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Brendan Whitelaw receives 2019 Edward Peck Curtis Awards for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Brendan Whitelaw Curtis AwardNeuroscience Graduate Program and Medical Scientist Training Program student Brendan Whitelaw has been selected as one of the recipients of the 2019 Edward Peck Curtis Awards for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student. The awards were established to recognize graduate students who advance the teaching mission of the University by providing highly skilled and innovative undergraduate education. Students were nominated by their department chair and a faculty member. Congratulations, Brendan!

Read More: Brendan Whitelaw receives 2019 Edward Peck Curtis Awards for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student

Become a Member of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience brings together faculty across the University of Rochester who are engaged in neuroscience research. 

Members will receive exclusive benefits for belonging to the Del Monte network:

  • Eligibility to apply and receive funding for pilot projects, or other activities that support Institute goals
  • Print and email subscription to our quarterly publication, Neuroscience
  • Opportunities to volunteer for community outreach activities
  • Access to Institute listservs to promote relevant activities
  • Listing on the Institute website, using information from your University profile to facilitate networking and visibility

You must be a faculty member or postdoctoral fellow at the University of Rochester with an interest in brain science to become a member. Click here to apply.

Read More: Become a Member of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience

Neuroscience Pilot Grants Available

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Ernest J. Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience is pleased to announce the availability of up to 21 pilot project awards (maximum budget of $50,000 per award) to support novel basic, clinical and translational projects in the neurosciences. These awards will be supported under five programs for 2019 and are open to all faculty members across both the Medical School and the Undergraduate Campus.  Funds available for this year’s program are $840,000. 

The application deadline is 5:00 pm on Monday, March 18, 2019.

Read More: Neuroscience Pilot Grants Available

Not All Sleep is Equal When It Comes to Cleaning the Brain

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

New research shows how the depth of sleep can impact our brain’s ability to efficiently wash away waste and toxic proteins.  Because sleep often becomes increasingly lighter and more disrupted as we become older, the study reinforces and potentially explains the links between aging, sleep deprivation, and heightened risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

“Sleep is critical to the function of the brain’s waste removal system and this study shows that the deeper the sleep the better,” said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and lead author of the study. “These findings also add to the increasingly clear evidence that quality of sleep or sleep deprivation can predict the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia.”

The study, which appears in the journal Science Advances, indicates that the slow and steady brain and cardiopulmonary activity associated with deep non-REM sleep are optimal for the function of the glymphatic system, the brain’s unique process of removing waste. The findings may also explain why some forms of anesthesia can lead to cognitive impairment in older adults. 

Read More: Not All Sleep is Equal When It Comes to Cleaning the Brain

Grant Marks Two Decades of NIH Support for Muscular Dystrophy Research

Monday, February 25, 2019

The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) has received $8 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support pioneering research on muscular dystrophy. The grant, which is a renewal of URMC’s Paul D. Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Cooperative Research Center, will fund ongoing work to investigate the genetic mechanisms and progression of this complex multi-system disease, research that has led scientists to the threshold of potential new therapies for myotonic dystrophy.

Read More: Grant Marks Two Decades of NIH Support for Muscular Dystrophy Research

Neuroscience Professor and Alumna Inducted to Alpha Omega Alpha

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Congratulations to Neuroscience associate professor Martha J. Gdowski, Ph.D. and Neuroscience Graduate Program alumna Nguyen Mai, Ph.D. for being inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society! Election to Alpha Omega Alpha is an honor signifying a lasting commitment to professionalism, leadership, scholarship, research, and community service. A lifelong honor, membership in the society confers recognition for a physician's dedication to the profession and art of healing.

Read More: Neuroscience Professor and Alumna Inducted to Alpha Omega Alpha

Third Annual Rochester Brain Bee sends Brighton High School Student to National Competition

Monday, February 4, 2019

Rochester Brain Bee 2019On Saturday, February 2, seven high school students competed for the title of Rochester’s Brainiest Teenager. The students came from five schools in the Greater Rochester Area and competed in a grueling day with three rounds of 30 neuroscience questions in front of a panel of University of Rochester researchers. Ania Majewska, Ph.D., Chris Holt, Ph.D., Liz Romanski, Ph.D., Jude Mitchel, Ph.D., and Heather Natola, Ph.D., served as judges for the competition.

The quiz-style competition was structured so that each student had the opportunity to answer every question and the student with the highest cumulative score was declared the winner. The competition was won by Emily Han who correctly answered 69 out of 90 questions. Emily will receive a trip to the National Brain Bee in Hershey, Pa. in April, sponsored by the Rochester Society for Neuroscience and the Department of Neuroscience. The National Brain Bee will consist of two days of neuroscience and neurology questions on topics such as patient diagnosis, neuroimaging analysis, pathology, and general brain facts.

The Brain Bee was organized by the University of Rochester Brain Awareness Campaign Committee as a kick-off to 2019. The Rochester Brain Awareness Campaign was founded in 2013 and continues to offer neuroscience outreach for free to local schools. Since its founding, the team has visited 25 schools and reached 4,000 students with 200 volunteers. It has also had booth exhibits at Rochester Marches for Science, attended a St. John Fisher’s science career day, and have had an official Rochester Girl Scouts badge every year since 2017. The organization is entirely student-run, and is supported by Ania Majewska, Ph.D., and the Rochester Society for Neuroscience.

Study suggests how high blood pressure might contribute to Alzheimer’s

Monday, January 28, 2019

The brain’s system for removing waste is driven primarily by the pulsations of adjoining arteries, University of Rochester neuroscientists and mechanical engineers report in a new study. They also show that changes in the pulsations caused by high blood pressure slow the removal of waste, reducing its efficiency.

This might explain the association between high blood pressure and Alzheimer’ disease, the researchers say. Alzheimer’s, the most common cause of dementia among older adults, is characterized by abnormal clumps and tangled bundles of fibers in the brain.

The study, reported in Nature Communications, builds upon groundbreaking discoveries about the brain’s waste removal system by Maiken Nedergaard, co-director of the University’s Center for Translational Neuromedicine. Nedergaard and her colleagues were the first to describe how cerebrospinal fluid is pumped into brain tissue and flushes away waste. Subsequent research by her team has shown that this glymphatic waste removal system is more active while we sleep and can be damaged by stroke and trauma.

This latest research shows “in much greater depth and much greater precision than before” how the glymphatic system functions in the perivascular spaces that surround arteries in the outer brain membrane, says Douglas Kelley, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and an expert in fluid dynamics. His lab is collaborating with Nedergaard’s team as part of a $3.2 million National Institute on Aging grant.

For this study, Humberto Mestre, a PhD student in Nedergaard’s lab, injected minute particles in the cerebrospinal fluid of mice, and then used two-photon microscopy to create videos showing the particles as they moved through the perivascular spaces.

Read More: Study suggests how high blood pressure might contribute to Alzheimer’s

In The News: UR study on brain waves may allow doctors to diagnose autism earlier

Friday, January 25, 2019

The following is an except of an article by Josh Navarro that originally appeared on WROC/RochesterFirst.com: 

A new study to help understand brain waves in children with autism is underway right now at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Their aim is to foster earlier detection and foster better therapies in the future.

Children with autism respond differently when they hear a sound such as music or see an illustration. Honing in the difference in brain waves between autistic children and children who do not have autism, is part of a new study  at Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at URMC.

“If you can provide a biological marker that could be reproduced earlier in a child's development, then that therapy can start earlier, the better outlook for that particular child,” said Dr. Evan Myers, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Cognitive Neurophysiology Lab in the University of Rochester Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience. 

Researchers will place a electroencephalography cap and have kids observe different images on a computer screen. The findings will determine the next step through clinical trials with the goal of diagnosing a child with autism a lot sooner. 

Read More: In The News: UR study on brain waves may allow doctors to diagnose autism earlier

Common test of mental state understanding is biased

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) recommends a test, called the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Task (RMET). Here, participants view 36 black and white photographs, originally selected from magazine articles, of solely the eyes of Caucasian female and male actors. Participants then decide which of four adjectives—such as panicked, incredulous, despondent, or interested—best describes the mental state expressed in the eyes (the correct answer has been generated through consensus ratings).

But there’s a problem. Using data from more than 40,000 people, a new study published this month in Psychological Medicine concludes that the test is deeply flawed.

“It’s biased against the less educated, the less intelligent, and against ethnic and racial minorities,” says lead author David Dodell-Feder, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. “It relies too heavily on a person’s vocabulary, intelligence, and culturally-biased stimuli. That’s particularly problematic because it’s endorsed by the national authority in our field and therefore the most widely-used assessment tool.”

Read More: Common test of mental state understanding is biased

Dr. Kuan Hong Wang comes to the University of Rochester

Monday, January 21, 2019

We are pleased to welcome Dr. Wang to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the Department of Neuroscience and the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience from the NIH.

Dr. Wang comes to us as the former chief of the Unit on Neural Circuits and Adaptive Behaviors at the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Wang received his B.A. in Biochemical Sciences from Harvard College and his Ph.D. from the University of California at San Francisco, where he studied the molecular regulators of sensory axon growth and branching during development with Marc Tessier-Lavigne. Dr. Wang obtained postdoctoral training with Susumu Tonegawa at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he examined the ways in which cortical neurons respond to an animal’s experience by directly visualizing the molecular activity of a given set of neurons over several days in the live animal. With this approach, he revealed a physiological function of neural activity regulated gene Arc in sharpening stimulus-specific responses in visual cortex.

In The News: URMC utilizes motion capture technology to study brain, how it ages

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The following is an excerpt from an article by Norma Holland that originally appeared on WHAM 13:

Rochester, N.Y. – From Hollywood to Healthcare: Technology used to make movies is being used at the University of Rochester Medical Center to help scientists understand the brain and how it ages.

What researchers learn could help predict a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

13WHAM watched researchers in the Mobile Brain Body Imaging – or MoBi – Lab attach wires to a cap covered in electrodes. The cap picks up the brain wave activity of a volunteer, while infrared cameras surrounding him pick up how his body moves on a treadmill.

This lab is one of 12 around the world combining motion capture technology with brain scans used in real time.

“What we’re saying is: Let’s get people up, let’s get them in a walking situation where they’re solving a task, where we can kind of stress them a bit, and then we can ask, ‘How’s the brain working under duress?’ explained Dr. John Foxe, director of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience. “And that gives us a window into function, maybe like a neural stress test, akin to the cardiac stress test.”

Armed with that information, doctors hope to one day be able to predict a person’s dementia risk a decade before symptoms show up. It can also help give us clues about a person’s risk of falling as they get older.

Read More: In The News: URMC utilizes motion capture technology to study brain, how it ages

Study Confirms Central Role of Brain’s Support Cells in Huntington’s, Points to New Therapies

Thursday, December 13, 2018

New research gives scientists a clearer picture of what is happening in the brains of people with Huntington’s disease and lays out a potential path for treatment. The study, which appears today in the journal Cell Stem Cell, shows that support cells in the brain are key contributors to the disease.

“Huntington’s is a complex disease that is characterized by the loss of multiple cell populations in the brain,” said neurologist Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., the lead author of the study and the co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). “These new findings help pinpoint how the genetic flaw in Huntington’s gives rise to glial cell dysfunction, which impairs the development and role of these cells, and ultimately the survival of neurons.  While it has long been known that neuronal loss is responsible for the progressive behavioral, cognitive, and motor deterioration of the disease, these findings suggest that it’s glial dysfunction which is actually driving much of this process.”

Huntington’s is a hereditary and fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by the loss of medium spiny neurons, a nerve cell in the brain that plays a critical role in motor control.  As the disease progresses over time and more of these cells die, the result is involuntary movements, problems with coordination, and cognitive decline, depression, and often psychosis. There is currently no way to slow or modify the progression of this disease.

Read More: Study Confirms Central Role of Brain’s Support Cells in Huntington’s, Points to New Therapies

In The News: How well can you walk, think at same time? URMC uses ability to predict Alzheimer's risk

Monday, November 19, 2018

The following is an excerpt from an article by Patti Singer that originally appeared in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

I’m giving my brain a stress test.

I’m walking on a treadmill in a dark room where every second or so, two sets of lines flash on the wall-sized screen in front of me. I have a second to decide which set is rotated farther clockwise. If it’s the left one, I push the button I’m holding in my left hand. If it’s the right one, I push the button in my right hand.

“Jeez,” I mutter after getting it wrong, again.

Turns out, walking while thinking isn’t as easy as it looks.

Neuroscientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center want to find out whether older adults who struggle to do both at once might be at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers recently started using motion capture technology — what’s used to get the realistic movements in sports video games — and recording brain activity to see at what point communication from the brain to the muscles breaks down. They want to know what that means for someone still trying to function in the everyday world.

The technology can be applied to autism, traumatic brain injury, concussion, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or Parkinson’s disease. Right now, the focus is Alzheimer’s, which is the sixth leading cause of death nationwide. According to a 2017 report from the state Department of Health, nearly 400,000  New Yorkers had Alzheimer's disease. The figure was expected to be 460,000 by 2025. There is no cure for the disease, but the goal of researchers is to predict who might be at risk so that treatments start earlier and slow the progression of Alzheimer's.

Researchers in the Ernest J. Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience are enrolling three groups of older adults — those who are healthy, those with cognitive impairment and those with Alzheimer’s — to determine whether they can predict someone’s risk of developing the disease. At some point, the technology could be used to track the effectiveness of treatment.

Read More: In The News: How well can you walk, think at same time? URMC uses ability to predict Alzheimer's risk

Save the Date: Poster Session & Happy Hour

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Rochester Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience is hosting a Poster Session and Happy Hour with prizes for the best posters. Students and Postdoctoral fellows may register any poster that you have presented in the past year (SfN Meeting, VSS, IMRF, ARO or other recent meetings).

To register your poster please email your name, poster title, department affiliation and status (graduate student, undergraduate, postdoctoral fellow) to Tori D'Agostino: Victoria_DAgostino@urmc.rochester.edu

Neuroscience Poster Session and Happy Hour
LeChase Hall, Medical Center
3:00 – 6:00 p.m. Friday, November 30, 2018

Maiken Nedergaard Recognized for Groundbreaking Research on Glymphatic System

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., has been awarded the with the 2018 Eric K. Fernstrom Foundation Grand Nordic Prize for her work that led to the discovery of the brain’s unique waste removal system and its role in a number of neurological disorders. Nedergaard maintains labs at the Medical Center and the University of Copenhagen.  

In 2012, Nedergaard’s lab was the first to reveal the brain’s unique process of removing waste, dubbed the glymphatic system, which consists of a plumbing system that piggybacks on the brain’s blood vessels and pumps cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) through the brain’s tissue, flushing away waste. 

Nedergaard’s lab has since gone on to show that the glymphatic system works primarily while we sleep, could be a key player in diseases like Alzheimer’s, is disrupted after traumatic brain injury, may be enhanced by moderate alcohol consumption, and could be harnessed as a new way to deliver drugs to the brain.  

The Eric K. Fernstrom Foundation annually awards the Grand Nordic Prize to a medical research from one of the Nordic Countries. The award was announced during a ceremony on November 7 at Lund University in Sweden.

Read More: Maiken Nedergaard Recognized for Groundbreaking Research on Glymphatic System

Neuroscience Grad Student Named to Equity and Inclusion Search Committee

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Monique-MendesMonique Mendes, Neuroscience PhD Candidate, has been named to the search committee for the University of Rochester's first vice president for equity and inclusion. Monique was peer-nominated and chosen to join the committee which includes faculty, staff and students from across the University and will be led by University President Richard Feldman. She is one of just three students who were selected to participate. Congratulations, Monique!

Read More: Neuroscience Grad Student Named to Equity and Inclusion Search Committee

Mock Receives National Recognition for Leadership in Inclusive Higher Education

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Martha MockIn a room packed with hundreds of colleagues, policymakers, and families at the 2018 State of the Art (SOTA) Conference on Postsecondary Education and Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities in Syracuse, N.Y., Martha Mock was presented the Leadership in Inclusive Higher Education Award on October 10. The award recognizes an administrator, program director, or staff member with a higher education institution who epitomizes leadership in the postsecondary field.

Cindi May, a 2018 SOTA Conference advisory board member and a professor from the College of Charleston, presented the award with a powerful speech outlining Mock’s leadership in higher education.

“Martha’s passion for inclusive higher education for students with intellectual disabilities is contagious, and her work for the past decade has helped make tremendous gains in our still-new field,” May said. “Her dedicated leadership has directly resulted in the establishment and growth of opportunities in the state of New York and across the country. She employs an approach that emphasizes empowerment of people with intellectual disabilities, strong community collaborations, and effective advocacy at all levels.”

Mock is a clinical professor at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education, where she serves as director of both the early childhood and inclusion/special education teacher preparation programs and the Center on Disability and Education. Mock’s career in inclusion, transition and education spans more than two decades, including her time as a teacher, professor and advocate working alongside and on behalf of individuals with disabilities and their families. For more than a decade, she has worked to change the landscape of educational opportunities for transition-age students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In doing so, she has impacted practice, policy, and outcomes for students across the nation.

Read More: Mock Receives National Recognition for Leadership in Inclusive Higher Education

New Research Initiative to Focus on Cerebrovascular Diseases

Monday, October 29, 2018

ConnectomeA multidisciplinary group of clinical and bench researchers has been formed at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) to study cerebrovascular disease. The Cerebrovascular and Neurocognitive Research Group (CNRG), which consists of faculty from Neurology, Neurosurgery, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Microbiology and Immunology, and Vascular Biology will leverage advanced brain imaging technologies to investigate a number of diseases, including stroke, cerebral small vessel disease (CSVD), and vascular dementia.

These efforts are being supported in part by a new $2.7 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, to study how chronic inflammation drives cerebrovascular disease and disrupts the structure and connections between different parts of the brain.

Read More: New Research Initiative to Focus on Cerebrovascular Diseases

RCBI is Now UR CABIN

Friday, October 26, 2018

The former Rochester Center for Brain Imaging has been renamed the University of Rochester Center for Advanced Brain Imaging & Neurophysiology (UR CABIN). UR CABIN is a research facility offering a state-of-the-art 3 Tesla magnet for the purpose of conducting investigations using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center and River Campus, neighboring institutions, and the science and technology industries. UR CABIN is also home to several high-density electrophysiology recording suites, as well as the Mobile Brain/Body Imaging system, or MoBI, which combines virtual reality, brain monitoring, and Hollywood-inspired motion capture technology, allowing researchers to track and study the areas of the brain being activated when walking or performing tasks. UR CABIN is located in the Medical Center Annex building at 430 Elmwood Avenue. For more information, please reach out to Kathleen Jensen.

Read More: RCBI is Now UR CABIN

Study Points to New Method to Deliver Drugs to the Brain

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) have discovered a potentially new approach to deliver therapeutics more effectively to the brain. The research could have implications for the treatment of a wide range of diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, and brain cancer.

“Improving the delivery of drugs to the central nervous system is a considerable clinical challenge,” said Maiken Nedergaard M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Center for Translational Neuromedicine and lead author of the article which appears today in the journal JCI Insight. “The findings of this study demonstrate that the brain’s waste removal system could be harnessed to transport drugs quickly and efficiently into the brain.”

Many promising therapies for diseases of the central nervous system have failed in clinical trials because of the difficulty in getting enough of the drugs into the brain to be effective. This is because the brain maintains its own closed environment that is protected by a complex system of molecular gateways – called the blood-brain barrier – that tightly control what can enter and exit the brain.

Read More: Study Points to New Method to Deliver Drugs to the Brain

New Neuroscience Grant Awards – August 2018

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Congratulations to the following faculty members who received funding for various neuroscience research projects in August!

Investigator: Harris A Gelbard
Project Title: URMC-099 In in vivo AAV-hSYN and in vitro Dopaminergic Neuron Models
Sponsor: The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Disease

Investigator: Cornelia Kamp
Project Title: Clinical Coordinating Center Network of Excellence in Neuroscience Clinical Trial
Sponsor: Massachusetts General Hospital

Investigator: Anne E Luebke
Project Title: NeuroDataRR. Collaborative Research: Testing the relationship between musical training and enhanced neural coding and perception in noise
Sponsor: National Science Foundation

Investigator: Margot Mayer-Proschel
Project Title: Gestational Iron Deficiency disrupts neural patterning in the embryo
Sponsor: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Investigator: Thomas G O'Connor
Project Title: Pre- and Post-Natal Exposure Periods for Child Health: Common Risks and Shared Mechanisms
Sponsor: NIH Office of the Director

Investigator: Krishnan Padmanabhan
Project Title: CAREER: Investigating how internal states, learning and memory shape olfactory coding
Sponsor: National Science Foundation

Investigator: Christoph Proschel
Project Title: iPSC-derived astrocytes to model Vanishing White Matter Disease
Sponsor: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Investigator: Marc H Schieber
Project Title: Injecting instructions using intracortical microstimulation in association cortex
Sponsor: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Investigator: Marc H Schieber
Project Title: Observation of Performance
Sponsor: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Study Points to Possible New Therapy for Hearing Loss

Monday, October 15, 2018

Photo of elderly manResearchers have taken an important step toward what may become a new approach to restore the hearing loss. In a new study, out today in the European Journal of Neuroscience, scientists have been able to regrow the sensory hair cells found in the cochlea – a part of the inner ear – that converts sound vibrations into electrical signals and can be permanently lost due to age or noise damage.

Hearing impairment has long been accepted as a fact of life for the aging population – an estimated 30 million Americans suffer from some degree of hearing loss. However, scientists have long observed that other animals – namely birds, frogs, and fish – have been shown to have the ability to regenerate lost sensory hair cells.

“It’s funny, but mammals are the oddballs in the animal kingdom when it comes to cochlear regeneration,” said Jingyuan Zhang, Ph.D., with the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Neuroscience and first author of the study. “We’re the only vertebrates that can’t do it.”

Research conducted in the lab of Patricia White, Ph.D., in 2012 identified a family of receptors – called epidermal growth factor (EGF) – responsible for activating support cells in the auditory organs of birds. When triggered, these cells proliferate and foster the generation of new sensory hair cells. She speculated that this signaling pathway could potentially be manipulated to produce a similar result in mammals.  White is a research associate professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience and lead author of the current study.

Read More: Study Points to Possible New Therapy for Hearing Loss

URMC Joins Network Dedicated to Improving Care for Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Monday, October 15, 2018

The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) has been selected as one of the first four institutions in the U.S. to participate in the SMA Care Center Network. The network is being created as new treatments and approaches to care are transforming how spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is treated.

