenge: The Neuro Start Up Challenge, launched by the NIH in partnership with the CAI and HPN, is designed to bring brain-related, patented technologies from the NIH to market. Teams of medical, scientific and business experts compete in several phases to create a company and execute a business plan with the ultimate goal of launching their start-up.

    Thank you for your support

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