2011 News

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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 23, 2011

    BME Seniors Improving Automatic Detection of Epileptic Seizures

    A group of BME Seniors led by Professor Laurel Carney has been working together since Fall of their Sophomore year on a research project with the goal of improving automatic detection of epileptic seizures. This debilitating neurologic disorder has an impact on millions of patients, yet there is hope for better treatment through improved detection and someday, prediction, of seizures. The group founded UR DASDA (Database for Automatic Seizure Detection Algorithms), and established a goal of setting up an internet-based database that will provide high-quality electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings for researchers around the world who are developing seizure detection algorithms.

    In collaboration with Drs. James Burchfiel, Michel Berg, and staff in the Strong Epilepsy Center in the Department of Neurology, the group is collecting data that will be suitable for this research effort. Owen Zacharias, from the Departments of BME and Neurobiology & Anatomy, has been coordinating efforts with the computing administrators at the URMC to establish a website that can handle the large datafiles that are being developed. The students designed a website that will allow researchers to carefully select and download examples of seizures for use in testing algorithms. They are currently populating the database with datafiles, with a goal of 100 entries, including infants through older adults and a wide range of seizure types. A preliminary report of this database will be presented at the Fall conference of the Biomedical Engineering Society in Hartford Connecticut. The BME Seniors in UR DASDA are Gregory Hartnett, Andrew Hagar, Caitlin O'Connell, Zachary Milstone, Brian Schwartz, and Geoffrey Yee.

  • July 14, 2011

    Is the Internet Replacing Your Memory?

    Google, Facebook, Internet Movie Database, and many other sources of information on the Internet are changing the way in which we remember. As a result of this instant access, growing numbers of us may actually be outsourcing our memories. It's called the Google effect and it is documented online in the journal Science.

    Google is just another form of external memory, says Betsy Sparrow, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of psychology at Columbia University in New York City. Neuropsychologist Mark Mapstone, Ph.D., University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y., isn't sure the Google effect is such a good thing for our memories. This is not as good for us from a brain perspective, he says. If you download your information to a device, you are not using your brain to make connections as you should be. That said, When you don't burden your memory with rote remembering, it does free up activity for more complex thinking, he says.

  • July 5, 2011

    Are Bugs Crawling In Your Ears While You Sleep?

    You hear the horror stories all the time -- creepy crawlies that find their way into people's ears. But why are the nooks and crannies in our faces so attractive to bugs, anyway? The insects are probably entering the canal as harborage, for heat, and/or for moisture, Philip Koehler, Ph.D., an entomology professor at the University of Florida, told The Huffington Post in an email.

    There's no one-size-fits-all method for removing bugs from people's ears. However, if a bug crawls in your ear, you should not try to get it out yourself, said Dr. Benjamin Crane, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of otolaryngology at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. You can put mineral oil or something in the ear canal to kill the bug, to make it more comfortable for you, but you should then go to an emergency room or to an otolaryngologist's office to get it removed, Crane told The Huffington Post.

  • 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 6, 2011

    Pain-Monitoring Devices for Premature Infants Win Awards in Forbes and Mark Ain Competitions

    Photo of Ben and Jahanna

    Benjamin Freedman and Johanna Kelly, OmNeo, LLC

    A student team that presented a business plan to commercialize two devices for monitoring pain in premature infants took first place in this year's Forbes Entrepreneurial Competition and third place in the Mark Ain Business Model Competition at the University of Rochester.

    Biomedical engineering students Benjamin Freedman and Johanna Kelly, which make up the OmNeo, LLC team, presented two systems:

    1. wee rePLI, which objectively measures pain during procedures
    2. ORB|IT, which continually measures an infant's pain

    Reducing pain in premature infants can assist clinicians in better focusing treatment and can help prevent developmental health consequences. The devices were developed by a larger team of students, supervised by Professors Laurel Carney from Biomedical Engineering, and Martin Schiavento from the School of Nursing.

  • 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!

  • April 22, 2011

    Big HIV Prevention Study Halted, but Experts Won’t ‘Throw in the Towel’

    One of the most critical fronts in the war against AIDS is staving off future HIV infections. The challenge can be especially daunting within the most vulnerable populations – like African communities where women are sometimes subjected to sexual relations against their wills.

    Eager to arm these women with strategies to protect themselves, scientists recruited 1,900 female volunteers spread across Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania to help test if a daily pill (emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, known by the brand name Truvada) could keep the virus in check.

    Last week's headlines, unfortunately, said early data shows that women taking the drug fared no better than those assigned a sugar pill. Even so, experts like URMC's Dr. Amneris Luque warn that a handful of similar prior studies are simply too encouraging for us to completely throw in the towel this time around.

  • April 15, 2011

    Students and Faculty Recognized at the Undergraduate Research Symposium

    BME professor Laurel Carney, Ph.D. (with Kelli Summers, and Benjamin Freedman) was recognized by the Student Association as the Engineering Professor of the Year.

    Congratulations to the RCBU and BME students whose work was recognized at the prestigious annual University of Rochester Undergraduate Research Exposition 2011. Undergraduate students from RCBU and BME research laboratories participated in the symposium. BME undergrads Benjamin Freedman '11 and Kelli Summers '11 were both invited to speak at the Engineering and Applied Sciences Symposium Talks.

    Freedman discussed his work, What is Q-Angle really measuring? A novel alternative to predict patellar maltracking, which received the Dean's Award. Summers spoke about her research with Dr. James McGrath, Mechanisms Underlying Collective Cell Migration in Vitro, which was recognized by President Seligman with the President's Award. Aaron Zakrzewski (ME '11), mentored by Mechanical Engineering Professor Sheryl Gracewski, gave an oral presentation of his research titled Natural frequency of bubbles within rigid and compliant tubes. Aaron also received a Deans' Award for Undergraduate Research in Engineering and Applied Sciences for his presentation. In addition, five of the seven poster exhibitions from the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences were by BME students:

    Molly Boutin (Benoit Lab) BME '11
    A Polymeric Delivery System to Induce Differentiation in hMSCs
    Jasmine Carvalho (Dalecki Lab) BME '11
    Investigations of Ultrasound Parameters to Promote Spatial Organization of Cells in Three-Dimensional Engineered Tissues
    Vlabhav Kakkad (McAleavey Lab) BME '12
    Experimental Implementation of Shear Wave Induced Phase Encoding Imaging
    Angela Ketterer (Carney Lab) BME '12
    Design and Implementation of a Behavioral Apparatus for Auditory Research in Birds
    Hannah Watkins (Benoit Lab) BME '11
    Novel Parthenolide Delivery System for Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment
    (Received the Professor's Choice Award)
  • 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.