Read More: URMC Joins Network Dedicated to Improving Care for Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Professor Carney will speak at Rochester Science Cafe

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Professor Laurel Carney will be speaking at the Rochester Science Cafe at the Pittsford Barnes & Noble on Tuesday, October 23 at 7pm. She will be speaking in the community room on the topic, “‘What?’ How Hearing Loss Affects Speech Perception.” Science Cafes are interactive events involving face-to-face conversations with leading scientists about relevant current topics. For more information, visit sciencecaferochester.blogspot.com.

Professors Anne Luebke and Ross Maddox receive NSF award

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

BME Professors Anne Luebke and Ross Maddox along with Co-PI Elizabeth Marvin (Eastman School of Music) have received an award from the National Science Foundation for their project, "NeuroDataRR. Collaborative Research: Testing the relationship between musical training and enhanced neural coding and perception in noise.” This is a collaborative effort involving several universities: University of Minnesota (Dr. Andrew Oxenham, Lead PI), Purdue University, Carnegie Mellon University, Boston University, University of Western Ontario, and the University of Rochester.

This project will determine whether formal musical training is associated with enhanced neural processing and perception of sounds, including speech in noisy backgrounds. Music forms an important part of the lives of millions of people around the world, and it is one of the few universals shared by all known human cultures. Yet its utility and potential evolutionary advantages remain a mystery. This project will test the hypothesis that early musical exposure has benefits that extend beyond music to critical aspects of human communication, such as speech perception in noise. In addition, this project will test whether early musical training is associated with less severe effects of ageing on the ability to understand speech in noisy backgrounds. Degraded ability to understand speech in noise is a common complaint among older listeners, and one that can have a profound impact on quality of life, as has been shown by the associations between hearing loss, social isolation, and more rapid cognitive and health declines. If formal musical training is shown to be associated with improved perception and speech communication in later life, the outcomes could have a potentially major impact on many aspects of public and educational policy.

UR Medicine Unveils Upstate New York’s First Mobile Stroke Unit

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Mobile Stroke UnitNext month, UR Medicine will begin operation of a Mobile Stroke Unit (MSU), a high-tech ‘emergency room on wheels’ that is designed to provide life-saving care to stroke victims. The $1 million unit will be operated in partnership with AMR as a community resource and represents a significant step forward for stroke care in the Rochester region.

While the MSU resembles an ambulance on the outside, inside it contains highly specialized staff, equipment, and medications used to diagnose and treat strokes. The unit is equipped with a portable CT scanner that is capable of imaging the patient’s brain to detect the type of stroke they are experiencing. The scans and results from a mobile lab on the unit are wirelessly transmitted to UR Medicine stroke specialists at Strong Memorial Hospital, who will consult with the on board EMS staff via telemedicine and decide if they can begin treatment immediately on scene.

If it is determined that the patient is experiencing an ischemic stroke – which account for approximately 90 percent of all strokes – the MSU team can administer the drug tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) to attempt to break up the clot in the patient’s brain. While en route to the hospital, UR Medicine specialists will continue to remotely monitor and assess the patient’s symptoms.

“The UR Medicine Mobile Stroke Unit essentially brings the hospital to the patient,” said Tarun Bhalla, M.D., Ph.D., Chief of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Surgery the UR Medicine Comprehensive Stroke Center. “This unit will improve care and outcomes by shortening the gap between diagnosis and treatment and enable us to initiate care before the patient reaches the hospital.”

Read More: UR Medicine Unveils Upstate New York’s First Mobile Stroke Unit

Common Painkiller Not Effective for Traumatic Nerve Injury

Monday, September 24, 2018

A new study out today in the Journal of Neurology finds that pregabalin is not effective in controlling the chronic pain that sometimes develops following traumatic nerve injury. The results of the international study, which was driven by an effort to identify effective non-opioid pain medications, did show potential in relieving in pain that sometimes lingers after surgery.

“The unrelenting burning or stabbing symptoms due to nerve trauma are a leading reason why people seek treatment for chronic pain after a fall, car accident, or surgery,” said John Markman, M.D., director of the Translational Pain Research Program in the University of Rochester Department of Neurosurgery and lead author of the study. “While these finding show that pregabalin is not effective in controlling the long-term pain for traumatic injury, it may provide relief for patients experience post-surgical pain.”

Pregabalin, which is marketed by Pfizer under the name Lyrica, is approved to treat chronic pain associated with shingles, spinal cord injury, fibromyalgia, and diabetic peripheral neuropathy. However, it is also commonly prescribed as an “off label” treatment for chronic nerve injury syndromes that occur after motor vehicle accidents, falls, sports injuries, knee or hip replacement and surgeries such as hernia repair or mastectomy.

Read More: Common Painkiller Not Effective for Traumatic Nerve Injury

Krishnan Padmanabhan 2018 CAREER Recipient

Friday, September 14, 2018

Krishnan Padmanabhan was among the eight University of Rochester researchers are among the latest recipients of the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious recognition for junior faculty members: the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award.

Krishnan will use neural tracers, ontogenetic technology, and electrical recordings in the brain to understand how internal state, learning, and memory influence the neurons that shape the perception of smell. “The same cookie may smell and taste differently, depending on our emotional state, our experiences, and our memories,” he says. By interrogating a recently characterized connection between the hippocampus and the olfactory bulb, he aims to understand how perception is reshaped by experience.

Read More: Krishnan Padmanabhan 2018 CAREER Recipient

Neuroscience Graduate Program Student Receives Award for SfN Trainee Professional Development

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Photo of Emily WarnerEmily Warner was recently selected to receive a 2018 Trainee Professional Development Award (TPDA) from the Society for Neuroscience.  These are highly competitive awards and it is a great achievement for Emily.

The award comes with a complementary registration to the conference in San Diego and a monetary award of $1000.  Emily will present a poster at a poster session for other recipients and will be able to attend several Professional Development Workshops while at the conference.

Congratulations Emily!

Drug Shows Promise in Slowing Multiple Sclerosis

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Research appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine could herald a new treatment approach for individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) if confirmed in future studies. The results of a clinical trial, which involved researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), showed that the drug ibudilast slowed the brain shrinkage associated with progressive forms of the disease.

“These results indicate that ibudilast may be effective in protecting the central nervous system and slowing the damage to the brain that is caused by MS,” said URMC neurologist Andrew Goodman, M.D., a co-author of the study who served on the national steering committee for the Phase II clinical trial, dubbed SPRINT-MS. “While more clinical research is necessary, the trial’s results are encouraging and point towards a potential new type of therapy to help people with progressive MS.”

MS is a neurological disorder in which the body’s own immune system attacks myelin, the fatty tissue that insulates the nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord.  These attacks are caused by inflammation which damages myelin, disrupting communication between nerve cells and leading to cognitive impairment, muscle weakness, and problems with movement, balance, sensation, and vision. MS usually presents with a relapsing-remitting course, in which symptoms occur then disappear for weeks or months and then may reappear, or primary and secondary progressive courses, which are marked by a gradual decline in function.

Read More: Drug Shows Promise in Slowing Multiple Sclerosis

Researchers Harness Virtual Reality, Motion Capture to Study Neurological Disorders

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Neuroscientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) have a powerful new state-of-the-art tool at their disposal to study diseases like Autism, Alzheimer’s, and traumatic brain injury. The Mobile Brain/Body Imaging system, or MoBI, combines virtual reality, brain monitoring, and Hollywood-inspired motion capture technology, enabling researchers to study the movement difficulties that often accompany neurological disorders and why our brains sometimes struggle while multitasking.

“Many studies of brain activity occur in controlled environments where study subjects are sitting in a sound proof room staring at a computer screen,” said John Foxe, Ph.D., director of the URMC Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience. “The MoBI system allows us to get people walking, using their senses, and solving the types of tasks you face every day, all the while measuring brain activity and tracking how the processes associated with cognition and movement interact.”

The MoBI platform – which is located in the Del Monte Institute’s Cognitive Neurophysiology Lab – brings together several high tech systems. Using the same technology that is employed by movie studios to produce CGI special effects, study participants wear a black body suite that is fitted with reflective markers. Participants are then asked to walk on a treadmill or manipulate objects at a table in a room fitted out with 16 high speed cameras that record the position of the markers with millimeter precision. This data is mapped to a computer generated 3D model that tracks movement.

Read More: Researchers Harness Virtual Reality, Motion Capture to Study Neurological Disorders

Professor recognized for transforming understanding of human language

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Photo of Michael TanenhausMichael K. Tanenhaus, a longtime professor of brain and cognitive sciences, is being recognized for work that has “transformed our understanding of human language and its relation to perception, action, and communication” by the premier academic society in his field.

At the annual meeting of the Cognitive Sciences Society this summer, Tanenhaus was formally awarded the David E. Rumelhart Prize from the Cognitive Science Society and the Robert J. Glushko and Pamela Samuelson Foundation. The prize is the highest honor given by the Cognitive Science Society to recognize a “significant contribution to the theoretical foundations of human cognition.”

Tanenhaus, the Beverly Petterson Bishop and Charles W. Bishop Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, says he’s humbled to join a list of honorees that include “giants in cognitive science from multiple disciplines, including computer science, linguistics, and psychology.”

Over the course of his 40-year career, Tanenhaus has focused his research on the mechanisms underlying language comprehension. He is best known as the creator of the Visual World Paradigm, which uses eye movements to study the mechanisms behind speech and language comprehension. According to the society, the paradigm has been widely adopted for studying language development and disorders.

Read More: Professor recognized for transforming understanding of human language

Dr. Mayer-Pröschel to Research the Role of Iron Deficiency in the Developing Brain with a $2 Million Grant

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

margot photo

 

Dr. Margot Mayer-Pröschel, Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Genetics, with a secondary appointment in the Department of Neuroscience, has received a $2 million, five-year grant to study the impact of gestational iron deficiency (GID) on the development of the brain.

Iron deficiency is still the most prevalent nutritional deficiency in the world. Optimal maternal iron stores during pregnancy are essential for providing adequate iron to the fetal brain. However, many women have insufficient iron reserves to optimally supply the fetus. This is a potentially serious problem as children born to gestational iron deficient (GID) mothers have a higher probability of developing autism, attention deficient syndrome and other cognitive impairments.

A major step towards understanding GID, and potentially preventing multiple types of impairment in children, is to conduct controlled mechanistic and cellular studies in animal models where variable factors can be controlled. Using this approach, the Mayer-Pröschel lab found that low iron supply during pregnancy can cause defects in fetal brain development resulting in a disability to generate appropriate reservoirs of cells that are needed later in life to establish balanced brain activity. This defect persists even if iron supplements are started at birth. This work using a mouse model of GID will provide a detailed understanding of the detrimental effects on child development and may point towards new strategies by which the defects can be normalized or prevented.

 

The grant, titled Gestational Iron Deficiency disrupts neural patterning in the embryo is funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD), part of National Institutes of Health.

 

Richard Barbano Co-Authors New Guideline for Managing Consciousness Disorders

Thursday, August 16, 2018

A new practice guideline update for the diagnosis and ongoing medical and rehabilitative care of individuals in a vegetative or minimally conscious state has a result of a brain injury have been published by the American Academy of Neurology, the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research.

URMC neurologist Richard Barbano, M.D., Ph.D., was part of a team of physicians and researchers who prepared the new guideline, which appears in the journal Neurology

The experts carefully reviewed all of the available scientific studies on diagnosing, predicting health outcomes, and caring for people with disorder of consciousness, focusing on evidence for people with prolonged disorders of consciousness – those cases lasting 28 days or longer.

The guideline recommends that a clinician trained in the management of disorder of consciousness, such as a neurologist or brain injury rehabilitation specialists, should do a careful evaluation and the evaluation should be repeated several times early in recovery. 

Additional findings include:

  • The outcomes for patients with prolonged disorder of consciousness differ greatly.  It is estimated that one in five people with severe brain injury from trauma will recover to the point where they can live at home and care for themselves without assistance.
  • There is moderate evidence that patients with a brain injury from trauma will fare better in terms of recovery than a person with a brain injury from another cause.
  • Very few treatments for disorder of consciousness have been carefully studied.  However, moderate evidence shows that the drug amantadine can hasten recovery in patients with disorder of consciousness after a traumatic brain injury when used within one to four months after the injury.

Committed to Memory: How does memory shape our sense of who we are?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

What do we remember? And how do we forget? Complicated questions, their manifold answers are pursued by scholars, scientists, and artists.

“Memory studies are a burgeoning area of humanistic inquiry that encompasses multiple fields,” says Joan Shelley Rubin, the Dexter Perkins Professor of History and the Ani and Mark Gabrellian Director of the Humanities Center. The center chose memory and forgetting as the annual theme for its programs over the past year, with guest lectures, workshops, art exhibitions, and internal and external faculty research fellows in residence.

“It seemed an excellent way to achieve the Humanities Center’s goal of fostering collaboration and interdisciplinary exchange. Individual memories are such an integral part of our identities as people, and collective memories—entangled as they are with history and culture—shape the politics, society, and artistic expression of the present,” Rubin says.

Visit the site to read samples of how Rochester researchers are currently working with memory, including a section by John Foxe, Director of Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience."

Read More: Committed to Memory: How does memory shape our sense of who we are?

Tristram Smith, Pioneer in Autism Research, Dies at 57

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Photo of Tristram SmithTristram Smith, Ph.D., whose research on behavioral interventions changed the landscape of care for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), died after suffering a heart attack on Monday morning. He was 57.

At the time of his death, Smith was serving as the Haggerty-Friedman Professor in Developmental/Behavioral Pediatric Research at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), where he had worked since joining faculty in 2000.

His research in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, conducted alongside the late O. Ivar Lovaas, Ph.D., showed that many children with ASD could be successfully treated with behavior-based interventions, which allowed some to catch up to their peers in school. The work helped move treatment of children with ASD away from psychotherapy — which had been used with nominal effectiveness for decades — and toward applied-behavior based models. The sea change in treatment paved the way for ASD screenings in schools and pediatricians’ offices and led to numerous additional studies on behavior-based interventions.

Read More: Tristram Smith, Pioneer in Autism Research, Dies at 57

New blood test for brain injury at URMC

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center have a new, FDA-approved test to detect brain injuries, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal The Lancet Neurology.

The new test looks for certain telltale proteins that enter the bloodstream after a traumatic brain injury. Jeffrey Bazarian, a professor of emergency medicine and neurology at URMC and a lead author of the study, said the blood test promises to reduce the need for CT scans of the head, which he said have been the “gold standard” of brain injury detection.

Those scans are one of the few ways doctors have of seeing inside the head, Bazarian said. An opening in the blood-brain barrier, which happens as a result of a traumatic injury, offers another. “It’s usually closed,” Bazarian said of the barrier, “but a blow opens it up, which is lucky for us because it allows us to have a brief window into what’s happening in the brain.”

Read More: New blood test for brain injury at URMC

NIH Extends URMC’s Role in Network to Advance Neurological Care

Thursday, July 26, 2018

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) has extended the University of Rochester Medical Center’s (URMC) membership in the Network for Excellence in Neuroscience Clinical Trials, or NeuroNEXT, which was created to accelerate clinical research involving new treatments for neurological disorders.  The $1.5 million grant will provide patients in the region access to cutting-edge experimental therapies and continue the Medical Center’s key role in helping bring new drugs to market. 

“Neurological diseases are some of the most challenging in all of medicine and the process of translating promising discoveries into new treatments requires building partnerships across many institutions in order to create the infrastructure necessary to recruit patients and run multi-site clinical trials,” said Robert Holloway, M.D., M.P.H., chair of the URMC Department of Neurology and principal investigator of the URMC NeuroNEXT site. “The Medical Center has a long history in the field of experimental therapeutics and we are proud to be a part of NeuroNEXT and to support efforts that will make clinical research better, faster, and more efficient in the quest to aid patients and families affected by neurological disease.”

In 2011, URMC was one of the original 25 institutions selected to participate in NeuroNEXT.  The network was created to streamline the operations of neuroscience clinical trials and help increase the number of new treatments that get into clinical practice. The program is designed to encourage collaborations between academic centers, disease foundations, and industry.

Over the last five years, URMC has been involved in NeuroNEXT studies involving the testing of new drugs for myasthenia gravis, multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, stroke, brain cancer, and neuropathy.  “We could not have accomplished this without the phenomenal talent and dedication of our faculty, study coordinators, and research teams.” said Erika Augustine, M.D., M.S., co-Investigator on the grant. 

“One of the advantages of NeuroNEXT, and something that makes it unique, is the network’s ability to quickly mobilize a group of specialists from a certain disease area to initiate a clinical study when opportunities emerge for trials,” said Robin Conwit, M.D., program director at NINDS. “The structure of NeuroNEXT, with its broad focus across neuroscience clinical studies, has the potential to reach many individuals who are affected by brain disorders.”  

The Medical Center’s site – dubbed UR NEXT – has made significant contributions to the success and vitality of the network.  URMC is the dominant provider of comprehensive neurological care in upstate New York with growing referral networks that have a regional, national, and international reach.  This breadth of geographic reach and specialization of services has resulted in the Medical Center being one of the network’s leading performers in terms of clinical trial recruitment and performance.

The Medical Center is also home to the Experimental Therapeutics in Neurological Disease post-doctoral training program now entering its 28th year of continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health, and the Center for Health + Technology (CHeT), a unique academic-research organization with decades of experience in development, management, and operation of multi-site clinical trials. 

“The complexity of neurological diseases and the ever evolving nature of scientific innovation in this field mean that we must look always to the future and build the teams that turn new discoveries into new ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent these diseases,” said Jonathan Mink, M.D., Ph.D., co-investigator on the grant who is leading Rochester’s training of its investigators. “The UR NEXT grant will help us train the next generation of experts in leading and conducting multi-center clinical trials,”

In addition to URMC’s role as a NeuroNEXT site, the Medical Center has two additional key roles supporting the national network. The URMC Clinical Materials Services Unit – part of CHeT – provides logistical support and drug supply distribution services for NeuroNEXT clinical trials and UR Labs provides central laboratory services for the network. 

Read More: NIH Extends URMC’s Role in Network to Advance Neurological Care

While We Sleep, Our Mind Goes on an Amazing Journey

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A study by Maiken Nedergaard, a professor of neurosurgery, suggests that while we’re awake, our neurons are packed tightly together, but when we’re asleep, some brain cells deflate by 60 percent, widening the spaces between them. These intercellular spaces are dumping grounds for the cells’ metabolic waste—notably a substance called beta-amyloid, which disrupts communication between neurons and is closely linked to Alzheimer’s.

Read More: While We Sleep, Our Mind Goes on an Amazing Journey

AHA Grants Will Accelerate Search for New Stroke Therapies

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A series of awards from the American Heart Association (AHA) to a team of researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) will focus on the development of new treatments to thwart the damage in the brain caused by stroke.

One of the research projects brings together experts in stroke, cardiovascular biology, platelet biology, and peptide chemistry. Marc Halterman, M.D., Ph.D., with the URMC Center for Neurotherapeutics Discovery, Scott Cameron, M.D., Ph.D., and Craig Morrell, D.V.M., Ph.D., with the URMC Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute, and Bradley Nilsson, Ph.D., with the University of Rochester Department of Chemistry will focus on the role that platelets play in acute brain injury and inflammation during stroke.

Platelets serve an important role in protecting against blood loss and repairing injured blood vessels. However, during a stroke the inflammatory properties of platelets can interfere with the restoration of blood flow once the clot in the brain is removed, particularly in micro-vessels, which can lead to permanent damage of brain tissue.

The research team will build synthetic peptides that activate platelets to study the phenomenon – which is called no-reflow – in an effort to identify specific switches within platelets that can be turned off and limit the cells’ inflammatory functions without blocking their ability to prevent bleeding.

Two AHA pre-doctoral fellowship awards Kathleen Gates and Jonathan Bartko in Halterman’s lab will support research that examines the link between an immune system response triggered by stroke in the lungs that can exacerbate damage in the brain and investigate the cellular mechanisms that determine whether or not brain cells die following stroke.

A final AHA award to the Halterman lab will seek to identify new drug targets by focusing on specific proteins activated during stroke that are suspected to play an important role in determining the survival of neurons.

Collectively, the AHA Collaborative Sciences Award, Pre-Doctoral, and Innovation awards represent $1.09 million in funding.

Read More: AHA Grants Will Accelerate Search for New Stroke Therapies

Kevin Mazurek Receives CTSI Career Development Award

Friday, June 15, 2018

The University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute has selected the recipients of its Career Development Award, which provides two years of support to help early career scientists transition to independent careers as clinical and translational investigators. This year’s awardees will study suicide prevention among Hispanic populations and how the brain controls voluntary movements.

Kevin A. Mazurek, research assistant professor of neuroscience, whose project is “Determining how Cortical Areas Communicate Information to Perform Voluntary Movements.” Mazurek, whose primary mentor is John Foxe, professor of neuroscience, received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Brown University in 2008 and his doctorate in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 2013. He studies the neural control of voluntary movements in order to develop rehabilitative solutions that can restore function to individuals with neurologic diseases by effectively bypassing impaired or damaged neural connections.

The Career Development program is supported by a KL2 award from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health. The UR CTSI Career Development Award Program releases its request for applications each September with applications due in November.

Read More: Kevin Mazurek Receives CTSI Career Development Award

Neuroscience Grad Student Awarded NIH Diversity Fellowship

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Photo of Monique MendesMonique S. Mendes, a neuroscience Ph.D. student, is the first University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) graduate student to receive a prestigious diversity award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders in Stroke (NINDS).  Mendes works in the laboratory of Ania Majewska, Ph.D. and studies the role that the brain’s immune cells play in development, learning, and diseases like Autism.

Mendes, originally from Kingston, Jamaica, received her undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Florida. She came to URMC in search of a robust program that focused on glial biology and a collaborative environment.  She chose the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience to complete her thesis work due in part to Majewska’s record of mentoring students and her lab’s reputation for conducting leading research in brain development. 

Mendes has been awarded a F99/K00 NIH Blueprint Diversity Specialized Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Advancement in Neuroscience (D-SPAN) fellowship from NINDS.  The award was created to provide outstanding young neuroscientists from diverse backgrounds a pathway to develop independent research careers.  Unlike traditional graduate student fellowships, this award provides research funding for 6 years, including dissertation research and mentored postdoctoral research career development.

Read the local Jamacian Observer newspaper article.

Read More: Neuroscience Grad Student Awarded NIH Diversity Fellowship

UR Medicine Recognized for Excellence in Stroke Care

Monday, June 11, 2018

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) has once again honored the UR Medicine Strong Memorial Hospital for having achieved the highest standard of care for stroke. This award identifies hospitals that provide care that can speed the recovery and reduce death and disability for stroke patients.

Strong Memorial Hospital has received the 2018 AHA/ASA Get With The Guidelines program’s Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award.  The hospital was also recognized for the Target: Stroke Honor Role Elite Plus designation, which identifies hospitals that have consistently and successfully reduced door-to-needle time – the window of time between a stroke victim’s arrival at the hospital, the diagnosis of an acute ischemic stroke, and the administration of the clot-busting drug tPA.  If given intravenously in the first four and a half hours after the start of stroke symptoms, tPA has been shown to significantly reduce the effects of stroke and lessen the chance of permanent disability.

Read More: UR Medicine Recognized for Excellence in Stroke Care

Ian Dickerson awarded University seed funding

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

University Research Awards, which provide “seed” grants for promising research, have been awarded to 15 projects for 2018-19. The projects range from an analysis of the roles of prisons in the Rochester region, to a new approach to genome editing, to new initiatives for advanced materials for powerful lasers.

The funding has been increased from $500,000 to $1 million. Half of the funding comes from the President’s Fund, with the rest being matched by the various schools whose faculty members are recipients.

Ian Dickerson, associate professor of neuroscience, and Joseph Miano, professor, Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute received the funding for "Pre-clinical mouse model for atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS)".

Read More: Ian Dickerson awarded University seed funding

URMC Researcher Featured in Academic Stories

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Kevin Mazurek, PhD recently gave an interview for the online Academic Stories blog, entitled "Researchers Discover How to Inject Instructions into the Premotor Cortex".

"Thanks to our brain’s complex network of connections, we are able to effortlessly move through and react to the world around us. But for people with strokes or traumatic brain injuries, these connections are disrupted making some basic functions challenging. Kevin Mazurek and his mentor Marc Schieber at the University of Rochester have made a discovery with the potential to help restore neural connections in patients. They have found a way to “inject” information directly into the premotor cortex of two rhesus monkeys, bypassing the visual centres."

Academic Stories, a division of Academic Media Group, aims to inspire more people to pursue academic careers by sharing groundbreaking research and the people and places that make it possible. Academic Stories brings their stories to a larger audience in an accessible way.

Read More: URMC Researcher Featured in Academic Stories

Syd Cash, MD, PhD Delivers Elizabeth Doty Lecture

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Syd Cash speaks at Doty LectureSydney S. Cash, M.D., Ph.D. presented, "Multiscale Studies of Human Cortical Oscillations during Sleep and Cognition" for the Elizabeth Doty lecture.  Sydney comes to us from Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital where his research is dedicated to trying to understand normal and abnormal brain activity using multi-modal and multi-scalar approaches.

Ania Majewska and Liz Romanski introduce Syd CashThe Department of Neuroscience hosts the Elizabeth Doty Lectureship each year to honor Robert W. Doty, PhD, an esteemed member of the department, who created this neuroscience lectureship in memory of his wife and the 58 years they shared in marriage. A particular passion of Dr. Doty’s was his quest to understand the meaning of consciousness and its underlying neural basis. Each year the committee invites an accomplished neuroscientist to present a lecture that will address in some way how the workings of the mind derive from neuronal activity. The intent of the Lecture is to appeal to a wide and diverse audience to include all interested in the neural sciences – faculty, alumni, students, and other scholars.

Brain Science Suggests This Is the Best Position to Sleep In

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Sleep is critical for rest and rejuvenation. A human being will actually die of sleep deprivation before starvation--it takes about two weeks to starve, but only 10 days to die if you go without sleep.

The CDC has also classified insufficient sleep as a public health concern. Those who don't get enough sleep are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases that include hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity, and cancer.

It's thus vital to get enough shuteye, but it turns out your sleep position also has a significant impact on the quality of rest you get.

In addition to regulating one's appetite, mood, and libido, neuroscientists assert that sleep reenergizes the body's cells, aids in memory and new learning, and clears waste from the brain.

That last one is particularly important. Similar to biological functions in which your body clears waste, your brain needs to get rid of unwanted material. The more clearly it functions, the more clearly you do.

Now, a neuroscience study suggests that of all sleep positions, one is most helpful when it comes to efficiently cleaning out waste from the brain: sleeping on your side.

The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, used dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI to image the brain's "glymphatic pathway." This is the system by which cerebrospinal fluid filters through the brain and swaps with interstitial fluid (the fluid around all other cells in the body).

The exchange of the two fluids is what allows the brain to eliminate accumulated waste products, such as amyloid beta and tau proteins. What are such waste chemicals associated with? Among other conditions, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

"It is interesting that the lateral [side] sleep position is already the most popular in humans and most animals--even in the wild," said University of Rochester's Maiken Nedergaard. "It appears that we have adapted the lateral sleep position to most efficiently clear our brain of the metabolic waste products that build up while we are awake."

Read More: Brain Science Suggests This Is the Best Position to Sleep In

Rochester Research Cited in Psychology Today Article

Monday, May 14, 2018

Work in the Schieber lab by Marc Schieber and Kevin Mazurek was included in "The Sensory Revolution" in Psychology Today.

Our senses are under constant threat from the stimuli, routines, and ailments of the modern world. Fortunately, neuroscience is inspiring remedies that not only restore sensory input but radically alter it.

Sometimes sensation makes its way to the brain but doesn't alter behavior because the brain's wiring fails, as in stroke or localized brain damage. Neuroscientists Marc Schieber and Kevin Mazurek, both at the University of Rochester, have demonstrated a method that might bypass these downed lines. They've trained two monkeys to perform four instructed actions, such as turning a knob or pressing a button. But that instruction takes the form of an electrical signal sent to electrodes in the monkeys' premotor cortex, an area between the sensory cortices and the motor cortex, which controls muscle movement. Even without any sensory instruction, the monkeys were nearly 100 percent accurate at interpreting the signal and performing the correct action.

Read More: Rochester Research Cited in Psychology Today Article

Words from Wallis Hall: The University's Neuroscience Network

Friday, May 11, 2018

University president Richard Feldman in the latest Words from Wallis Hall has recognized the efforts of the Del Monte Institute for Neurosciences in making Rochester a leader in the field of neuroscience.

"The Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience has been instrumental in bringing together neuroscience and related research at the Medical Center and the River Campus. That interdisciplinary work and our history in the field have helped make Rochester an important player in neuroscience, and have helped sharpen our focus and further critical research into Alzheimer’s and intellectual and developmental disabilities such as autism and dyslexia," says Feldman.

Read More: Words from Wallis Hall: The University's Neuroscience Network

Schieber lab publishes paper in Journal of Neuroscience

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Kevin Mazurek, Adam Rouse, and Marc Schieber published a manuscript in the Journal of Neuroscience on May 2, 2018 entitled "Mirror Neuron Populations Represent Sequences of Behavioral Epochs During Both Execution and Observation"

Read More: Schieber lab publishes paper in Journal of Neuroscience

Liz Romanski Awarded R21 from NIDCD

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Romanski lab has been awarded an R21 grant from the NIDCD entitled, "Audiovisual Processing in Temporal-Prefrontal Circuits."

Congratulation Liz!

Neuroscience Lab Holds ‘Brain Day’ at Local School

Monday, April 30, 2018

 Last Friday, staff from the Del Monte Neuroscience Institute’s Cognitive Neurophysiology Laboratory (CNL) spent the afternoon at the Hope Hall School explaining the mysteries of the human brain and exposing students to careers in STEM fields.

The Hope Hall School, located in Gates, serves students with special learning needs in grades 2 through 12 from school districts across the greater Rochester area. Similar events at other schools in the area are being planned by the CNL staff.

Read More: Neuroscience Lab Holds ‘Brain Day’ at Local School

Krishnan Padmanabhan Recognized as a Polak Young Investigator

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Krishnan Padmanabhan, PhD was recently awarded one of the 2018 Polak Young Investigator Awards by the Association for Chemoreception Sciences (AChemS).

The purpose of this award is to encourage and recognize innovative research at the annual conference by young investigators. The Incoming Program Chair, with help from the Program Committee will select 5-6 young investigators based upon the scientific merit of their abstract submission. Each selected investigator will deliver an oral slide presentation during the AChemS meeting (or satellite conference). The abstract will be organized within the program-at-large by scientific topic and presenters will be recognized as Polak Young Investigators during the introduction of their presentations by the session chair or the abstracts may be presented in one awards session.Krishnan Padmanabhan talk for the Polak Young Scientist Award

Congratulations Dr. Padmanabhan!!

Read More: Krishnan Padmanabhan Recognized as a Polak Young Investigator

Dr. Mazurek receives award at national convention

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Kevin Mazurek received a Future Clinical Researcher Scholarship Award from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) to present a platform presentation at the AAN Annual Meeting held in Los Angeles, California (April 21 - 27).

Read More: Dr. Mazurek receives award at national convention

National Initiative Focuses on New Treatments for Lewy Body Dementia

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) has been selected to participate in a national network created to develop new ways to diagnose and treat Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). The new initiative, which is being organized by the Lewy Body Dementia Association, will seek to raise awareness and advance research for this complex disorder.

“Lewy Body Dementia is a challenging, multifaceted disease and research to find new diagnostic tools and treatments is still in its infancy,” said URMC neurologist Irene Richard, M.D., who will serve as director of the URMC Lewy Body Dementia Association Research Center of Excellence. “This new network of will create an infrastructure of clinician researchers who understand the disease, are able to identify patients to participate in research, and have experience participating in multi-site clinical trials.”

LBD is a progressive brain disorder marked by abnormal protein deposits – called Lewy Bodies – in areas of the brain important for behavior, cognition, and motor control. This complex disease gives rise to a range of symptoms, including cognitive impairment, sleep disturbances, hallucinations, difficulty with blood pressure regulation, and problems with movement and balance. Individuals with the disease will often experience marked fluctuations in their levels of alertness and clarity of thought.

Read More: National Initiative Focuses on New Treatments for Lewy Body Dementia

Mobile Apps Could Hold Key to Parkinson’s Research, Care

Monday, March 26, 2018

By Mark Michaud

A new study out today in the journal JAMA Neurology shows that smartphone software and technology can accurately track the severity of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The findings could provide researchers and clinicians with a new tool to both develop new drugs and better treat this challenging disease.

“This study demonstrates that we can create both an objective measure of the progression of Parkinson’s and one that provides a richer picture of the daily lived experience of the disease,” said University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) neurologist Ray Dorsey, M.D., a co-author of the study.

One of the difficulties in managing Parkinson’s is that symptoms of the disease can fluctuate widely on a daily basis. This makes the process of tracking the progression of the disease and adjusting treatment a challenge for physicians who may only get a snapshot of a patient’s condition once every several months when they visit the clinic. This variation also limits the insight that researchers can gather on the effectiveness of experimental treatments.

The new study, which was led by Suchi Saria, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University, harnesses the capabilities of technology that already resides in most of our pockets all day, every day.

Researchers recruited 129 individuals who remotely completed a series of tasks on a smartphone application. The Android app called HopkinsPD, which was originally developed by Max Little, Ph.D., an associate professor of Mathematics at Aston University in the U.K., consists of a series of tasks which measure voice fluctuations, the speed of finger tapping, walking speed, and balance.

The Android app is a predecessor to the mPower iPhone app which was developed by Little, Dorsey, and Sage Bionetworks and has been download more than 15,000 times from Apple’s App Store since its introduction in 2015.

As a part of the study, the researchers also conducted in-person visits with 50 individuals with Parkinson’s disease and controls in the clinic at URMC. Participants were asked to complete the tasks on the app and were also seen by a neurologist and scored using a standard clinical evaluation tool for the disease. This aspect of the study was overseen by URMC’s Center for Health + Technology.

Read More: Mobile Apps Could Hold Key to Parkinson’s Research, Care

New Career Development Awardees to Study Suicide Prevention and Neural Processing

Monday, March 12, 2018

Kevin Mazurek, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Neurology at URMC, will investigate how areas of the brain communicate information about how and why movements are performed and how neurologic diseases such as epilepsy affect this communication.

Electrophysiological techniques allow for investigating which cortical areas communicate information related to the performance of voluntary movements. For his KL2 project, Dr. Mazurek will analyze changes in neural communication as participants perform the same hand and finger movements when instructed with different sensory cues (e.g. visual, auditory). He will compare healthy individuals and individuals with intractable epilepsy to identify changes in neural communication pathways. Identifying the exact nature in which epileptic activity affects cortical communication could lead to a biomarker for the appropriate connections to target for rehabilitative treatment.

Read More: New Career Development Awardees to Study Suicide Prevention and Neural Processing

Professor Studies Complex Brain Networks Involved in Vision

Monday, March 12, 2018

Our brains are made up of an intricate network of neurons. Understanding the complex neuronal circuits—the connections of these neurons—is important in understanding how our brains process visual information.

Farran Briggs, a new associate professor of neuroscience and of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, studies neuronal circuits in the brain’s vision system and how attention affects the brain’s ability to process visual information.

Previously a professor at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Briggs became interested in neuroscience in high school. “I took a class and just became really fascinated by the brain and how it works,” she says. Today, her research on the fundamental levels of vision may provide new insight on impairments associated with attention deficit disorders.

Read More: Professor Studies Complex Brain Networks Involved in Vision

Biological Sex Tweaks Nervous System Networks, Plays Role in Shaping Behavior

Thursday, March 8, 2018

By Mark Michaud

New research published today in the journal Current Biology demonstrates how biological sex can modify communication between nerve cells and generate different responses in males and females to the same stimulus. The findings could new shed light on the genetic underpinnings of sex differences in neural development, behavior, and susceptibility to diseases.

“While the nervous systems of males and females are virtually identical, we know that there is a sex bias in how many neurological diseases manifest themselves, that biological sex can influence behavior in animals, and that some of these differences are likely to be biologically driven,” said Douglas Portman, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Departments of Biomedical Genetics, Neuroscience, and the Center for Neurotherapeutics Discovery at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and lead author of the study. “This study demonstrates a connection between biological sex and the control and function of neural circuits and that these different sex-dependent configurations can modify behavior.”

The findings were made in experiments involving the nematode C. elegans, a microscopic roundworm that has long been used by researchers to understand fundamental mechanisms in biology. Many of the discoveries made using these worms apply throughout the animal kingdom and this research has led to a broader understanding of human biology. In fact, three Nobel Prizes in medicine and chemistry have been awarded for discoveries involving C. elegans.

The study focuses on the different behaviors of male and female worms. There are two sexes of C. elegans, males and hermaphrodites. Although the hermaphrodites are able to self-fertilize, they are also mating partners for males, and are considered to be modified females.

The behavior of C. elegans is driven by sensory cues, primarily smell and taste, which are used by the worms to navigate their environment and communicate with each other. Female worms secrete a pheromone that is known to attract males who are drawn by this signal in search of a mate. Other females, however, are repelled by the same pheromone. It is not entirely understood why, but scientists speculate that that the pheromone signals to females to avoid areas where there may be too much competition.

Read More: Biological Sex Tweaks Nervous System Networks, Plays Role in Shaping Behavior

URMC Investigating New Parkinson's Drug

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The University of Rochester Medical Center Clinical Trials Coordination Center (CTCC) has been tapped to help lead a clinical trial for a potential new treatment for Parkinson’s disease. The study will evaluate nilotinib, a drug currently used to treat leukemia that has shown promise in early studies in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Cynthia Casaceli, M.B.A., the director of the CTCC, will oversee the operations of the study, which will be conducted through the Parkinson Study Group at 25 sites across the U.S. URMC is not a recruiting site for the study.  The clinical trial is being led by Tanya Simuni, M.D., with Northwestern University and supported by the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Nilotinib is a FDA-approved treatment for chronic myelogenous leukemia. The drug inhibits the activity of c-Abl, a protein that can accumulate in toxic levels in the brain and has been linked to cellular pathways associated with Parkinson's disease.

Read More: URMC Investigating New Parkinson's Drug

Brain Signal Indicates When You Understand What You’ve Been Told

Friday, February 23, 2018

Photo of EEG cap

During everyday interactions, people routinely speak at rates of 120 to 200 words per minute. For a listener to understand speech at these rates – and not lose track of the conversation – the brain must comprehend the meaning of each of these words very rapidly.

“That we can do this so easily is an amazing feat of the human brain – especially given that the meaning of words can vary greatly depending on the context,” says Edmund Lalor, associate professor of biomedical engineering and neuroscience at the University of Rochester and Trinity College Dublin. “For example, ‘I saw a bat flying overhead last night’ versus ‘the baseball player hit a home run with his favorite bat.’”

Now, researchers in Lalor’s lab have identified a brain signal that indicates whether a person is indeed comprehending what others are saying – and have shown they can track the signal using relatively inexpensive EEG (electroencephalography) readings taken on a person’s scalp.

Read More: Brain Signal Indicates When You Understand What You’ve Been Told

Drinking Alcohol Tied To Long Life In New Study

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Drinking could help you live longer—that's the good news for happy-hour enthusiasts from a study presented last week at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. According to the study, people who live to 90 or older often drink moderately.

Neurologist Claudia Kawas and her team at the University of California, Irvine, have been studying the habits of people who live until their 90s since 2003. There’s a paltry amount of research on the oldest-old group, defined as 85 and older by the Social Security Administration, and Kawas wanted to delve into the lifestyle habits of those who live past 90. She began asking about dietary habits, medical history and daily activities via survey, wondering if such data could help identify trends among these who lived longest. Ultimately she gathered information on the habits of 1,700 people between the ages of 90-99.

In general, research on alcohol has shown mixed results. A recent study published in Scientific Reports showed that drinking might help clear toxins from the brain. The study was conducted on mice, who were given the human equivalent of two and a half alcoholic beverages.

Dr. Maiken Nedergaard of the University of Rochester Medical Center told Newsweek at the time that alcohol did have real health benefits. “Except for a few types of cancer, including unfortunately breast cancer, alcohol is good for almost everything,” Nedergaard said.

Read More: Drinking Alcohol Tied To Long Life In New Study

Training brains—young and old, sick and healthy—with virtual reality

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

An accidental discovery by Rochester researchers in 2003 touched off a wave of research into the area of neuroplasticity in adults, or how the brain’s neural connections change throughout a person’s lifespan.

Fifteen years ago, Shawn Green was a graduate student of Daphne Bavelier, then an associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University. As the two created visual tests together, Green demonstrated exceptional proficiency at taking these tests himself. The two researchers hypothesized that it might be due to his extensive experience playing first-person, action-based video games. From there, Green and Bavelier demonstrated that, indeed, action-based video games enhance the brain’s ability to process visual information.

In years since, video gaming technology has gotten more sophisticated, regularly incorporating or featuring virtual reality (VR). The Oculus Rift headset, for example, connects directly to your PC to create an immersive VR gaming experience.

If we know that action-based video games enhance visual attention, might VR games do the same (and perhaps to a greater degree) because of the increased level of immersion?

That’s the question a current group of Rochester researchers—Duje Tadin, associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences; Jeffrey Bazarian, professor of emergency medicine; and Feng (Vankee) Lin, assistant professor in the School of Nursing—hope to answer.

Read More: Training brains—young and old, sick and healthy—with virtual reality

In Wine, There’s Health: Low Levels of Alcohol Good for the Brain

Friday, February 2, 2018

By Mark Michaud

While a couple of glasses of wine can help clear the mind after a busy day, new research shows that it may actually help clean the mind as well. The new study, which appears in the journal Scientific Reports, shows that low levels of alcohol consumption tamp down inflammation and helps the brain clear away toxins, including those associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

“Prolonged intake of excessive amounts of ethanol is known to have adverse effects on the central nervous system,” said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and lead author of the study. “However, in this study we have shown for the first time that low doses of alcohol are potentially beneficial to brain health, namely it improves the brain’s ability to remove waste.”

The finding adds to a growing body of research that point to the health benefits of low doses of alcohol. While excessive consumption of alcohol is a well-documented health hazard, many studies have linked lower levels of drinking with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases as well as a number of cancers.

Read More: In Wine, There’s Health: Low Levels of Alcohol Good for the Brain

Lungs Mays Hold Key to Thwarting Brain Damage after a Stroke

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

By Mark Michaud

The harm caused by a stroke can be exacerbated when immune cells rush to the brain an inadvertently make the situation worse. Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) are studying new ways to head off this second wave of brain damage by using the lungs to moderate the immune system’s response.

“It has become increasingly clear that lungs serve as an important regulator of the body’s immune system and could serve as a target for therapies that can mitigate the secondary damage that occurs in stroke,” said URMC neurologist Marc Halterman, M.D., Ph.D. “We are exploring a number of drugs that could help suppress the immune response during these non-infection events and provide protection to the brain and other organs.”

Halterman’s lab, which is part of the Center for NeuroTherapeutics Discovery, has been investigating domino effect that occurs after cardiac arrest. When blood circulation is interrupted, the integrity of our intestines becomes compromised, releasing bacteria that reside in the gut into the blood stream. This prompts a massive immune response which can cause systemic inflammation, making a bad situation worse.

While looking at mouse models of stroke, his lab observed that a similar phenomenon occurs. During a stroke blood vessels in the brain leak and the proteins that comprise the wreckage of damaged neurons and glia cells in the brain make their way into blood stream. The immune system, which is not used to seeing these proteins in circulation, responds to these damage-associated molecular patterns and ramps up to respond. Mobilized immune cells make their way into the brain and, finding no infection, nevertheless trigger inflammation and attack healthy tissue, compounding the damage.

The culprit in this system-wide immune response is neutrophils, a white cell in the blood system that serves as the shock troops of the body’s immune system. Because our entire blood supply constantly circulates through the lungs, the organ serves as an important way station for neutrophils. It is here that the cells are often primed and instructed to go search for new infections. The activated neutrophils can also cause inflammation in the lungs, which Halterman suspects may be mistakenly identified as post-stroke pneumonia. The damage caused by activated neutrophils can also spread to other organs including the kidneys, and liver.

Read More: Lungs Mays Hold Key to Thwarting Brain Damage after a Stroke

Remembering a Pioneer of Environmental Health Science

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

By Pete Myers, Richard Stahlhut, Joan Cranmer, Steven Gilbert, Shanna Swan

Colleagues honor Bernard "Bernie" Weiss (1925-2018)—a remarkable scientist, thinker, visionary and writer


One rarely is lucky enough to drive the early evolution of a new scientific discipline, but Bernard (Bernie) Weiss was there, always at the forefront as the field of behavioral toxicology took shape.


And along with the many students he inspired, he remained there throughout his career. Blending psychology, toxicology, and technology, Bernie Weiss shaped this discipline using new methods to explore the subtle, and not so subtle, effects of environmental chemicals on behavior and the nervous system.

He was a remarkable scientist, thinker, visionary, and writer. Bernie Weiss passed away on the morning of January 22, 2018.

Bernie was born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1925 and served in the Air Force from 1944-45. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from New York University in 1949, and a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology in 1953 from the University of Rochester. From Rochester, he took a job at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, but was recruited back to University of Rochester in 1965 by Dr. Harold Hodge to explore the behavioral consequences of exposure to toxicants, such as inorganic mercury vapor.

Bernie was a pioneer. In the 1960s he was one of the first to use LINC (Laboratory Instrument Computer) and Digital Equipment Computer (DEC). Computer systems would later allow researchers to perform incredibly complex experiments and collect data at a level of detail never before imagined, thereby revealing subtle effects of chemicals on behavior.

Bernie's lab led the way in computer-controlled experiments in behavioral toxicology, as well as to assess the effects of low levels of drugs and metals on the sensory systems of vision, touch and hearing. Many of these testing capabilities were transferred to and shared with other research laboratories.

Bernie also addressed the investigation of rare, idiosyncratic toxicity, such as food additives and multiple chemical sensitivity. By their nature, these investigations require less traditional study designs in which the subjects are not randomly assigned to the exposure group (most people would never respond), but the exposures are randomly applied in a blinded fashion to people believed to have the conditions.

Bernie was a master of technical details, but he also kept his eye on the big picture. Just one example: he pioneered the idea that small decreases in the average IQ of a population could lead to big decreases in intellectual stars, and big increases in people with individual cognitive disabilities.

Population level effects have consequences.

As the science of behavioral toxicology and related research methods evolved, Bernie continued to champion the scientific facts demonstrating that low levels of exposure to chemicals could have profound effects on the developing nervous system. He encouraged others to take on this work, pursuing for him what became a lifelong goal: to make the world a safer, more resilient place for all.

Bernie was a generous and enduring collaborator. One notable example is his long-term collaboration with Victor Laties (Ph.D. Psychology University of Rochester, '54). Together they shepherded the discipline of behavioral toxicology from its origins in behavioral pharmacology to its distinguished and impactful status today.

Bernie was also a great mentor, who created a unique atmosphere of stability with flexibility that gave his students, staff and collaborators support and encouraged creativity necessary for good science and to explore new ways to answer research questions. He always made himself available to students and staff to discuss problems and scientific challenges, and to explore new methods to try to answer questions.

Bernie wasn't satisfied to remain quietly within the cloistered halls of academia. He saw the human implications of his work and while always the scientist, he pushed hard to apply that science to protect human and environmental health. Many of Bernie's students went on to have important and impactful careers in academia, government and industry.

The family encourages gifts of remembrance be donated to the University of Rochester Weiss Endowment Fund, supporting the Weiss Toxicology Scholar Award for pre-doctoral and postdoctoral trainees. The Fund has supported 8 scholars since 2014.

Pete Myers, Environmental Health Sciences; Richard W. Stahlhut, University of Missouri at Columbia; Joan Cranmer, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; Steven G. Gilbert, Institute of Neurotoxicology & Neurological Disorders; Shanna H. Swan, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Read More: Remembering a Pioneer of Environmental Health Science

URMC Professor Emeritus and Pioneer of Neurotoxicology Dies at 92

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Weiss

Bernard "Bernie" Weiss, Ph.D.

By Susanne Pallo

Bernard “Bernie” Weiss, ’53 (Ph.D.), professor emeritus of Environmental Medicine and Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, passed away on January 22 at the age of 92 as the result of a fall.

Weiss was a monumental and beloved figure in the scientific community, and helped found a field of research that tracks the impact of toxic chemicals on human behavior. His research sparked national discussions about the dangers of artificial food dyes, pesticides, and chemicals in plastics. He often advocated for better policies to protect the public.

As recently as 2015, Weiss participated in a national debate over the safety of food dyes, which the Food and Drug Administration had declared safe. Citing studies that showed an association between children ingesting food dyes and hyperactivity, Weiss supported a ban. Several large manufacturers, including Kraft, announced they would remove artificial food coloring such as Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 from its macaroni and cheese, replacing the dyes with natural ingredients such as turmeric and paprika.

”We are all gamblers. We scheme to conquer chance, to beguile it into surrender, to lull it into forgiveness. In the end, it subdues us; but without malice, and at times to our advantage. Like other lives, mine has been hostage to random collisions… Neurotoxicology will continue to be an adventure as long as its practitioners remain adventurers.”

Into the final years of his career, Weiss sat on advisory boards that review data and make recommendations about dioxin (an industrial waste product), metals, dental amalgams, the environmental conditions on NASA spacecraft, and air quality aboard commercial airplanes. Up to about two years ago, he could be found in lab several days a week, happy to offer consultation and support to other researchers. A scientific paper he co-authored is in the process of being published.

Deborah Cory-Slechta, Ph.D., professor and former chair of Environmental Medicine at URMC, trained as a postdoc in his lab. “Many of the issues Bernie began to address thirty or forty years ago are still major issues in the field today," she said. "He moved issues forward with creativity and foresight and his legacies will be with the field for a long time to come.”

Another colleague was fellow environmental health pioneer David Ozonoff, M.D., M.P.H., chair emeritus of environmental health at Boston University School of Public Health and co-editor-in-chief of the online journal, Environmental Health. He admired Weiss for his steadfastness, persistence to shared ideals, willingness to put his expertise at the service of the common good, his good humor, and not least, his major contributions to science.

“His legacy will not only be the scientific advances he made but those that will be made by others inspired and mentored by him,” Ozonoff said.

Weiss’ career began and ended at the University of Rochester. He earned a doctoral degree in Psychology at the University in 1953 and returned 12 years later as a faculty member.

In the intervening years, Weiss, a WWII Air Force veteran, conducted research at the Air Force School of Aviation Medicine in Texas, then Johns Hopkins University. He began developing ways to measure the impact of drugs, nutrients and chemicals on the brain, and built one of the first mini-computers ever used in research.

In 1965, Weiss was lured back to URMC as it launched one of the world’s first programs to grant a doctoral degree in toxicology. His research and mentorship helped build the program, which recently established the Bernard Weiss Endowment Fund in honor of his indelible mark on the program. The fund, which was organized by a group of URMC Toxicology Graduate Program alumni and staff, provides support for future leaders in the fields of neurotoxicology and toxicology.

Weiss received several honors. He was named Scientist of the Year by the Association of Children and Adults with Learning Disabilities in 1986. In 2003 he received a Distinguished Investigator Award from the Neurotoxicology Specialty Section of the Society of Toxicology. During the mid-1970s, Weiss took part in the U.S.-U.S.S.R. Environmental Health Exchange Agreement, where he led several U.S. delegations in discussions of behavioral toxicology with their counterparts across the globe.

When asked for an autobiographical statement for the journal Neurotoxicology forty years ago, Weiss wrote:

”We are all gamblers. We scheme to conquer chance, to beguile it into surrender, to lull it into forgiveness. In the end, it subdues us; but without malice, and at times to our advantage. Like other lives, mine has been hostage to random collisions… Neurotoxicology will continue to be an adventure as long as its practitioners remain adventurers.”

Weiss is survived by his children, Wendy (Les) Calkins and Tom (Debora) Weiss; grandchildren, Zachary (Sara), Nicole, William, Emily (Marcelo); brother, Leonard (Sandra); beloved partner, Marti Willit; nieces and nephews. A memorial service will be held at a later date.

To honor Weiss, consider making a contribution to the Bernard Weiss Endowment Fund.

Read More: URMC Professor Emeritus and Pioneer of Neurotoxicology Dies at 92

Ross Maddox Presents: When ears aren't enough: how your eyes help you listen

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Ross will be talking to the public about audio-visual integration in San Diego! His talk is entitled: "When ears aren't enough: how your eyes help you listen." Feb 9 at 5 PM.

Read More: Ross Maddox Presents: When ears aren't enough: how your eyes help you listen

Introducing a New Faculty Member

Friday, January 5, 2018

Michele Rucci has joined the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences as a professor after serving as a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University. Rucci’s research program combines experimental and theoretical approaches to study mechanisms of visual perception. His primary interests lie in the elucidation of how motor and sensory processes interact in the human brain and how motor behavior contributes to the extraction and processing of visual information. Rucci and his colleagues have explained the functional roles of microscopic eye movements that take place while we fixate on an object of interest. He has demonstrated that these miniature eye movements play important roles in reformatting the visual input to be processed efficiently and for systematically exploring objects during tasks that require high spatial precision. He received Laurea (MA) and PhD degrees in biomedical engineering from the University of Florence and the Scuola Superiore S. Anna in Pisa, respectively. Before joining the faculty of Boston University, he was a fellow in computational neuroscience at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego.

Electrical Stimulation in Brain Bypasses Senses, Instructs Movement

Thursday, December 7, 2017

robotic hand

The brain’s complex network of neurons enables us to interpret and effortlessly navigate and interact with the world around us. But when these links are damaged due to injury or stroke, critical tasks like perception and movement can be disrupted. New research is helping scientists figure out how to harness the brain’s plasticity to rewire these lost connections, an advance that could accelerate the development of neuro-prosthetics.

A new study authored by Marc Schieber, M.D., Ph.D., and Kevin Mazurek, Ph.D. with the University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Neurology and the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience, which appears today in the journal Neuron, shows that very low levels of electrical stimulation delivered directly to an area of the brain responsible for motor function can instruct an appropriate response or action, essentially replacing the signals we would normally receive from the parts of the brain that process what we hear, see, and feel.

“The analogy is what happens when we approach a red light,” said Schieber. “The light itself does not cause us to step on the brake, rather our brain has been trained to process this visual cue and send signals to another parts of the brain that control movement. In this study, what we describe is akin to replacing the red light with an electrical stimulation which the brain has learned to associate with the need to take an action that stops the car.”

Read More: Electrical Stimulation in Brain Bypasses Senses, Instructs Movement

Congenital heart disease genes found in children with autism, other conditions

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Mutated genes present in many patients with congenital heart disease (CHD) are also often found in patients with autism and certain respiratory disorders, according to an extensive analysis of genes from 2,871 congenital heart disease patients and their families, reports the Research@URMC blog.

The research, published last month in the journal Nature Genetics, is the third major publication generated by the Pediatric Cardiac Genomics Consortium (PCGC), a group of 10 centers in the United States and London, including the Medical Center. The center’s goal is to identify genetic causes of CHD.

“It has long been apparent that there is a connection between the developing heart and brain — that patients who have challenges in one area often have challenges in the other — and now we have genetic proof,” says George Porter, associate professor of pediatrics/cardiology and an author of the paper.

The PCGC’s research has enrolled 11,333 patients; Porter and Eileen Taillie, the local study coordinator, have recruited 573 of those patients from the Medical Center and associated pediatric cardiologists in Buffalo and Syracuse. The group conducts a range of genetic tests on selected groups of these patients, with the most significant results thus far coming from whole exome sequencing on more than 3,000 patients with complex CHD and their families. The ongoing project represents the most robust genetic analysis ever performed on patients with CHD, which affects about 1 percent of babies.

“Clinically, this is the next step toward a more personalized approach for patients with CHD,” says Porter. “One possibility: you could potentially create a panel of genes to test in patients with CHD, and if you find one that also affects learning, for example, you could intervene earlier.”

The paper’s co-senior authors are Martina Brueckner of the Yale School of Medicine and Christine Seidman of Harvard Medical School.

Read More: Congenital heart disease genes found in children with autism, other conditions

URMC Neuroscientist Earns Prestigious NIMH 2017 BRAINS Award

Monday, November 13, 2017

Photo of Krishnan Padmanabhan

Krishnan Padmanabhan, Ph.D.

Congratulate Krishnan on receiving one the this year's NIMH 2017 BRAINS awards.

The NIMH Biobehavioral Research Awards for Innovative New Scientists (BRAINS) award is intended to support the research and research career advancement of outstanding, exceptionally productive scientists who are in the early, formative stages of their careers and who plan to make a long term career commitment to research in specific mission areas of the NIMH. This award seeks to assist these individuals in launching an innovative clinical, translational, basic or services research program that holds the potential to profoundly transform the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of mental disorders. The NIMH BRAINS program will focus on the research priorities and gap areas identified in the NIMH Strategic Plan and the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project.

Read More: URMC Neuroscientist Earns Prestigious NIMH 2017 BRAINS Award

Postdoctoral Fellow Wins Prize for Brain Injury Research

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Overby Photo

Stephen Steadman '64, center, presents Kevin Mazurek, left, with the first place honor and audience prize at the Meliora Weekend competition for the Steadman Family Postdoctoral Associate Prize in Interdisciplinary Research. Steadman, who received a BS in physics from the University of Rochester, is a scientific administrator at the Laboratory for Nuclear Science and the Department of Physics at MIT. Melissa Sturge-Apple, dean of graduate studies, is at right. (University of Rochester photo / Bob Marcotte)

Even simple movements require the integration of information from multiple areas of the brain. This process breaks down when brain damage occurs, resulting in neurological disorders.

But what if researchers could find a way to bypass those damaged areas and maintain the flow of information?

Kevin Mazurek, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Marc Schieber, professor of neurology, described how the lab is making progress in doing just that. He finished in first place and took the audience prize as well in the Meliora Weekend competition for the Steadman Family Postdoctoral Associate Prize in Interdisciplinary Research.

Mazurek’s prizes were worth $1,250.

Using micro electrical stimulation in primates, “we’ve shown that we can deliver the information successfully to two functionally different areas of the brain,” Mazurek explained. “This is an important first step.”

The next steps in the research, which incorporates neurology, neuroscience, electrical engineering, and biomedical engineering, include expanding the ability to communicate information across a wide reach of brain areas. This could “potentially improve the quality of living for individuals with injuries such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, or Alzheimer’s disease.”

This is the second year of the competition.

It is open to all postdoctoral scholars and appointees in the School of Medicine and Dentistry, and in Arts, Sciences & Engineering. Four prizes are awarded for research that exemplifies the importance of cross- disciplinary approaches toward examining high impact questions of science. Prizes were awarded based on 3-minute oral presentations to a panel of judges.

This year’s topics ranged from “Recent Breakthroughs in Understanding the Brain’s Waste Removal System” to “Catalytic Solar-Driven Generation of H2 in Artificial Photosynthesis” – and the benefits of yoga in helping cancer patients cope with the side affects of chemotherapy.

Read More: Postdoctoral Fellow Wins Prize for Brain Injury Research

Data and Technology Drive New Approaches to Parkinson’s Care, Research

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Complex, multi-system diseases like Parkinson’s have long posed challenges to both scientists and physicians. University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) researchers are now reaching for new tools, such as algorithms, machine learning, computer simulations, and mobile technologies, to both improve care and identify new therapies.

Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological disorder that erodes an individual’s control over their movements and speech. While many of the recent advances in treatment have transformed Parkinson’s into a manageable chronic illness, the individual patient experience can vary widely in both the onset and progression of the symptoms of the disease. This creates problems for clinicians who must constantly tweak the combination and doses of medications to effectively manage symptoms and researchers who are often confronted with a range of responses to experimental treatments.

The advent and spread of new technologies – such as to broadband internet, smartphones, and remote monitoring and wearable sensors – coupled with growing investments in computational resources and expertise in fields such as bioinformatics and data science have the potential to provide researchers with unprecedented insight into the complex variations of diseases like Parkinson’s.

An example of this approach is new research out in the journal The Lancet Neurology. The study sought to identify genetic markers that may explain why motor symptoms –stiffness or rigidity of the arms and legs, slowness or lack of movement, tremors, and walking difficulties – come on more rapidly for some patients with the disease.

The research involved Charles Venuto, Pharm.D., an assistant professor in the URMC Department of Neurology and the Center for Health + Technology (CHeT), and GNS Healthcare, and was funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

The researchers tapped into huge data sets compiled by the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) which has collected biological samples and clinical data from hundreds of individuals with the disease.

“We have access to more information about diseases like Parkinson’s than ever before,” said Venuto. “But all of that data has created a scientific conundrum akin to losing sight of the forest for the trees. In order to unlock the potential of this information we need to harness more sophisticated ways to understand what we are seeing.”

In a departure from traditional research approaches, the team turned over the vast quantities of genetic, clinical, and imaging profiles compiled by the PPMI study to a machine learning and simulation program. As the computer program analyzed the data, it was also “learning” by constantly refining and modifying its criteria and algorithms as it sifted through the information looking for patterns and associations.

The study identified a mutation in the LINGO2 gene that, together with a second gene and demographic factors, could identify patients with faster motor progression of Parkinson’s. The finding, if confirmed, could ultimately help clinicians refine care and help researchers more precisely understand how individual patients may respond to experimental therapies.

The application of data-driven technologies to biomedical research has exploded in the last several years. URMC neurologist Ray Dorsey, M.D., M.B.A., who is also the director of CHeT, has been at the forefront of this transformation. Dorsey has long been a pioneer in expanding access to Parkinson’s care via telemedicine.

Read More: Data and Technology Drive New Approaches to Parkinson’s Care, Research

Study to Explore Possible Synergistic Effects of Exercise, Brain Training in Preventing Dementia

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

senior adults on exercise bikes

Can a workout regimen for your mind and body help to fend off Alzheimer’s disease?

Physical and mental activity have been shown to boost brain function in different ways, but a new study will look to see if the benefits of engaging in a rigorously designed program that includes both aerobic exercise and brain training will complement each other, producing greater gains in cognition than if both activities had been done independently.

Feng Vankee Lin, Ph.D., R.N., assistant professor in the University of Rochester School of Nursing, the Departments of Neuroscience, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Neurology, and Psychiatry, and director of the Cog-T Laboratory promoting successful aging, and Fang Yu, Ph.D., R.N., G.N.P.-B.C., F.G.S.A., F.A.A.N., associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, are principal investigators on the five-year, $3.67 million grant from the National Institute of Aging.

“This is the first trial to test the synergistic effects of a combined program of aerobic exercise and cognitive training on cognition and mechanisms relevant to Alzheimer’s disease-associated neurodegeneration in older adults with mild cognitive impairment,” said Lin.

Read More: Study to Explore Possible Synergistic Effects of Exercise, Brain Training in Preventing Dementia

Finding a Treatment for Postoperative Cognitive Dysfunction

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

URMC Drug to be Tested for Delirium and Dementia Following Surgery; Also Brain Disorder ALS

A picture of an older woman and her daughter in the background

For those caring for elderly parents or grandparents, this scene may be familiar: Grandma falls and fractures her hip. Grandma has surgery to repair the broken hip. Grandma comes out of surgery delirious and confused; she can’t remember simple things, or focus on more than one thing at a time.

More than half of older adults suffer from delirium after surgery that may progress to dementia, a condition called postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD). There are no good treatments for postoperative cognitive dysfunction, which is associated with increased illness and death. Estimates suggest that caring for patients with POCD costs more than $150 billion a year.

A team of researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and Duke University Medical Center is addressing the problem, with the help of a five-year, $2.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Aging at the National Institutes of Health.

What causes postoperative cognitive dysfunction?

What causes postoperative cognitive dysfunction is not entirely understood, but the body’s immune response to surgery and subsequent inflammation throughout the body – including in the brain – likely play a role. The team, led by Niccolo Terrando, Ph.D. at Duke, will test in animal models a drug developed in the laboratory of Harris A. “Handy” Gelbard, M.D., Ph.D. at URMC. Called URMC-099, the drug tamps down the body’s immune response and reduces inflammation.

Read More: Finding a Treatment for Postoperative Cognitive Dysfunction

Study Pokes Holes in Fetal Alcohol Hypothesis

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

fetal alcohol syndrome

A new study published in the journal Brain Behavior and Immunity appears to challenge the theory that cells in the brain’s immune system are the culprit behind the neurological damage that occurs in children exposed to alcohol while in the womb.

“In order to develop treatments for this condition, we must first understand how alcohol affects the developing brain,” said Ania Majewska, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and lead author of the study. “While the hypothesis that dysfunctional immune cells play a role in fetal alcohol syndrome is logical and enticing, it appears that this idea may be a scientific dead end.”

Exposure to alcohol in the womb can lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), a condition that causes lifelong physical and cognitive impairments, and for which there is no available treatment. The symptoms suffered by individuals with FASD can range from poor impulse control and attention, learning disabilities, compromised fine motor skills, and delays in the ability of the brain to process visual and auditory information. FASD is diagnosed in about one out of every 100 babies born in the U.S.

Read More: Study Pokes Holes in Fetal Alcohol Hypothesis

Study Will Explore Link Between HIV, Micro-Strokes, and Dementia

Monday, October 2, 2017

New research will seek to understand why people who are HIV positive are more susceptible to a progressive cerebrovascular disease that can ultimately give rise to dementia. One of the goals of the research is to identify new ways to prevent the blockages that occur in blood vessels and cause damage in the brain.

The $3.6 million National Institute of Aging-sponsored study will be led by University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) neurologist Giovanni Schifitto, M.D., M.S., and Sanjay B. Maggirwar, M.B.A., Ph.D., with the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

While it is estimated that more than 1 million Americans are living with HIV, treatments such as combined anti-retroviral therapies (cART) have transformed the disease into a manageable chronic illness. However, as the population living with HIV ages, the long-term effects of both the infection and treatment have given rise to additional health problems.

One such problem is cerebral small vessel disease (CSVD). While the reason CSVD occurs is not clear and may ultimately be the result of a number of factors, a common mechanism is believed to be inflammation. The new study will examine the interaction of two types of blood cells – platelets and monocytes. When these cells become stuck together and form complexes the resulting blockages can lead to a hardening of the arteries.

The brain in particular is highly susceptible to damage when blood flow becomes impaired due its network of tiny vessels. When complexes of platelets and monocytes accumulate in the brain they can promote inflammation which can cause vessels to become leaky, plugged, or burst, resulting in micro-strokes or micro-hemorrhages that damage neurons and other tissue in the brain.

Read More: Study Will Explore Link Between HIV, Micro-Strokes, and Dementia

URMC Joins Landmark Brain Development Study

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Child in an MRI scanner

 

The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) is participating in what is being characterized as the largest long-term study of brain development and child health. The study will follow the biological and behavioral development of more than 10,000 children from ages 9-10 through early adulthood.

The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study was created by the National Institutes of Health to evaluate the developmental period during which the brain undergoes dramatic changes. The study will seek to better understand how children’s experiences impact brain maturation and other aspects of their lives, including academic achievement, social development, behavior, and overall health.

“Adolescence is a time of extraordinary physical, emotional, and intellectual growth,” said John Foxe, Ph.D., director of the Del Monte Neuroscience Institute and principal investigator of the URMC ABCD Study. “Yet there is a great deal that we don’t know about how experiences such as participation in sports or music programs, screen time, sleep patterns, and long-term exposure to medications and stimulants impact their transition to adulthood.”

Read More: URMC Joins Landmark Brain Development Study

Rebecca Lowery and Ania Majewska publish a paper in Glia

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Microglial Fractalkine Receptor is not Required for Activity-Dependent Plasticity in the Mouse Visual System

Microglia have recently been implicated as key regulators of activity-dependent plasticity, where they contribute to the removal of inappropriate or excess synapses. However, the molecular mechanisms that mediate this microglial function are still not well understood. Although multiple studies have implicated fractalkine signaling as a mediator of microglia–neuron communications during synaptic plasticity, it is unclear whether this is a universal signaling mechanism or whether its role is limited to specific brain regions and stages of the lifespan. Here, we examined whether fractalkine signaling mediates microglial contributions to activity-dependent plasticity in the developing and adolescent visual system. Using genetic ablation of fractalkine's cognate receptor, CX3CR1, and both ex vivo characterization and in vivo imaging in mice, we examined whether fractalkine signaling is required for microglial dynamics and modulation of synapses, as well as activity-dependent plasticity in the visual system. We did not find a role for fractalkine signaling in mediating microglial properties during visual plasticity. Ablation of CX3CR1 had no effect on microglial density, distribution, morphology, or motility, in either adolescent or young adult mice across brain regions that include the visual cortex. Ablation of CX3CR1 also had no effect on baseline synaptic turnover or contact dynamics between microglia and neurons. Finally, we found that fractalkine signaling is not required for either early or late forms of activity-dependent visual system plasticity. These findings suggest that fractalkine is not a universal regulator of synaptic plasticity, but rather has heterogeneous roles in specific brain regions and life stages.

Read More: Rebecca Lowery and Ania Majewska publish a paper in Glia

Ross Maddox Finds Auditory Brainstem Responses to Continuous Natural Speech in Human Listeners

Friday, September 22, 2017

Ross Maddox

Ross Maddox, PhD

Ross Maddox's lab has posted the preprint for his latest paper on biorXiv! They showed that it's possible to measure the response of the auditory brainstem to natural speech using EEG.

Speech is an ecologically essential signal whose processing begins in the subcortical nuclei of the auditory brainstem, but there are few experimental options for studying these early responses under natural conditions. While encoding of continuous natural speech has been successfully probed in the cortex with neurophysiological tools such as electro- and magnetoencephalography, the rapidity of subcortical response components combined with unfavorable signal to noise ratios has prevented application of those methods to the brainstem. Instead, experiments have used thousands of repetitions of simple stimuli such as clicks, tonebursts, or brief spoken syllables, with deviations from those paradigms leading to ambiguity in the neural origins of measured responses. In this study we developed and tested a new way to measure the auditory brainstem response to ongoing, naturally uttered speech. We found a high degree of morphological similarity between the speech-evoked auditory brainstem responses (ABR) and the standard click-evoked ABR, notably a preserved wave V, the most prominent voltage peak in the standard click-evoked ABR. Because this method yields distinct peaks at latencies too short to originate from the cortex, the responses measured can be unambiguously determined to be subcortical in origin. The use of naturally uttered speech to evoke the ABR allows the design of engaging behavioral tasks, facilitating new investigations of the effects of cognitive processes like language processing and attention on brainstem processing.

Read More: Ross Maddox Finds Auditory Brainstem Responses to Continuous Natural Speech in Human Listeners

New Grant Will Examine Link Between ‘Dirty’ Brains and Alzheimer’s

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A new $3.2 million grant will bring together biomedical scientists and mechanical engineers in an effort to develop a detailed understanding of the brain’s waste removal system.  The research could have significant implications for diseases like Alzheimer’s that arise when this system breaks down and toxic proteins accumulate in the brain.

The new research is being funded by the National Institute on Aging and will study the glymphatic system.  This system is unique to the brain and was first described by Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., the co-director of the University of Rochester Center for Translational Neuromedicine, and her colleagues in 2012, who showed how cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) is pumped into brain tissue and flushes away waste.  Subsequent research has shown that the glymphatic system is more active while we sleep and can be damaged by stroke and trauma. 

Read More: New Grant Will Examine Link Between ‘Dirty’ Brains and Alzheimer’s

Quadcast: Rebooting the Brain for Better Vision After a Stroke

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Maybe you’ve recently suffered a stroke and are now starting therapy, trying to regain speech, motor functions, and possibly improve memory. But your vision is damaged, too, and there’s no therapy available.
Yet.
Krystel Huxlin, director of research and the James V. Aquavella Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Flaum Eye Institute, has been working in her lab over the last ten years to change that. Here’s how she sums up her latest results, published earlier this year in the journal Neurology:

“If people do exactly what we tell them and they don’t cheat, the success rate has been in our hands a 100 percent.”

Huxlin spoke at the inaugural Light & Sound Interactive conference in Rochester, jointly sponsored by the University of Rochester and the Rochester Institute of Technology, as part of a panel on blindness and visual impairment that addressed corrective, restorative and rehabilitative approaches.

Read More: Quadcast: Rebooting the Brain for Better Vision After a Stroke

This Music Teacher Played His Saxophone While In Brain Surgery

Monday, August 28, 2017

Dan Fabbio was 25 and working on a master's degree in music education when he stopped being able to hear music in stereo. Music no longer felt the same to him.

When he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, he immediately worried about cancer. Fortunately, his tumor was benign. Unfortunately, it was located in a part of the brain known to be active when people listen to and make music.

Fabbio told his surgeon that music was the most important thing is his life. It was his passion as well as his profession.

His surgeon understood. He's someone whose passion has been mapping the brain so he can help patients retain as much function as possible.

Dr. Web Pilcher, chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and his colleague Brad Mahon, a cognitive neuroscientist, had developed a brain mapping program. Since 2011, they've used the program to treat all kinds of patients with brain tumors: mathematicians, lawyers, a bus driver, a furniture maker. Fabbio was their first musician.

The idea behind the program is to learn as much as possible about the patient's life and the patient's brain before surgery to minimize damage to it during the procedure.

"Removing a tumor from the brain can have significant consequences depending upon its location," Pilcher says. "Both the tumor itself and the operation to remove it can damage tissue and disrupt communication between different parts of the brain."

Ahead of Fabbio's surgery, it was important to understand exactly what parts of his brain were responsible for his musical abilities. The team spent six months studying the functional and structural organization of Fabbio's brain, Mahon tells All Things Considered host Robert Siegel.

Read More: This Music Teacher Played His Saxophone While In Brain Surgery

Do the Drugs that Keep HIV Patients Alive Damage Their Brains?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center recently set out to understand whether drugs used to keep HIV patients alive could be damaging their brains.  On the contrary, early results from their clinical study showed that short-term use of combination anti-retroviral therapy (cART) improved mental function in HIV-infected individuals. 

Giovanni Schifitto, M.D., M.S., professor of Neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, is leading the study to better understand the short and long term effects of combination antiretroviral therapy on HIV patients’ brains. At 12 weeks, the therapy appears to improve mental performance and functional connectivity in the brain.

HIV patients often experience mental decline ranging from mild impairment to full-blown dementia. Experts have long debated the cause of that mental decline: HIV itself, or the drug used to combat it.

Some of the first HIV drugs were known to cause damage to peripheral nerves. Newer anti-retroviral drugs are believed to be safer, but patients taking these drugs continue to experience mental impairment - even when their viral load is extremely low.  In fact, some studies have shown improvement in HIV patients’ mental function when they stop using cART.

“But those studies were very indirect,” said Schifitto, who is also the director of the Clinical Research Center and function leader for Participant and Clinical Interactions at the CTSI. “They studied cohorts of people who were already on medications, which makes it very hard to pull apart whether the virus or the drug is to blame for effects in the brain.”

Schifitto’s clinical study, on the other hand, followed 17 HIV-infected individuals who had not received any treatment prior to the study. These patients scored worse on mental function tests and brain imaging revealed fewer connections in their brains than the HIV-negative control group.

After receiving cART for 12 weeks, the HIV patients’ mental performance and functional brain connectivity improved nearly to the level of the HIV-negative group. This not only suggests that short term cART use does not damage the brain, but that the virus is the culprit for early mental impairment in HIV-infected patients.

However, this is just a first step of the study, which will enroll and follow over 150 participants for two years. It is possible that cART will cause mental decline after prolonged use and the team want to track if and when that happens.  They are also monitoring sleep, mood, and several other factors that can impact mental function in HIV patients taking cART. 

In the end, the outcomes of the short and long term studies may help health care providers tailor cART cocktails and treatment schedules to individual patients’ needs. The results could also have implications for preventative use of cART in individuals who are at high risk for contracting HIV, a practice called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

The study started with just a single site at the University of Rochester Medical Center, but now includes sites at Cornell Medical Imaging Center, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, SUNY Upstate Medical, University at Buffalo, and University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.  It also utilized the CTSI’s Clinical Research Center, a dedicated space for researchers to conduct safe and controlled clinical studies with the support of highly trained clinical research staff.

Read More: Do the Drugs that Keep HIV Patients Alive Damage Their Brains?

Study Uncovers Potential Tool, Based on Rapid Eye Movements, for Detecting Autism Earlier

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

“Researchers have long fixed their attention on eye-tracking in detecting autism spectrum disorders, but now they may have discovered a new tool that could lead to earlier diagnosis and intervention.” the research is by John Foxe, the Kilian J. and Caroline F. Schmitt Professor in Neuroscience and chair of the Department of Neuroscience.

In a July 12 article in the European Journal of Neuroscience, researchers at the University of Rochester linked differences in the cerebellar vermis (in the rear of the cerebellum, which controls the development of human movement, social skills and emotional development) to the plasticity of saccadic or rapid eye movements within a subgroup of people with disorders on the autism spectrum (ASD).

Rapid eye movements (also known as saccade) may be the key, say Edward G. Freeman, Ph.D., and John J. Foxe Ph.D. These eye movements-typically quick, precise and accurate in healthy eyes-occur when we shift our gaze between objects and are important in interacting with the world. Sometimes though, in people with ASD, the movements can "over- or undershoot the intended target locations," they wrote in the study.

Read More: Study Uncovers Potential Tool, Based on Rapid Eye Movements, for Detecting Autism Earlier

Neurology and Neurosurgery Earn Top 50 Ranking in U.S. News & World Report's 'Best Hospitals'

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Neurosurgery group Photo

Strong Memorial Hospital’s Neurology and Neurosurgery specialty program has been ranked among the top 50 in the nation for 2017-2018 by U.S. News & World Report. The program ranked 39th among the nation’s hospitals, and this is the seventh consecutive year it has been nationally ranked by U.S. News.

In June, UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital was recognized as one of the nation’s best children’s hospitals in three specialty areas — Neonatology, Nephrology, and Neurology and Neurosurgery — in the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospital rankings.

For the 2017-18 adult rankings, U.S. News evaluated more than 4,500 U.S. hospitals; only 152 were ranked in at least one specialty.

Eight Strong Memorial Hospital specialty programs earned High Performing ratings: Cardiology and Heart Surgery, Diabetes and Endocrinology, Gastroenterology and GI Surgery, Geriatrics, Nephrology, Orthopaedics, Pulmonology, and Urology.

U.S. News recognized hospitals that were high-performing across multiple areas of care and ranked them within their states and by metropolitan areas. U.S. News rated Strong Memorial as the top hospital in the Rochester Metro area and fourth among New York state hospitals.

U.S. News evaluates nearly 5,000 hospitals nationwide for its Best Hospitals rankings; methodologies include objective measures such as patient survival, the number of times a given procedure is performed, infection rates, adequacy of nurse staffing and more.

Read More: Neurology and Neurosurgery Earn Top 50 Ranking in U.S. News & World Report's 'Best Hospitals'

Patient-Derived Support Cells Stunt Mouse Brain Development

Monday, August 7, 2017

Errant glia may underlie childhood-onset schizophrenia illness process

At least some cases of schizophrenia may be caused by an illness process rooted in wayward support cells instead of the neurons they sustain, suggest experiments by NIMH-funded researchers. Such glial cells, generated – via a disease-in-a-dish technology – from patients with childhood onset schizophrenia, stunted neural circuit development when grafted into developing mouse brains. The animals grew up to display anxiety-like behaviors, antisocial tendencies, sleep-disturbances, and a lack of motivation, mimicking some features of the human illness.

NIMH grantee Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Rochester, and colleagues, report on their findings in the August 3, 2017 issue of Cell Stem Cell. An accompanying editorial heralds their discovery as “one of the most creative and compelling uses of stem cell technology for disease modeling” – with potential implications for improved treatments.

Although evidence was mounting of glial-related abnormalities in schizophrenia prior to the new study, researchers didn’t know whether these might just be secondary to a neuron-rooted illness process. Animal models to sort this out were lacking, so Goldman and his team set out to develop one. They generated induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from skin cells of patients who had experienced onset of psychosis before puberty. While rare, such cases of childhood onset schizophrenia are thought to be more genetically-influenced and severe than more typical cases with onset in late adolescence or early adulthood.

Read More: Patient-Derived Support Cells Stunt Mouse Brain Development

Michael Tanenhaus Awarded Top Cognitive Science Prize

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Michael Tanenhaus, the Beverly Petterson Bishop and Charles W. Bishop Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, is this year’s recipient of the prestigious David E. Rumelhart Prize, the premier award in the field of cognitive science. He accepted the award at the annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society last week.

The prize, which includes a $100,000 monetary award, has been bestowed annually since 2001 to an individual or team making a significant contribution to the theoretical foundations of human cognition.

Over the course of his 40-year career, Tanenhaus has focused his research on the mechanisms underlying spoken language and reading comprehension. He is best known as the creator of the Visual World Paradigm, which uses eye movements to study the mechanisms behind speech and language comprehension. This paradigm has been widely adopted for studying language development and disorders.

Below, Tanenhaus discusses this award and his research in his own words:

To use the English expression, I was gobsmacked to learn I had been awarded the Rumelhart Prize. The previous winners have been giants in cognitive science from multiple disciplines, so it’s humbling to be considered worthy.

All of my influential work was conducted in collaboration with a remarkable group of graduate students and post-docs who flowed through the lab as well as collaborations with [University of Rochester professors] Dick Aslin and Greg Carlson, among others. I can take credit for the body of work. However, for every important step there were talented students who led the way. Consider the development of the Visual World Paradigm, a method where we monitored eye-movements using a head-mounted eye-tracker, while participants followed instructions to manipulate objects in a workspace or pictures displayed on a screen. This paradigm allowed us to ask questions about spoken language processing that ranged from speech perception to interactive conversation, widening the domains of inquiry, and revealing important properties of natural language processing. Students led these projects. Their projects formed the initial foundation for their research programs, and pioneered application of the paradigm to new areas of inquiry within language processing.

At the same time, the award is a Rochester story. My work took place in a remarkable interdisciplinary community in cognitive science and later the language sciences that spanned multiple departments, including linguistics, computer science and BCS. The communities created a culture of collaboration, joint mentoring of students, and synergy among research programs that attracted exceptional students and encouraged innovative interdisciplinary research.

Read More: Michael Tanenhaus Awarded Top Cognitive Science Prize

Scientists Inject Ferrets' Brains With Rabies to Study ... Vision?

Friday, July 28, 2017

Photo of a ferret

Newly appointed Dept. of Neuroscience faculty member, Farran Briggs, Ph.D. has her research highlighted on Wired.

When ferrets get a rabies shot in a neurobiology lab, they don't get infected with the virus—or even inoculated against it. They get a brain hack that might just explain how your brain handles vision, and maybe even your other senses, too.

In a lab at Dartmouth, scientists are experimenting with targeted injections of a modified rabies virus into the brains of ferrets—essentially allowing them to control how the animal responds to simple visual patterns. The goal is to understand the brain's enormously complex visual processing system. But really? Rabies? Ferrets? Are these guys just screwing around?

Lots of visual research depends on lab mice—the most popular of model organisms in biology. But Dartmouth neuroscientist and lead author Farran Briggs wanted to study an animal that uses its vision the same way humans do, in an evolutionary sense: to prey on tasty snacks. Mice aren’t predators, and their vision falls solidly in the ‘legally blind’ range. So these vision researchers turned to the notoriously vicious ferret and its front-facing eyes. They're color blind, but at the neural level, ferrets’ visual systems have “remarkable similarities to a primate, and a human,” says Briggs. (Ferrets also help avoid the ethical issues of experimenting on primates.)

Read More: Scientists Inject Ferrets' Brains With Rabies to Study ... Vision?

Eye Test Could Help Diagnose Autism

Monday, July 24, 2017

Close-up photo of human eye

A new study out in European Journal of Neuroscience could herald a new tool that helps physicians identify a sub-group of people with Autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The test, which consists of measuring rapid eye movements, may indicate deficits in an area of the brain that plays an important role in emotional and social development.

“These findings build upon a growing field of research that show that eye movement could serve as a window into a part of the brain that plays a role in a number of neurological and development disorders, such as Autism,” said John Foxe, Ph.D., director of the University of Rochester Medical Center Del Monte Neuroscience Institute and co-author of the study.

ASD is characterized by a wide range of symptoms that can vary in severity from person to person. This unpredictability not only presents a challenge for diagnosis, but also how best to devise a course of treatment. Identifying the specific phenotype of the disorder is, therefore, an essential first step to providing effective care.

Read More: Eye Test Could Help Diagnose Autism

Faulty Support Cells Disrupt Communication in Brains of People with Schizophrenia

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Astrocytes

Astrocytes help coordinate communication
between neurons. The one on the left is
derived from a healthy brain and the one on
the right is from an individual diagnosed
with schizophrenia.

New research has identified the culprit behind the wiring problems in the brains of people with schizophrenia. When researchers transplanted human brain cells generated from individuals diagnosed with childhood-onset schizophrenia into mice, the animal’s nerve cell networks did not mature properly and the mice exhibited the same anti-social and anxious behaviors seen in people with the disease.

“The findings of this study argue that glial cell dysfunction may be the basis of childhood-onset schizophrenia,” said University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) neurologist Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine and lead author of the study which appears today in the journal Cell. “The inability of these cells to do their job, which is to help nerve cells build and maintain healthy and effective communication networks, appears to be a primary contributor to the disease.”

Read More: Faulty Support Cells Disrupt Communication in Brains of People with Schizophrenia

NIH Grant to Examine ‘Person-Centered’ Approach to Cognitive Training

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Photo of Feng Vankee LinThe National Institutes of Health has awarded a grant to URMC researchers exploring methods of making cognitive training more effective for older adults by improving their attitudes toward computers.

Feng Vankee Lin, Ph.D., RN, an SON assistant professor and director of the CogT Lab promoting successful aging, and Benjamin Chapman, Ph.D., MPH, associate professor of Psychiatry, are principal investigators on the $421,000, two-year study.

Computerized cognitive training methods, such as online “brain games” have been widely implemented among adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in recent years. However those interventions have not proven to be a consistently reliable method of improving or maintaining the cognitive health of older adults. Results are highly variable, and one possible explanation lies in how comfortable seniors feel using technology.

Photo of Benjamin Chapman“The goal of this study is to generate a proof-of-concept for an intervention that may improve attitudes toward computers among those older adults with MCI,” said Lin, who is now principal or co-investigator on six current NIH grants. “Improving the intervention engagement of those individuals, we think, will then help us develop more effective computerized cognitive interventions in the future. It is the first study that we know of that strives to augment computerized cognitive training by addressing an attitudinal or affective element of the person.”

At the core of the study is the notion of person-centered care – integrating individuals’ preference throughout the process of intervention. The person-centered approached has been shown to improve engagement among older persons, including those with MCI, and pilot data collected at assisted-living facilities suggests that computer-led leisure activities promotes psychological well-being among older persons with MCI and may change their perception about technology. A computer used for fun activities may no longer seem daunting, complex, or irrelevant, but instead be seen as familiar and enjoyable.

“These results are consistent with a number of theories indicating that exposure to pleasurable experiences with an object or task improves several dimensions of attitudes, including affective and cognitive components, as well as behavior and motivation,” Lin said.

Grounded in this pilot data and the theory around it, investigators will lead a small randomized controlled trial among assisted-living residents to assess whether a period of computer-led leisure activities prior to cognitive training improves attitudes toward computers, engagement with the intervention, or cognitive outcomes.

Anton Porsteinsson, M.D., professor of Neurology, is a co-investigator on the grant, which is also receiving recruitment support from Dallas Nelson, M.D., and Sarah Howd, M.D., in the Department of Medicine’s Division of Geriatrics and Aging.

UR Medicine Recognized for Stroke Care

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Get with the Guidelines 2017

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) has once again honored the UR Medicine Strong Memorial Hospital as having met its highest standards of care for stroke.

Strong Memorial Hospital has received the AHA/ASA Get With The Guidelines program’s Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award. The hospital was also tapped for the Target: Stroke Honor Role Elite Plus, which recognizes hospitals that have consistently and successfully reduced door-to-needle time – the window of time between a stroke victim’s arrival at the hospital, the diagnosis of an acute ischemic stroke, and the administration of the clot-busting drug tPA. If given intravenously in the first three hours after the start of stroke symptoms, tPA has been shown to significantly reduce the effects of stroke and lessen the chance of permanent disability.

“This recognition is a testament to the hard work of our outstanding team of nurses, physicians, and therapists and their dedication to provide the highest quality of care to stroke victims,” said neurologist Curtis Benesch, M.D., M.P.H., the medical director of the UR Medicine Comprehensive Stroke Center.

“This award reflects a singular focus on improving the care stroke victims receive from the first 911 call to when they arrive at the hospital through operating room, neurocritical care, and rehabilitation,” said Tarun Bhalla, M.D., Ph.D., the surgical director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center.

Strong Memorial Hospital is home to the region’s only Comprehensive Stroke Center, a designation by the Joint Commission that indicates that the hospital either meets or exceeds the highest standards of care required to provide timely and comprehensive care to patients with complex cerebrovascular disease.

The AHA/ASA Get With the Guidelines program recognizes hospitals that have reached aggressive goals of treating stroke patients and comply with core standard levels of care. For more information about the Get With The Guidelines program, visit the AHA/ASA website.

Read More: UR Medicine Recognized for Stroke Care

Depressed Patients More Likely to be Prescribed Opioids

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A new study shows that patients with low back pain who were depressed were more likely to be prescribed opioids and receive higher doses. Understanding these prescribing patterns sheds new light on the current opioid epidemic and may help determine whether efforts to control prescription opioid abuse are effective.

“Our findings show that these drugs are more often prescribed to low back pain patients who also have symptoms of depression and there is strong evidence that depressed patients are at greater risk for misuse and overdose of opioids,” said John Markman, M.D., director of the Department of Neurosurgery’s Translational Pain Research Program at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and senior author of the study which appears in PAIN Reports, a journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain.

Low back pain is a leading cause of disability in the U.S., the most common condition for which opioids are a prescribed treatment.

Using data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a federally-compiled set of large-scale surveys of families and individuals, their medical providers, and employers across the U.S., the researchers compiled opioid prescription data from 2004-2009.

Read More: Depressed Patients More Likely to be Prescribed Opioids

Ed Freedman and John Foxe Publish in EJN

Friday, June 16, 2017

Photo of Dr. Ed Freedman

Ed Freedman and John Foxe have just published preliminary data from a study examining eye movement changes in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), particularly looking at the role of the cerebellum (DOI: 10.1111/ejn.13625). The cerebellum, Latin for ‘little’ brain, sits at the base of brain, underneath the cerebral cortex. Although it has been called ‘mini’, the cerebellum actually has more neurons, or cells, than the cerebral cortex. Classically considered to play a role in the control of movements and the learning of motor patterns, it is now known to play a role in emotion and cognition through its connection to the rest of the brain. And, there is evidence that the structure of the cerebellum is altered in a sub-population of individuals with ASD.

Photo of Dr. John Foxe

In the current paper, Ed and John present the results of experiments tracking the rapid eye-movements made when looking from one object to another, or saccades, in individuals with ASD. Accuracy and precision are maintained by careful comparison of the movement command produced by the brain and the results of the actual movement. Any differences between these lead to adjustments of the commands for ensuing saccades. This type of sensorimotor adaptation is dependent on the proper functioning of the cerebellum. However, there is anatomical evidence that some people with an ASD have cerebella with slightly altered structure. If the cerebellar structure is altered, is its function also altered in this sub-group of people? Assessing the ability of people with an ASD to adapt saccade amplitudes is one way to determine whether this function of the cerebellum is altered in ASD.

Another point of interest is determining if the deficits in saccades relate to any of the other key symptoms observed in ASD.

If saccade adaptation deficits do turn out to be a consistent finding in a sub-group of children with ASD, this raises the possibility that saccade adaptation measures may have utility as an early-detection endophenotype. Changes in cerebellar structure most likely occur in utero and very recent work has shown that saccadic adaptation can be measured in children as young as 10-41 months of age is a most encouraging development indeed. - Ed and John

Read More: Ed Freedman and John Foxe Publish in EJN

Stem Cells May Be the Key to Staying Strong in Old Age

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

University of Rochester Medical Center researchers have discovered that loss of muscle stem cells is the main driving force behind muscle decline in old age in mice. Their finding challenges the current prevailing theory that age-related muscle decline is primarily caused by loss of motor neurons. Study authors hope to develop a drug or therapy that can slow muscle stem cell loss and muscle decline in the future.

Read More: Stem Cells May Be the Key to Staying Strong in Old Age

Free Telemedicine Program for Parkinson's Patients

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A program called Parkinson's Disease Care New York exists to help eliminate the obstacles facing patients who need to see a neurologist. This type of doctor can mainly be found in large metropolis areas so anyone in a rural community might have a tough time getting access to healthcare.

By linking the patient to the doctor via computer, the neurologist can monitor symptoms more regularly and follow the patient more closely--even diagnose new treatments without the patient even leaving their home. Currently 109 patients are enrolled and the program can provide for 500 people statewide. To find out more, go to the PDCNY facebook page.

Read More: Free Telemedicine Program for Parkinson's Patients

Featured in The Science Times: How Alzheimer's Catches People Skimping Sleep: New Study Explains Cause Of Dementia

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Photo of Dr. Maiken Nedergaard

A recent scientific study shows that insufficient amount of sleep leads to the development of Alzheimer's disease. Researchers gain more evidence and are beginning to believe that lack and poor quality of sleep results to the fusion of Amyloids, proteins that bond together to form Alzheimer's plaques.

Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, the lead researcher from the University of Rochester Medical Center, explains the glymphatic system that is present in humans. She says that this system is 10 times more active when in slumber than when awake. The process allows cerebrospinal fluid to flow through spaces around the neurons of people's brains. This a method of purging unwanted proteins (Amyloids) and other wastes into the circulatory system garbage collectors and eventually flushes it out of the body.

In simple terms, Nedergaard explains that the brain has its own sanitation and public works department. It is like a network of sewer facilities mostly done during the brain's nightlife. An example of a housekeeping staff descending to building offices for a cleanup duty to avoid the lumping compound that causes Alzheimer's.

Read More: Featured in The Science Times: How Alzheimer's Catches People Skimping Sleep: New Study Explains Cause Of Dementia

Introducing the Center for NeuroTherapeutics Discovery

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Center for Neural Development and Disease, led by Harris A. (Handy) Gelbard, M.D., Ph.D., since 2008, will now be the Center for NeuroTherapeutics Discovery, reflecting an increased emphasis on translation and the creation of intellectual property that will lead to new therapies for nervous system disorders.

Gelbard, professor of Neurology, Pediatrics, Neuroscience and Microbiology & Immunology, will continue as director. His research, coupled with the work of Charles Thornton, M.D., professor of Neurology and Neuroscience, and Marc Halterman, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Neurology, Neuroscience and Pediatrics, will serve as the anchor of the new center. The trio has a strong track record of grants, publications, and patents, as well as academic and commercial relationships that they are actively pursuing to bring new treatments to the public.

“The Center for NeuroTherapeutics Discovery was developed out of the Center for Neural Development and Disease to create more visibility for academic and commercial partnerships as a necessary bridge for bringing new therapeutics forward,” said Gelbard. “This represents a way to do the best and most cutting edge science possible in a time when the traditional avenues towards funding academic research are changing rapidly.”

The center will bring together many investigators from across the Medical Center and River Campus to identify the mechanisms that lead to various neurological disorders, including HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder (Gelbard lab), myotonic dystrophy (Thornton lab) and stroke (Halterman lab). The center remains committed to its members that investigate the molecular signaling events that lead to nervous system disease during development and aging. Industry partnerships and resources will be sought to fast-track existing therapies or create new molecules that affect these disease mechanisms.

Treatments that harness the immune system to help regenerate damaged cells will be a major focus at the center; the team believes that this approach is broadly applicable to a range of acute and chronic neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Adam Rouse Receives an NIH K99/R00 Award

Friday, May 12, 2017

Photo of Adam Rouse

Dr. Adam Rouse, Post-doctoral Fellow in Neuroscience, recently received an NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). His project “Neural encoding of motor precision for advancing brain-machine interfaces” will study how motor areas of the brain encode different movements and use advanced mathematical models to build brain-machine interfaces that are more precise and intuitive to the user. In addition to his current mentor, Dr. Marc Schieber, Professor in Neurology and Neuroscience, the award will also support Dr. Rouse’s career development with additional mentoring from Dr. Robert Jacobs, Professor in Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and Dr. Sridevi Sarma, Associate Professor in Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Kayson Honored for Improving Care for Huntington’s Patients and Families

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Elise Kayson and Ira ShoulsonElise Kayson, M.S., R.N.C., A.N.P., has been recognized by the Huntington Study Group with its Lifetime Achievement Award for her dedication to seeking treatments that make a difference and improving the quality of life and outcomes for families affected by the disease.

The Huntington Study Group (HSG) is a network of more than 400 investigators, coordinators, scientists, and Huntington’s disease experts spread across more than 100 research sites across the globe. HSG brings together patients, families, academic and industry researchers, foundations, and government agencies to seek new treatments that improve the life of individuals with the disease.

Elise continues to be an essential ingredient and role model for the success of the HSG, the many patients and families who we serve, and is a real prize that we celebrate and emulate,” said Ira Shoulson, M.D., the founder of the HSG, a former professor of Neurology at URMC, and currently a professor of Neurology at Georgetown University.

Elise’s tireless commitment to Huntington’s patients and their families and her 20 plus years of experience in pharmaceutical research has been essential to our efforts to develop new ways to treat this devastating disease,” said URMC neurologist Ray Dorsey, M.D., M.B.A., chair of the HSG. This award recognizes her dedication and critical role she plays in managing the complex research necessary to bring new drugs to market.”

Read More: Kayson Honored for Improving Care for Huntington’s Patients and Families

Dean’s Teaching Fellowship Recipients Named

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The 2017-2019 Dean’s Teaching Fellows have been named. Beau Abar, Ph.D., assistant professor of Emergency Medicine, has been named the Paul F. Griner Dean’s Teaching Fellow. Jessica Shand, M.D., MHS, assistant professor of Pediatrics, has been named the George L. Engel Dean’s Teaching Fellow. Katherine Greenberg, M.D., assistant professor of Adolescent Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology, has been named the Jules Cohen Dean’s Teaching Fellow. Linda Callahan, Ph.D., assistant professor of Neuroscience, has been named the Lawrence E. Young Dean’s Teaching Fellow.

The Dean’s Teaching Fellowship Program is a competitive endowed two-year program for faculty who are dedicated to academic careers in medical education. The mission of the program is to develop faculty who can prepare medical students, residents, and practicing physicians to become professionals who are responsive to society’s needs and the ever-changing health care system.

The program typically accepts four Fellows a year who attend a three-hour, bi-weekly seminar series focused on different areas of educational theory, research and teaching methods, educational technology, assessment, curriculum design, faculty development, leadership and career planning. During their time in the program, Fellows conduct a scholarly educational project that is directly translatable to their teaching role and will culminate in a publication or presentation at a national meeting.

University start-ups highlighted in national innovation report

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Two University of Rochester start-up companies are among those singled out in a new report from the Science Coalition. The report, “American-Made Innovation Sparking Economic Growth,” identifies 102 companies that trace their roots to federally-funded university research.
“The innovation that drives economic growth in the U.S. is based, in large part, on the scientific discoveries made in research universities and funded by the federal government,” said Rob Clark, University provost and senior vice president for research. “As a nation, it is imperative that we continue to support the fundamental science that leads to new technologies and improves lives.”
Clerio Vision was founded in 2014 by Wayne Knox and Jon Ellis with the Institute of Optics, and Krystel Huxlin with the Flaum Eye Institute in the Medical Center. The company is developing a new technology that improves eyesight by “writing” a prescription on the cornea using small pulses from a laser that change the focusing power of the eye. Because the technique doesn’t change the shape of the cornea like LASIK procedures, it can be repeated as needed over a person’s lifetime to correct vision. The research to develop the technology was funded in part with a $200,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Read More: University start-ups highlighted in national innovation report

Duje Tadin Awarded NARSAD Independent Investigator Award from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Recently Dr. Duje Tadin, Associate Professor in Brain and Cognitive Sciences and at the Center for Visual Science won the NARSAD Independent Investigator Award from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. The title of his project is “A critical role of perceptual inefficiencies in working memory abnormalities in schizophrenia”. He also has a pending application to the Simons Foundation’s SFARI Pilot Awards program with a project titled “Functional consequences of elevated internal noise in autism.”

Well done!!

Gene May Hold Key to Hearing Recovery

Monday, April 24, 2017

man holding open hand to ear

Researchers have discovered that a protein implicated in human longevity may also play a role in restoring hearing after noise exposure. The findings, where were published in the journal Scientific Reports, could one day provide researchers with new tools to prevent hearing loss.

The study reveals that a gene called Forkhead Box O3 (Foxo3) appears to play a role in protecting outer hair cells in the inner ear from damage. The outer hair cells act as a biological sound amplifier and are critical to hearing. When exposed to loud noises, these cells undergo stress. In some individuals, these cells are able to recover, but in others the outer hair cells die, permanently impairing hearing. While hearing aids and other treatments can help recovered some range of hearing, there is currently no biological cure for hearing loss.

“While more than a hundred genes have been identified as being involved in childhood hearing loss, little is known about the genes that regulate hearing recovery after noise exposure,” said Patricia White, Ph.D., a research associate professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Neuroscience and lead author of the study. “Our study shows that Foxo3 could play an important role in determining which individuals might be more susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss.”

Read More: Gene May Hold Key to Hearing Recovery

Retraining the Brain to See After Stroke

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

New study details “physical therapy” for eyes

photo of a man working with the retraining task

DeMay fixes his gaze on a live image of his own eye
in preparation for the next round of training.

Patients who went partially blind after suffering a stroke regained large swaths of rudimentary sight after undergoing visual training designed by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Flaum Eye Institute.

A new study out today in Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, provides the first evidence that rigorous visual training recovers basic vision in cortically blind patients with long-standing stroke damage in the primary visual cortex. Damage to this area of the brain prevents visual information from getting to other brain regions that help make sense of it, causing loss of sight in one-quarter to one-half of an individual’s normal field of view. Somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 people suffer vision loss due to damage to the visual cortex each year.

“We are the only people in the U.S. currently using this type of training to recover vision lost after damage to the primary visual cortex,” said study senior author Krystel Huxlin, Ph.D., director of Research and James V. Aquavella, M.D. Professor of Ophthalmology at URMC’s Flaum Eye Institute. “If you talk to the majority of clinicians, they still believe nothing can be done.”

Read More: Retraining the Brain to See After Stroke

URMC Plays Key Role in New Huntington’s Drug

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

photo of FDA business offices

University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) researchers were instrumental in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent approval of SD-809 (deutetrabenazine) to treat Huntington’s disease. Deutetrabenazine is the only the second drug authorized by the agency to treat this rare, inherited neurodegenerative disorder.

The FDA approval was based on results from the First-HD study, a Phase 3 clinical trial which was conducted through the Huntington Study Group (HSG) via a consortium of 34 sites across the U.S. and Canada on behalf of Teva Pharmaceuticals. The study results were published last July in Journal of the American Medical Association.

The URMC Clinical Trials Coordination Center (CTCC) and Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology – under the leadership of Elise Kayson, M.S., A.N.P., and David Oakes Ph.D. – provided scientific, technical, logistical, and analytical support for the First-HD study The CTCC is part of the Center for Human Experimental Therapeutics (CHET) and is a unique academic-based research organization with decades of experience working with industry, foundations, and governmental researchers in bringing new therapies to market for neurological disorders.

Since 1987, the CTCC – currently directed by Cynthia Casaceli, M.B.A. – has played a central role in bringing seven new drugs to the market, including pramipexole, entacapone, rasagiline, and rotigitine for Parkinson’s, tetrabenezine and deutrabenazine for Huntington’s, and dichlorphenamide for periodic paralysis.

“This is a great day for the HD community,” said URMC neurologist Ray Dorsey, M.D., M.B.A., chair of the HSG and director of CHET. “The unmet need for therapeutics for individuals with HD is immense, and this approval brings us closer to making HD an increasingly treatable condition.”

The First-HD study showed that deutetrabenazine significantly decreased chorea, the involuntary movements that many individuals experience during the course of the disease. Huntington’s is an autosomal-dominant, inherited disease that usually causes symptoms in people in their 30s and 40s. In addition to chorea, the disease can cause multiple symptoms, including, cognitive problems, changes in personality, and depression.

“We are very grateful to the patients and families who made this development possible by participating in this ground-breaking trial,” said Samuel Frank, M.D., Huntington Study Group’s principal investigator for First-HD and associate professor of Neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School. “Research participants are the key to bringing new treatments to the entire HD community,”

Claudia Testa, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Neurology at Virginia Commonwealth University served as the co-principal investigator of the First-HD study.

Teva Pharmaceuticals is also investigating the potential of deutetrabenazine to treat tardive dyskinesia, a disorder that causes involuntary and repetitive movements, and for tics associated with Tourette syndrome.

Study Shed New Light on Brain’s Decision-making Process

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Image of a floor map reading stop, look and listen

New research reveals the complex circuits involved in regulating the neurotransmitter dopamine in our brains. Traditionally thought to be limited to reward seeking, the new study shows that parts of the ‘emotional’ brain may also manipulate dopamine to help us pay attention and react to new information in the environment.

The study, which appears in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, was led by Julie Fudge, M.D., with the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Neuroscience.

The research focuses on an area of the brain called the amygdala, which is known to be important for social and emotional development and behaviors. The amygdala receives sensory information – sight, sound, and smells – and processes it by combining it with information stored in our memories. It evaluates changes or new information to help determine whether it is worthy of our attention or if it can be ignored. The new study shows that one way the amygdala can accomplish this is by communicating with the brain’s dopamine producing cells.

Read More: Study Shed New Light on Brain’s Decision-making Process

Professor Ed Brown receives NIH grant for research project, "Using Second Harmonic Generation to Predict Metastatic Outcome in Colon Adenocarcinoma"

Monday, March 20, 2017

Professor Edward Brown has received NIH funding for his research project titled, "Using Second Harmonic Generation to Predict Metastatic Outcome in Colon Adenocarcinoma."

"In summary, we previously discovered that an optical scattering phenomenon from primary tumor samples provides an independent prognostic indicator of time to metastasis in colon cancer patients," Professor Brown says. "With this grant we will explore if and how this can be used to improve prediction of outcomes for individual patients, leading to improved therapy decisions."

Abstract:

When treating a colon adenocarcinoma (CA) patient, after surgical resection of the tumor the clinician must formulate a plan for adjuvant systemic therapy. This decision is based upon an assessment of the risk of systemic disease recurrence, and is currently informed by pathological factors such as stage, histological grade, and lymph node status. Improvement of the accuracy of risk assessment for individual patients is an area of recognized need. Much of the current information used to assess risk focuses on the cells within tumors, including their morphological properties. Less attention is paid to the extracellular matrix through which metastasizing cells must travel. Second harmonic generation (SHG) is an optical scattering phenomenon whose directionality (as quantified by the “F/B” ratio) is affected by the diameter, spacing, and disorder of fibrils within collagen fibers. Our preliminary data suggests that F/B analysis of tumor samples provides prognostic information about future metastasis that is “matrix-focused” and hence complementary to current “cell-focused” methods. Consequently we hypothesize that F/B is a clinically useful predictor of metastatic outcome in colon adenocarcinoma. In a preliminary study in 44 Stage I colon adenocarcinoma samples we found that F/B of the primary tumor is a significant prognostic indicator of progression free survival time. Significantly, the quartile of patients with the lowest F/B ratio had a 15 year progression free survival percentage of below 50%. In other words, in this study F/B could identify a subset of Stage I patients who had survival statistics similar to Stage III patients. Stage I patients are rarely prescribed adjuvant chemotherapy while Stage III patients are almost always prescribed it. This suggests that F/B can identify patients who would have benefitted from adjuvant chemotherapy and who were left untreated based upon current prognostic indicators. The prognostic trend was also evident in a cohort of 72 Stage II colon adenocarcinoma samples, although it was not significant. This project will move this idea closer to the clinic by first (Aim 1) using archived samples and follow up data in separate training and validation sets to develop predictive algorithms that include F/B, in addition to clinical and genomic information. Second it will (Aim 2) quantify the effect of adjuvant chemotherapy on the predictive ability of the algorithms, as well as quantify their ability to predict chemotherapeutic efficacy. We predict that F/B analysis will be an effective tool that can reach the clinic rapidly after this study to improve metastatic risk assessment. Improving the accuracy of risk estimation for an individual patient will allow clinicians to treat those patients who are destined for metastases, improving outcomes, while avoiding treatment for those patients who are not, reducing overtreatment.

Annual Death Toll From Alzheimer's Nearly Doubles in 15 Years

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Alzheimer’s disease claims nearly twice as many American lives annually as it did 15 years ago, according to a new report. “Partly, it is due to increasing numbers of older individuals, partly due to success in treating other leading causes of death, and partly due to increasing awareness that AD [Alzheimer’s] is a lethal disease,” says Anton Porsteinsson, the William and Sheila Konar Endowed Professor of Psychiatry and director of the University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Care, Research, and Education Program.

Read More: Annual Death Toll From Alzheimer's Nearly Doubles in 15 Years

Protein Key to Nerve Health Hitches a Ride on Brain’s Garbage Truck

Thursday, March 9, 2017

astrocytes and neuronsA new study shows that the brain’s waste removal system serves as both trash collector and delivery service, providing neurons with a protein important to maintaining cognitive function while simultaneously cleaning brain tissue. The research may help explain why different genetic varieties of the protein, called apolipoprotein E (apoE), can indicate risk for Alzheimer’s disease or promote longevity.

The study was led by Rashid Deane, B.Sc., Ph.D., a research professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Neurosurgery and member of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine, and appears in the journal Molecular Neurodegeneration.

ApoE is responsible for delivering cholesterol to nerve cells in the brain and plays a key role in synaptic plasticity, the process by which neurons build new connections in order to learn and store memories.

Read More: Protein Key to Nerve Health Hitches a Ride on Brain’s Garbage Truck

Clinical Trials Aim to Reduce Stress Burden for Dementia Caregivers

Monday, March 6, 2017

Photo of an elderly couple

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be very
stressful, but two URMC research studies are
exploring ways to help caregivers manage stress
and improve their own health.

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can not only be very stressful, but can negatively affect the well-being of the caregiver. A pair of studies at the University of Rochester Medical Center is exploring ways to help caregivers manage stress and improve their own health so they can more effectively provide care for their loved one.

Kathi Heffner, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Nursing and Department of Psychiatry, and Jan Moynihan, Ph.D., the George L. Engel Professor in Psychosocial Medicine in the Departments of Psychiatry and Microbiology and Immunology, were awarded more than $5.66 million in NIH funding for two five-year randomized clinical intervention trials focusing on reducing the effects of caregiving on immune health.

Heffner is principal investigator on a cognitive training intervention trial looking at different types of brain training activities and whether they have an effect on the aging of the caregiver’s immune system. Moynihan is leading a study on mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), to see if mindfulness can lead to better immune response to the influenza vaccine.

Read More: Clinical Trials Aim to Reduce Stress Burden for Dementia Caregivers

SFN Rochester Chapter News

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The grant application to support the Rochester Society for Neuroscience chapter was recently funded due to efforts by Past President, Doug Portman. Thanks to Doug’s efforts and excellent leadership over the last two years, we can continue our efforts to increase neuroscience awareness and education in our community.

The current Chapter President, Liz Romanski, would like to congratulate the organizers and volunteers for hosting a very successful, first ever, Rochester Brain Bee on February 11, 2017 (picture attached). Ten students from high schools in the Rochester area competed in the Brain Bee, answering questions spanning a large body of neuroscience facts covering brain development, cognition, disease processes, neuroimaging, etc. The three finalists in the Brain Bee were:

  1. Neli Kotlyar, Pittsford Mendon High School (grade 10)
  2. Maha Khokhar, Pittsford Sutherland High School (grade 12)
  3. Kathryn Gentile, Pittsford Mendon High School (grade 11)

Photo of the 2017 Brain Bee Team

Heather Natola and Nicole Peltier were the organizers of the Brain Bee, and were assisted by volunteers from the Brain Awareness committee including Neuroscience graduate students Jessie Hogestyn and Josh Hinkle, and BCS grad students Alyssa Kersey, Carol Jew, and Matt Overlan. The winner of the Brain Bee will fly to Baltimore, MD in March for the National Brain Bee. Funding was made possible by the Society for Neuroscience Chapter, the Neuroscience Graduate Program, and the Department of Neuroscience with prizes from local businesses and donations from Drs. Huxlin and Nehrke. Great job all!

Professor Edward Brown and Professor Catherine K. Kuo receive grant from Department of Defense office of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Department of Defense office of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs has awarded Professor Edward Brown and Professor Catherine K. Kuo a grant for their research project titled, "Understanding the Role of Matrix Microstructure in Metastasis.” The goal of this project is to evaluate molecular mechanisms underlying the ability of an optical scattering phenomenon to predict metastatic outcome in patient samples.

Schor to Receive Child Neurology Society's Highest Honor

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Photo of Nina Schor

Nina Schor, M.D., Ph.D., William H. Eilinger Chair of Pediatrics and the pediatrician-in-chief at UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital, has been named the recipient of the Child Neurology Society’s 2017 Hower Award, the organization’s highest honor.

The award is given annually to a child neurologist for being an outstanding teacher, scholar, and for making high levels of contributions to the field and to the Child Neurology Society. Schor, who has spent much of her career researching neuroblastoma, one of the most common childhood cancers, will be recognized at the society’s annual meeting in October, in Kansas City, Mo. She will also have the honor of giving the annual Hower lecture.

“I am so honored and excited to accept this award and present the associated lecture to an audience comprised of my colleagues, friends, mentors, and trainees,” said Schor.

The Child Neurology Society is the preeminent non-profit professional association of pediatric neurologists in the United States, Canada, and worldwide. Schor, the University of Rochester Medical Center’s seventh Chair of the Department of Pediatrics, joined the university in 2006.

Read More: Schor to Receive Child Neurology Society's Highest Honor

Project Explores Machine Learning to Help Predict Alzheimer’s Disease

Friday, February 17, 2017

Feng Vankee Lin, assistant professor of Nursing, and Rajeev Raizada, assistant professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, have been awarded a Collaborative Pilot Award in Health Analytics from the Goergen Institute for Data Science.

The one-year project will use big data in an effort to develop an algorithm for predicting Alzheimer’s disease. The project will analyze large brain-imaging datasets and use multiple machine-learning approaches to uncover diagnostic patterns and create a more reliable predictive model for detecting Alzheimer’s disease.

“It will help initiate a new research area focusing on neuroimaging methodology development in relation to Alzheimer’s disease,” said Lin.

The award includes a $35,000 grant for the project, which runs from Feb. 1, 2017 to Jan. 31, 2018.

Located in Wegmans Hall, the Goergen Institute for Data Science is a hub for interdisciplinary data science research. Its work in health analytics – using data to predict individual health outcomes – includes advances in using data to help analyze the brain more effectively and sharing the data with other researchers to discover more ways to improve outcomes for patients.

URMC Drug Extends Effectiveness of HIV Therapy

Monday, January 30, 2017

Major Step toward Longer-Lasting HIV Treatment

Image of hand stating Stop HIV

A drug developed at the University of Rochester Medical Center extends the effectiveness of multiple HIV therapies by unleashing a cell’s own protective machinery on the virus. The finding, published today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, is an important step toward the creation of long-acting HIV drugs that could be administered once or twice per year, in contrast to current HIV treatments that must be taken daily.

The drug, called URMC-099, was developed in the laboratory of UR scientist Harris A. (“Handy”) Gelbard, M.D., Ph.D. When combined with “nanoformulated” versions of two commonly used anti-HIV drugs (also called antiretroviral drugs), URMC-099 lifts the brakes on a process called autophagy.

Normally, autophagy allows cells to get rid of intracellular “trash,” including invading viruses. In HIV infection, the virus prevents cells from turning on autophagy; one of the many tricks it uses to survive. When the brake on autophagy is lifted, cells are able to digest any virus that remains after treatment with antiretroviral therapy, leaving cells free of virus for extended periods of time.

Photo of Dr. Gelbard

Harris A. (“Handy”) Gelbard, M.D., Ph.D.

“This study shows that URMC-099 has the potential to reduce the frequency of HIV therapy, which would eliminate the burden of daily treatment, greatly increase compliance and help people better manage the disease,” said Gelbard, professor and director of UR’s Center for Neural Development and Disease, who has studied HIV/AIDS for the past 25 years. The finding builds on previous research that Gelbard conducted with Howard E. Gendelman, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology/Experimental Neuroscience at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Read More: URMC Drug Extends Effectiveness of HIV Therapy

Liz Romanski to serve as President of Rochester Chapter of Society for Neuroscience

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Liz Romanski, Associate Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Rochester, will serve as President of the Rochester Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience for the 2017-2108 term.

The Chapter is involved in a number of activities designed to strengthen Neuroscience research, education, and outreach in the Rochester area. In addition to Dr. Romanski, the Chapter's current leadership council includes Secretary/Treasurer Chris Holt, Faculty Councilor Amy Kiernan, Past Presidents Krystel Huxlin and Doug Portman, Postdoctoral Councilor Sarah Heilbronner, Graduate Student Councilor Heather Natola, and Administrative Coordinator Ania Dworzanski.

Congratulations Liz!!

What humans, primates both know when it comes to numbers

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A study led by Jessica Cantlon, associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences, suggests that primates have the ability to distinguish large and small quantities of objects, irrespective of the surface area they appear to occupy.

Adults and children in the US, adults from a 'low numeracy' tribe in Bolivia and rhesus monkeys ALL possessed the ability to distinguish between large and small quantities of objects, regardless of the surface area they occupy. This ability is likely a shared evolutionary trait, according to a study. The nonverbal visual tests could be used in assessing early math education in young children.

Read More: What humans, primates both know when it comes to numbers

Brain Protein Predicts Recovery Time Following Concussion

Monday, January 9, 2017

Elevated levels of the brain protein tau following a sport-related concussion are associated with a longer recovery period and delayed return to play for athletes, according to a study published in the January 6, 2017 issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The findings suggest that tau, which can be measured in the blood, may serve as a marker to help physicians determine an athlete’s readiness to return to the game.

Despite the 3.8 million sports-related concussions that occur annually in the United States, there are no objective tools to confirm when an athlete is ready to resume play. Returning to play too early, before the brain has healed, increases an athlete’s risk of long-term physical and cognitive problems, especially if he or she sustains another concussion. Currently, physicians and trainers must make return-to-play decisions based on an athlete’s subjective, self-reported symptoms and their performance on standardized tests of memory and attention.

A team led by Jessica Gill, R.N., Ph.D. of the National Institute of Nursing Research at the National Institutes of Health and Jeffrey Bazarian, M.D., M.P.H. of the University of Rochester Medical Center evaluated changes in tau in 46 Division I and III college athletes who experienced a concussion. Tau, which plays a role in the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer’s disease was measured in preseason blood samples and again within 6 hours following concussion using an ultra-sensitive technology that allows researchers to detect single protein molecules.

Read More: Brain Protein Predicts Recovery Time Following Concussion

A Closer Look at the Eye: Researchers Develop New Retinal Imaging Technique

Thursday, January 5, 2017

photo of David Williams

David Williams, Ph.D.

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center have developed a new imaging technique that could revolutionize how eye health and disease are assessed. The group is first to be able to make out individual cells at the back of the eye that are implicated in vision loss in diseases like glaucoma. They hope their new technique could prevent vision loss via earlier diagnosis and treatment for these diseases.

In a study highlighted in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Ethan A. Rossi, Ph.D., assistant professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, describes a new method to non-invasively image the human retina, a layer of cells at the back of the eye that are essential for vision. The group, led by David Williams, Ph.D., Dean for Research in Arts, Sciences, and Engineering and the William G. Allyn Chair for Medical Optics at the University of Rochester, was able to distinguish individual retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), which bear most of the responsibility of relaying visual information to the brain.

Read More: A Closer Look at the Eye: Researchers Develop New Retinal Imaging Technique

Mother’s Touch May Extend to Brain Development

Thursday, January 5, 2017

child and momA new study sheds light on changes in the brain that may explain why young infants who are placed in an orphanage or foster care often struggle with social relationships later in life.

The findings, which were published in the journal Developmental Psychobiology, come from a team of researchers led by Julie Fudge, M.D., with the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Neuroscience.  The scientists revisited data from a study involving monkeys that took place more than a decade ago at the University of Pittsburgh and was designed to observe the behaviors of newborns that were separated from their biological mothers and raised by another group of females.  The original study noted that these monkeys differed in their social interactions – such as grooming, huddling together, and normal aggression – compared to those that were raised by their mothers.

Like humans, monkey’s brains are not fully developed at birth and the animals are dependent upon the nurturing of caregivers for many months early in life.  Fudge and her colleagues wanted to see if there could find an association between the absence of a primary caregiver and biological changes in the brain that could explain the lasting social impairment observed in the monkeys.

Read More: Mother’s Touch May Extend to Brain Development

Repurposed Drugs May Offer Improved Treatments for Fatal Genetic Disorders

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Image of stained myelin

The green stain highlights
myelin, a substance essential
for a healthy nervous system
that's destroyed in children
with Krabbe disease. The study
treatment was able to rescue
myelin in mice.

University of Rochester Medical Center researchers believe they have identified a potential new means of treating some of the most severe genetic diseases of childhood, according to a study in PLOS Biology.

The diseases, called lysosomal storage disorders (LSDs), are caused by disruptions in the functioning of the stomach of the cell, known as the lysosome. LSDs include Krabbe disease, Gaucher disease , metachromatic leukodystrophy and about 40 related conditions. In their most aggressive forms, they cause death of affected children within a few years after birth.

The URMC team, led by Mark Noble, Ph.D., discovered for the first time how specific toxic waste products that accumulate in LSDs cause multiple dysfunctions in affected cells. They also found that several drugs already approved for other uses have the unexpected ability of overcoming the cellular toxic build-up, providing new opportunities for treatment.

Read More: Repurposed Drugs May Offer Improved Treatments for Fatal Genetic Disorders

Researchers Identify Brain Region as Possible Target for Dementia Prevention

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A University of Rochester study has found that older adults with excellent memories have more efficient connections between specific areas of the brain — findings that could hold promise for the prevention of dementia and cognitive decline.

Although researchers have historically viewed memory deterioration as an inevitable part of the aging process, a small group of older adults — called “supernormals” — are able to maintain their memory capacities much better than their peers. Feng (Vankee) Lin, PhD, an assistant professor in the University of Rochester School of Nursing, is spearheading a new approach to the study of Alzheimer’s disease by exploring what can be learned from these individuals.

In a study on the topic published in Cortex, an international journal devoted to the study of cognition and the relationship between the nervous system and mental processes, Lin and her team explored differences in brain function among three groups of older adults: supernormals, who were defined as having higher than average memory scores for their age, older adults diagnosed with amnestic mild cognitive impairment who are at high risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, and a healthy control group. The study is the first to compare the brain function of supernormals to those who are at risk for developing Alzheimer’s.

Read More: Researchers Identify Brain Region as Possible Target for Dementia Prevention

Study Challenges Autism Brain Response Theory

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A new study challenges the hypothesis that nerve cells in the brains of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders do not reliably and consistently respond to external stimuli. “Our findings show there is no measurable variation in how individuals with autism respond to repeated visual and tactile stimuli,” says senior author John Foxe, the Kilian J. and Caroline F. Schmitt Professor in Neuroscience.

Read More: Study Challenges Autism Brain Response Theory

Repurposed Drug May Offer Diagnosis, Treatment for Traumatic Nerve Damage

Monday, November 14, 2016

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center believe they have identified a new means of enhancing the body’s ability to repair its own cells, which they hope will lead to better diagnosis and treatment of traumatic nerve injuries, like those sustained in car accidents, sports injuries, or in combat. In a study published today, the team showed that a drug previously approved for other purposes can ‘wake up’ damaged peripheral nerves and speed repair and functional recovery after injury.

The study appearing in EMBO Molecular Medicine, demonstrates for the first time that 4-aminopyridine (4AP), a drug currently used to treat patients with the chronic nerve disease, multiple sclerosis, has the unexpected property of promoting recovery from acute nerve damage. Although this drug has been studied for over 30 years for its ability to treat chronic diseases, this is the first demonstration of 4AP’s benefit in treating acute nerve injury and the first time those benefits were shown to persist after treatment was stopped.

Study authors, John Elfar, M.D., associate professor of Orthopaedics, and Mark Noble, Ph.D., Martha M. Freeman, M.D., Professor in Biomedical Genetics, and their laboratory team, found that daily treatment with 4AP promotes repair of myelin, the insulating material that normally surrounds nerve fibers, in mice. When this insulation is damaged, as occurs in traumatic peripheral nerve injury, nerve cell function is impaired. These researchers found that 4AP treatment accelerates repair of myelin damage and improvement in nerve function.

Read More: Repurposed Drug May Offer Diagnosis, Treatment for Traumatic Nerve Damage

With humor and exercise, Lawler fights Huntington's

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bill Lawler is behind the bar at Caverly's Irish Pub.

A retired Rochester police investigator, Lawler pours drinks as some of his former colleagues — and some current cops — wander in.

Lawler is well known here, where he proudly wears the nickname "Three-quarters." There's a reason for the nickname: Stricken with Huntington's disease, Lawler suffers from tremors that are obvious as he pours a draft from a tap or hands a glass to a customer. Often, as his hand quavers, some of the brew sloshes over the edge. Rarely does one get a beer filled to the top; hence, the nickname "Three-quarters."

There is also the nickname "Lefty," a reference to Lawler's off-balance gait. "It's not because of my politics but because I kept walking to the left," Lawler said.

Some may find the nicknames of questionable taste, but not Lawler. This is the kind of humor he was accustomed to on the police force. Sure, Lawler may have a disability, but that does not mean he is disabled by Huntington's. At Caverly's on South Avenue, where a friend has him bartend on Wednesday afternoons, Lawler gives as well as he gets when his cop buddies give him grief.

"I refuse to be pitied," Lawler said in an interview. "If anybody ever pitied me I would bite off their nose."

A former marathoner, Lawler still runs regularly, accompanied by his guide dog, Kermit, and friends or family. Winter weather does not stop him. He keeps in touch with many of his friends, and often joins them for breakfast or lunch. He accepts any new experimental treatment offered for Huntington's, even one that left him with terrible abdominal pains.

He is, for many, a lesson about how to live a life — a life slowed by a disease with no known cure, a disease that may ultimately bring his life to an end.

But that day is, for Lawler, a distant future and not one worth imagining. And his willingness to push ahead with a life of some normalcy, and to exercise almost as vigorously as he once did, seems to have its benefits: The disease is not progressing as quickly as it does with some who settle into a sedentary lifestyle.

"The fact that he continues to get out there and run, kudos to him," said Dr. Kevin Biglan, a neurologist at University of Rochester Medical Center who works closely with Lawler. "But I also think it helps" combat the disease's effects, he said.

"He does not let the disease impact him or get him down," Biglan said. "He's just going to do his thing."

Read More: With humor and exercise, Lawler fights Huntington's

Research Will Explore New Therapies for Huntington’s Disease

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Image of astocytes

A new award from the CHDI Foundation will advance promising research that aims to slow the progression of Huntington’s disease. The funding, anticipated to total more than $10.5 million over next five years, will help University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) scientists develop a stem cell-based therapy that swaps sick brain cells for healthy ones.

The new award will go to the lab of Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., the co-director of the URMC Center for Translational Neuromedicine, which has research operations in both Rochester and at the University of Copenhagen.

Huntington’s is a hereditary neurodegenerative disease characterized by the loss of medium spiny neurons, a nerve cell in the brain that plays a critical role in motor control. As the disease progresses over time and more of these cells die, the result is involuntary movements, problems with coordination, and cognitive decline, depression, and often psychosis. There is currently no way to slow or modify this fatal disease.

The new award will support research that builds upon findings published by Goldman earlier this year in the journal Nature Communications showing that researchers were able to slow the progression of the disease in mice by transplanting healthy human support cells, called glial progenitor cells, into the animals’ brains.

Read More: Research Will Explore New Therapies for Huntington’s Disease

New Grants Explore Role of Brain’s “Garbage Truck” in Mini-Stokes and Trauma

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Photo of Dr. Nedergaard

Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc.

More than $4.5 million in new grants to the lab of University of Rochester Medical Center scientist Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., underscore the important role the brain’s waste disposal system may play in a range of neurological disorders. The new awards will advance understanding of how small vessel disease and traumatic brain injury can give rise to cognitive and behavioral problems.

Nedergaard and her colleagues first unveiled the brain’s unique method of removing waste – dubbed the glymphatic system – in a paper in Science Translational Medicine in 2012. The research revealed that the brain possesses a circulation network that piggybacks on blood vessels and uses cerebral spinal fluid to flush away waste products from brain tissue. Since that time, the team has gone on to show that the glymphatic system works primarily while we sleep, could be a key player in diseases like Alzheimer’s, and is disrupted after traumatic brain injury.

Read More: New Grants Explore Role of Brain’s “Garbage Truck” in Mini-Stokes and Trauma

Nuclear Protein Causes Neuroblastoma to Become More Aggressive

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Image of Photoblastomas

Aggressive forms of neuroblastoma contain a specific protein in their cells’ nuclei that is not found in the nuclei of more benign forms of the cancer, and the discovery, made through research from the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), could lead to new forms of targeted therapy.

EYA1, a protein that contributes to ear development, is present in the cytoplasm of many neuroblastoma tumors, but this protein migrates to the nucleus in the cells of more aggressive forms of the disease. The research, recently published in two medical research journals, allows for the development of targeted drugs that will work to prevent the neuroblastoma from reaching this more aggressive stage; researchers at URMC and elsewhere have already begun testing some of these potential treatments in a laboratory setting.

Photo of Nina Schor

“Neuroblastoma is one of the most common and deadly forms of childhood cancer, and this discovery allows us to identify drugs that prevent the change in EYA1 structure and potentially minimize the danger to a child who has this disease,” said Nina Schor, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics and Neuroscience and the William H. Eilinger Chair of Pediatrics at URMC.

Read More: Nuclear Protein Causes Neuroblastoma to Become More Aggressive

Jessica Cantlon Named One of 10 Scientists to Watch by Science News

Friday, September 23, 2016

Photo of Jessica Cantlon

Jessica Cantlon

Jessica Cantlon, associate professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, was selected by Science News as one of their 10 early- to mid-career scientists to watch. Cantlon’s work centers on how human and nonhuman primates distinguish between quantities. Understanding how the brain makes sense of concepts such as estimating quantities and counting might lead to better ways of teaching numerical concepts to children.

Read More: Jessica Cantlon Named One of 10 Scientists to Watch by Science News

How the Brain Decodes Sentences

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

"How the human brain represents the meanings of sentences has been an unsolved problem in neuroscience, but my colleagues and I recently published work in the journal Cerebral Cortex that casts some light on the question," writes Rajeev Raizada, assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences.

Read More: How the Brain Decodes Sentences

Harris Gelbard Receives International Award for Neurovirology Research

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Harris GelbardHarris “Handy” Gelbard, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Neural Development & Disease, is slated to receive the Hilary Koprowski Prize in Neurovirology at this year’s International Symposium on Molecular Medicine and Infectious Disease at Drexel University. Gelbard will be recognized for developing an unconventional drug that shows promise in treating brain disorders associated with HIV.

Gelbard’s drug, URMC-099, calms the immune system when it goes awry, as happens in HIV Associated Neurocognitive Disorder (HAND). In HAND, immune reactions to HIV particles in the brain damage nerve cells and cause dementia. Because patients affected by HAND also have HIV, it was imperative that URMC-099 not interfere with the antiretroviral drugs that keep HIV-positive patients alive.

2016 Convocation Award Winners from Neuroscience

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Congratulations to the following people for winning teaching and student achievement awards at this year's SMD Opening Convocation.

Faculty Teaching, Mentoring & Diversity Awards

  • Deborah Cory-Slechta, PhD
  • John Olschowka, PhD

Medical & Graduate Student Achievement Awards

  • Alexandra McHale - Irving L. Spar Fellowship Award
  • Gavin Jenkins - Merritt and Marjorie Cleveland Fellowship
  • Neal Shah - J. Newell Stannard Graduate Student Scholarship Award
  • Grayson Sipe - Outstanding Student Mentor Award

Make sure to congratulate each of them when you see them.

DOD Grant Explores New Drugs to Thwart Impact of Trauma, Stroke, and Cardiac Arrest

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Photo of soldier in desert

A $2.3 million Department of Defense grant will help neuroscientists develop new treatments for the emergency room and the battlefield. The research will focus on the development of new therapies that could help protect brain and other at risk organs following a trauma, heart attack, or stroke.

“While we have made significant progress in our ability to restore blood flow after stroke or cardiac arrest, the medical community does not have drugs at its disposal to prevent the secondary damage that occurs after these events,” said University of Rochester Medical Center neurologist Marc Halterman, M.D., Ph.D., the principal investigator of the study. “This grant will further our research on a promising class of drugs that possess both anti-inflammatory and cytoprotective properties that we believe will be suitable for use in both military and emergency conditions.”

Read More: DOD Grant Explores New Drugs to Thwart Impact of Trauma, Stroke, and Cardiac Arrest

How Does Noise Damage Hearing?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Join Pat White on Saturday, September 10 from 2-4pm at the Pittsford Barnes and Noble as she is featured at the UR Science Cafe discussion

Compositional reasoning in early childhood - New paper from BCS profs Steve Piantadosi & Dick Aslin in @PLOSONE

Friday, September 2, 2016

Compositional “language of thought” models have recently been proposed to account for a wide range of children’s conceptual and linguistic learning. The present work aims to evaluate one of the most basic assumptions of these models: children should have an ability to represent and compose functions. We show that 3.5–4.5 year olds are able to predictively compose two novel functions at significantly above chance levels, even without any explicit training or feedback on the composition itself. We take this as evidence that children at this age possess some capacity for compositionality, consistent with models that make this ability explicit, and providing an empirical challenge to those that do not.

Read More: Compositional reasoning in early childhood - New paper from BCS profs Steve Piantadosi & Dick Aslin in @PLOSONE

Automatic cortical representation of auditory pitch changes in Rett syndrome - John Foxe et al.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Over the typical course of Rett syndrome, initial language and communication abilities deteriorate dramatically between the ages of 1 and 4 years, and a majority of these children go on to lose all oral communication abilities. It becomes extremely difficult for clinicians and caretakers to accurately assess the level of preserved auditory functioning in these children, an issue of obvious clinical import. Non-invasive electrophysiological techniques allow for the interrogation of auditory cortical processing without the need for overt behavioral responses. In particular, the mismatch negativity (MMN) component of the auditory evoked potential (AEP) provides an excellent and robust dependent measure of change detection and auditory sensory memory. Here, we asked whether females with Rett syndrome would produce the MMN to occasional changes in pitch in a regularly occurring stream of auditory tones.

Read More: Automatic cortical representation of auditory pitch changes in Rett syndrome - John Foxe et al.

Jonathan W. Mink Elected President of Child Neurology Society

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Jonathan W. Mink, M.D., Ph.D., chief of Child Neurology at Golisano Children's Hospital, will lead the nation's largest organization of child neurologists.

Mink, who is also Frederick A. Horner, MD Endowed Professor in Pediatric Neurology, was voted president of the organization by fellow pediatric neurologists from around the U.S. He will assume the position of president-elect following the annual meeting of the Child Neurology Society in November.

Mink will succeed Golisano Children’s Hospital’s pediatrician-in-chief, Nina F. Schor, Ph.D., William H. Eilinger Chair of Pediatrics.

The Child Neurology Society is a non-profit professional association of 1,300 pediatric neurologists in the United States, Canada, and worldwide who are devoted to fostering the discipline of child neurology and promoting the optimal care and welfare of children with neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be elected,” Mink said. “Child neurology is a changing field. There is a real opportunity to leverage our increasing diversity to reach out to students, trainees and patients in a way that we couldn’t before.”

In addition to Mink’s clinical practice and research, he directs the Division of Child Neurology in the Department of Neurology and is associate director of the Child Neurology Residency Program. He also serves on the executive board of the International Child Neurology Association, on the board of directors of the American Neurological Association, and the executive committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Neurology. He is a member of the National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke Council of the NIH, a medical advisory to the Batten Disease Support and Research Association, and is also an associate editor of Neurology. He served as chair of the Child Neurology Society’s Scientific Program Committee from 2013 to 2015, where he and Schor collaborated to plan the 2014 and 2015 Annual Meetings.

“Nina was a terrific president of the Child Neurology Society. She’s a born leader, and I have learned some lessons on how she fulfilled her duties,” Mink said. “I think it’s tremendous for the University of Rochester. When I started here, there were four child neurologists. Now there are 15, and our residency program is one of the top-rated programs nationally.”

Mink trained in Pediatrics Neurology at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. He received his M.D. and Ph.D. from Washington University.

Mink is nationally recognized as a movement disorders specialist. He’s known for his research on Tourette syndrome and understanding brain mechanisms involved in the control of movement, along with disorders that cause involuntary movement. His research also includes clinical trials that impact the function of children with movement disorders.

Mink will serve one year as president-elect, two as president, and one as past president.

Neurosurgeon Bhalla Joins Stroke Team

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

photo of Bhalla Tarun

Tarun Bhalla, M.D., Ph.D., has been named director of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Services in the Department of Neurosurgery and director of Inpatient Stroke and Cerebrovascular Services at UR Medicine. Bhalla, who was also appointed assistant professor in the Departments of Neurosurgery, Neurology, and Imaging Sciences, began his position on August 1, 2016.

“Dr. Bhalla is a tremendously skilled endovascular neurosurgeon who will build upon an already strong foundation of stroke and cerebrovascular services and help guide efforts to expand and improve care across the region,” said Web Pilcher, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Neurosurgery. “We are delighted that he has agreed to join the Medical Center and our team.”

“I am honored to join UR Medicine and look forward to contributing to a team of providers that is already providing the highest level of care for victims of stroke and cerebrovascular diseases,” said Bhalla. “In stroke, time is brain, so we need to continue to focus on new ways to accelerate the process of getting patients to where they need to be and receiving the level of care necessary to achieve good outcomes.”

Bhalla joins URMC from Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA where he served for three years as the director of Cerebrovascular and Endovascular Neurosurgery. He received his M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut and did his residency training, as well as a fellowship in surgical endovascular neuroradiology, at the Cleveland Clinic. His specialties include cerebrovascular and endovascular treatment for stroke, aneurysms, arteriovenous malformations (AVM), carotid/vertebral artery disease, and a chronic facial pain called trigeminal neuralgia.

Bhalla will join the UR Medicine’s Comprehensive Stroke Center. Strong Memorial Hospital is the only institution in the region designated by the Joint Commission and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association as a Comprehensive Stroke Center. His appointment will expand the Center’s team of endovascular surgeons. In recent years, stroke care undergone a shift in care with studies showing that endovascular procedures – during which surgeons remove clots in the brain via a catheter fed through blood vessels – may result in better outcomes for some patients compared to care involving only clot busting drugs.

His appointment comes on the heels of several new investments in stroke and cerebrovascular care at Strong Memorial Hospital, including a new Hybrid Operating Room and Angio Suite designed to offer minimally invasive neurosurgical procedures, a new surgical technology to treat hemorrhages deep inside the brain, and a dedicated Neuromedicine Intensive Care Unit.

Bhalla will help lead efforts to expand stroke care, including working with community providers and emergency medical technicians to diagnose and potentially begin treatment for stroke patients before they reach the hospital.

Read More: Neurosurgeon Bhalla Joins Stroke Team

Paciorkowski Recognized for Research in Pediatric Neurologic Disorders

Monday, August 29, 2016

alexNeurologist Alexander R. Paciorkowski, M.D.  is being honored by the American Neurological Association (ANA) for his research in developmental disorders.  The award will be presented at the ANA’s annual meeting in October 2016.

Paciorkowski ‘s research focuses on early life epilepsies and his research has shed new light on mechanisms of a severe form of seizure disorders – early myoclonic encephalopathy, Ohtahara syndrome, and infantile spasms – collectively referred to as developmental epilepsies.  Specifically, Paciorkowski has identified a mutation in a gene called salt-inducible kinase 1 (SIK1), a gene previously unidentified with the disease and one which researchers believe plays a role in a chain reaction of gene and protein interactions in neurons that contribute to seizures. 

 “Alex is a rising star in neurogenetics and child neurology who, just four years out of fellowship, has already made major contributions to our knowledge about human neurodevelopment genetics and disorders,” said Jonathon Mink, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the Division of Child Neurology and vice chair of the Department of Neurology at University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). 

Read More: Paciorkowski Recognized for Research in Pediatric Neurologic Disorders

This is your brain on sentences

Friday, August 12, 2016

This is your brain on sentences

Researchers at the University of Rochester have, for the first time, decoded and predicted the brain activity patterns of word meanings within sentences, and successfully predicted what the brain patterns would be for new sentences.

The study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure human brain activation. “Using fMRI data, we wanted to know if given a whole sentence, can we filter out what the brain’s representation of a word is—that is to say, can we break the sentence apart into its word components, then take the components and predict what they would look like in a new sentence,” said Andrew Anderson, a research fellow who led the study as a member of the lab of Rajeev Raizada, assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences at Rochester.

“We found that we can predict brain activity patterns—not perfectly [on average 70% correct], but significantly better than chance,” said Anderson, The study is published in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

Anderson and his colleagues say the study makes key advances toward understanding how information is represented throughout the brain. “First, we introduced a method for predicting the neural patterns of words within sentences—which is a more complex problem than has been addressed by previous studies, which have almost all focused on single words,” Anderson said. “And second, we devised a novel approach to map semantic characteristics of words that we then correlated to neural activity patterns.”

Read More: This is your brain on sentences

Study Reveals Brain’s Finely Tuned System of Energy Supply

Monday, August 8, 2016

Image of blood cells

New research in the journal Neuron reveals how the brain is able to meet its massive energy demands with a “just in time” system that delivers oxygen that fuels nerve cells. The findings could shed light on diseases like Alzheimer’s and help explain the cognitive decline that accompanies the disease.

 

“Our brains require a tremendous amount of energy and in order to meet this demand the flow of blood must be precisely choreographed to ensure that oxygen is being delivered where it is needed and when it is needed,” said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the University of Rochester Center for Translational Neuromedicine and lead author of the study. “This study demonstrates that microvessels in the brain play a key role in reacting to spikes in demand and accelerating the flow of blood to respond to neuronal activity.”

 

Read More: Study Reveals Brain’s Finely Tuned System of Energy Supply

Luebke and Bennetto Explore Hearing Test That May Identify Autism Risk

Monday, July 25, 2016

Diagram of hearing test to identify autism risk

Researchers have identified an inner ear deficiency in children with Autism that may impact their ability to recognize speech. The findings, which were published in the journal Autism Research, could ultimately be used as a way to identify children at risk for the disorder at an early age.

“This study identifies a simple, safe, and non-invasive method to screen young children for hearing deficits that are associated with Autism,” said Anne Luebke, Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Neuroscience and a co-author of the study. “This technique may provide clinicians a new window into the disorder and enable us to intervene earlier and help achieve optimal outcomes.”

“Auditory impairment has long been associated with developmental delay and other problems, such as language deficits,” said Loisa Bennetto, Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of Rochester Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology and a co-author of the study. “While there is no association between hearing problems and autism, difficulty in processing speech may contribute to some of the core symptoms of the disease. Early detection could help identify risk for ASD and enable clinicians to intervene earlier. Additionally, these findings can inform the development of approaches to correct auditory impairment with hearing aids or other devices that can improve the range of sounds the ear can process.”

Read More: Luebke and Bennetto Explore Hearing Test That May Identify Autism Risk

The Sleep Hack Neuroscience Says Gives Your Brain Optimal Rest

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Sleep is critical for rest and rejuvenation. A human being will actually die of sleep deprivation before starvation--it takes about two weeks to starve, but only 10 days to die if you go without sleep.

The CDC has also classified insufficient sleep as a public health concern. Those who don't get enough sleep are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases that include hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity, and cancer.

It's thus vital to get enough shuteye, but it turns out your sleep position also has a significant impact on the quality of rest you get.

Now, a neuroscience study suggests that of all sleep positions, one is most helpful when it comes to efficiently cleaning out waste from the brain: sleeping on your side.

The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, used dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI to image the brain's "glymphatic pathway." This is the system by which cerebrospinal fluid filters through the brain and swaps with interstitial fluid (the fluid around all other cells in the body).

"It is interesting that the lateral [side] sleep position is already the most popular in humans and most animals--even in the wild," said University of Rochester's Maiken Nedergaard. "It appears that we have adapted the lateral sleep position to most efficiently clear our brain of the metabolic waste products that build up while we are awake."

Read More: The Sleep Hack Neuroscience Says Gives Your Brain Optimal Rest

Swapping Sick for Healthy Brain Cells Slows Huntington’s Disease

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Photo of Steven Goldman

Researchers have successfully reduced the symptoms and slowed the progression of Huntington’s disease in mice using healthy human brain cells. The findings, which were published today in the journal Nature Communications, could ultimately point to a new method to treat the disease.

The research entailed implanting the animals with human glia cells derived from stem cells. One of the roles of glia, an important support cell found in the brain, is to tend to the health of neurons and the study’s findings show that replacing sick mouse glia with healthy human cells blunted the progress of the disease and rescued nerve cells at risk of death.

“The role that glia cells play in the progression of Huntington’s disease has never really been explored,” said Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., co-director of the University of Rochester Center for Translational Neuromedicine. “This study shows that these cells are not only important actors in the disease, but may also hold the key to new treatment strategies.”

Read More: Swapping Sick for Healthy Brain Cells Slows Huntington’s Disease

Neurologist confronts seizure disorders in sub-Saharan Africa

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

photo of Dr. Birbeck

Birbeck has provided care for more than 3,000 patients with seizure disorders in Africa during two decades of work there. (photo courtesy of Gretchen Birkeck)

Gretchen Birbeck’s first trip to Zambia came in 1994, when she was a University of Chicago medical student completing an elective at the remote Chikankata Mission Hospital, about 75 miles south of the capital city, Lusaka.

More than two decades later, she spends half her year in sub-Saharan Africa, working to improve care for people with seizure disorders.

The Edward A. and Alma Vollertsen Rykenboer Professor in Neurology at Rochester, Birbeck is the director for Chikankata’s Epilepsy Care Team. She’s also an adjunct faculty member at the University of Zambia.

Seizure disorders can be caused by many medical conditions, and they’re more common in the developing world. Neurological and psychological disorders account “for about a quarter of the global burden of disease, and much of that is in developing countries,” says Birbeck.

“There’s a disconnect between where disease is and where experts are,” she says.

She works to redress that disconnection, providing clinical care and conducting research. As a result, more than 3,000 patients have received treatment they otherwise wouldn’t have. And she has helped make changes to Zambia’s national policy that could help many more.

She’s also working to build up the resources and networks necessary to conduct clinical trials in Africa, and to create education and training programs for health care providers and researchers. She’s involved in cerebral malaria research in Malawi and Uganda, and mentors postgraduates and junior faculty carrying out research in Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, and South Africa.

Read More: Neurologist confronts seizure disorders in sub-Saharan Africa

Living in the shadow of Huntington's disease

Thursday, May 26, 2016

On May 15, 2012, Manzone called his mother, Debbie Franczek, with exciting news. His wife, Danielle, was pregnant again. The joy was short-lived. Later that day, Franczek was diagnosed with Huntington's disease. It is slowly killing her.

A year before, the family started noticing changes in Franczek's mood, behaviors, speech and gait. She'd slur words as she was speaking and jerk uncontrollably. Her moods were unpredictable at best.

"We knew exactly what it was," says Manzone, who lives in upstate New York. The symptoms of Huntington's disease can be similar to those of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's simultaneously. The Huntington's Disease Society of America reports that there are about 30,000 symptomatic Americans and more than 200,000 at risk of inheriting the disease today.

Kevin Biglan, professor of neurology at the University of Rochester and director of the Huntington's society's Center of Excellence, has treated patients with Huntington's disease for much of his career.

"It varies dramatically across individuals," Biglan says of the neurodegenerative disease. "Brain cells dysfunction and progressively die over a period of decades."

According to Biglan, patients with the fatal disease experience a slow progression of symptoms over a 10- to 25-year period. "You can imagine if you are 25 years old, you may not have symptoms for 25 to 30 years," Biglan says. "It can create quite a bit of anxiety among individuals. It doesn't give you much predicted value."

Read More: Living in the shadow of Huntington's disease

Conventional Radiation Therapy May Not Protect Healthy Brain Cells

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Photo demo of conventional radiation therapy

A new study shows that repeated radiation therapy used to target tumors in the brain may not be as safe to healthy brain cells as previously assumed. The findings, which appear in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics, show that the treatment also kills important support cells in the brain and may cause as much, if not more damage, than single dose radiation therapy.

“This study suggests that conventional repeated radiation treatments offer no significant benefit to brain tumor patients,” said Kerry O’Banion, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Neuroscience and lead author of the study. “It also shows that certain cell populations in the brain are vulnerable to radiation and this may help explain why so many brain cancer patients experience cognitive problems after treatment.”

Read More: Conventional Radiation Therapy May Not Protect Healthy Brain Cells

When the Physical World is Unreliable: Study Finds Visual and Tactile Processing Deficits in Schizophrenia

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Schizophrenia

A new study out today in the journal Translational Psychiatry sheds further light on the idea that schizophrenia is a sensory disorder and that individuals with the condition are impaired in their ability to process stimuli from the outside world. The findings may also point to a new way to identify the disease at an early stage and before symptoms become acute.

Because one of the hallmarks of the disease is auditory hallucinations, such as hearing voices, researchers have long suspected a link between auditory processing and schizophrenia. The new study provides evidence that the filtering of incoming visual information, and also of simple touch inputs, is also severely compromised in individuals with the condition.

“When we think about schizophrenia, the first things that come to mind are the paranoia, the delusions, the disorganized thinking,” said John Foxe, Ph.D., the chair of the University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Neuroscience and senior author of the study. “But there is increasing evidence that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way these patients hear, the way they feel things through their sense of touch, and in the way in which they see the environment.”

Read More: When the Physical World is Unreliable: Study Finds Visual and Tactile Processing Deficits in Schizophrenia

Subtle Chemical Changes in Brain Can Alter Sleep-Wake Cycle

Friday, April 29, 2016

Sleepy Brain

A study out today in the journal Science sheds new light on the biological mechanisms that control the sleep-wake cycle. Specifically, it shows that a simple shift in the balance of chemicals found in the fluid that bathes and surrounds brain cells can alter the state of consciousness of animals.

The study, which focuses on a collection of ions that reside in the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), found that not only do these changes play a key role in stimulating or dampening the activity of nerve cells, but they also appear to alter cell volume causing brain cells to shrink while we sleep, a process that facilitates the removal of waste.

“Understanding what drives arousal is essential to deciphering consciousness and the lack thereof during sleep,” said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the University of Rochester Center for Translational Neuromedicine and lead author of the study. “We found that the transition from wakefulness to sleep is accompanied by a marked and sustained change in the concentration of key extracellular ions and the volume of the extracellular space.”

The current scientific consensus is that the brain is “woken up” by a set of neurotransmitters – which include compounds such as acetylcholine, hypocretin, histamine, serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine – that originate from structures deep within the brain and the brain stem. This cocktail of chemical messengers serve to activate – or arouse – a set of neurons in the cerebral cortex and other parts of the brain responsible for memory, thinking, and learning, placing the brain in a state of wakefulness.

Read More: Subtle Chemical Changes in Brain Can Alter Sleep-Wake Cycle

“Honeycomb” of Nanotubes Could Boost Genetic Engineering

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Electron microscopic image of animal cells on array of nanotubes

Electron microscope image of animal cells (colored blue) cultured on an array of carbon nanotubes

Researchers have developed a new and highly efficient method for gene transfer. The technique, which involves culturing and transfecting cells with genetic material on an array of carbon nanotubes, appears to overcome the limitations of other gene editing technologies.

The device, which is described in a study published today in the journal Small, is the product of a collaboration between researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).

“This platform holds the potential to make the gene transfer process more robust and decrease toxic effects, while increasing amount and diversity of genetic cargo we can deliver into cells,” said Ian Dickerson, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the URMC and co-author of the paper.

Read More: “Honeycomb” of Nanotubes Could Boost Genetic Engineering

Early Wiring of Brain's “Fear” Centers Could Produce Long-term Consequences

Monday, March 21, 2016

Fear from Early Brain Wiring

New research shows that our brains may be hardwired to become sensitive to stressful environments at an early age and, if overstimulated, this may contribute to anxiety disorders and even psychotic syndromes later in life.

The study, which appears in the journal Brain Structure and Function, focuses on two structures deep in the brain. The central nucleus of the amygdala (Ce) is thought to be involved in responses to immediate threats and stimulus, such as becoming startled or freezing in reaction to a loud noise. The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BST) is thought to be involved in regulating a person’s state of vigilance, such as determining whether or not an environment or a situation poses a potential threat. Animal and human studies show that when the BST is activated by a threatening situation, we tend to slow down, become quieter, and stress hormones spike.

While Ce and BST reside in different parts of the brain, the two areas are hardwired to each other by axonal tracts – basically, bundles of long distance axon fibers that enable the separate regions to communicate with each other. However, until now it has not been clear when these connections form or the way in which they interact with each other.

In the study published today, a team of researchers led by Julie Fudge, M.D., with the Department of Neuroscience observed that these connections are made at a very early stage of development in non-human primates. They also found that the direction of the connection is essentially a one way street. The Ce – or immediate fear signaling center – conveys information to the BST, the structure that mediates general threat sensing or anxiety states. This arrangement suggests that repeated activation of the Ce by immediately fearful or traumatic events may shape long-term anxiety states in the BST.

Read More: Early Wiring of Brain's “Fear” Centers Could Produce Long-term Consequences

Parkinson’s App Celebrates Milestone, Featured by Apple

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Parkinson’s iPhone app developed by Sage Bionetworks and University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) neurologists marks the first anniversary of its release. The app was also highlighted by Apple today during its semi-annual product launch event.

Sage Bionetworks, a Seattle-based nonprofit biomedical research organization, today released an updated version of its mPower (Mobile Parkinson’s Observatory for Worldwide, Evidence-based Research) app that includes an improved user interface and functionality developed in response to feedback by users. Sage also announced that mPower would be the first app incorporated into a new Apple platform called CareKit, which will turn the app into a valuable tool to help better inform patients about their symptoms and care.

The mPower app – which was created by Sage in collaboration with URMC neurologists Ray Dorsey, M.D., M.B.A., and Karl Kieburtz, M.D., M.P.H., and with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – was first unveiled in March 2015 during Apple’s “Spring Forward” product launch event.

Read More: Parkinson’s App Celebrates Milestone, Featured by Apple

The Brain’s Gardeners: Immune Cells ‘Prune’ Connections Between Neurons

Monday, March 7, 2016

MicrogliaMicroglia (green) with purple representing the P2Y12 receptor which the study shows is a critical regulator in the process of pruning connections between nerve cells.

A new study out today in the journal Nature Communications shows that cells normally associated with protecting the brain from infection and injury also play an important role in rewiring the connections between nerve cells. While this discovery sheds new light on the mechanics of neuroplasticity, it could also help explain diseases like autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, and dementia, which may arise when this process breaks down and connections between brain cells are not formed or removed correctly.

“We have long considered the reorganization of the brain’s network of connections as solely the domain of neurons,” said Ania Majewska, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and senior author of the study. “These findings show that a precisely choreographed interaction between multiple cells types is necessary to carry out the formation and destruction of connections that allow proper signaling in the brain.”

The study is another example of a dramatic shift in scientists’ understanding of the role that the immune system, specifically cells called microglia, plays in maintaining brain function. Microglia have been long understood to be the sentinels of the central nervous system, patrolling the brain and spinal cord and springing into action to stamp out infections or gobble up dead cell tissue. However, scientists are now beginning to appreciate that, in addition to serving as the brain’s first line of defense, these cells also have a nurturing side, particularly as it relates to the connections between neurons.

Read More: The Brain’s Gardeners: Immune Cells ‘Prune’ Connections Between Neurons

Hope, Hype, and Wishful Thinking

Monday, February 22, 2016

Dr. Goldman

In a perspective piece appearing in the journal Cell Stem Cell, URMC neurologist Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., lays out the current state of affairs with respect to stem cell medicine and how close we are to new therapies for neurological disorders.

The dawn of stem cell medicine some 25 years ago was greeted with great enthusiasm, particularly by scientists who study diseases in the central nervous system (CNS).  Many of the diseases found in the brain and spinal cord are degenerative in nature; meaning that over time populations of cells are lost due to genetic factors, infection, or injury.  Because stem cell medicine holds the potential to repair or replace damaged or destroyed cells, scientists have considered these diseases as promising candidates for new therapies.

However, as with other emerging fields of medicine, the race to cures has turned out to be more of marathon than a sprint.  While scientists have become very adept at manipulating stem and progenitor cells and understanding the complex choreography of genetic and chemical signals that instruct these cells to divide, differentiate, and proliferate, researchers are still grappling with the challenges of how to integrate new cells into the complex network of connections that comprise the human brain.

Goldman, co-director of the URMC Center for Translational Neuromedicine, takes a sweeping view of where we stand and which CNS diseases may or may not ultimately benefit from future stem cell-based therapies.

Read More: Hope, Hype, and Wishful Thinking

Richard Aslin's Rochester Baby Lab Shows

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Amelia Smith sits on the floor of a newly remodeled wing of the University of Rochester's department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. The 8-month old wears a headband of cottony roses, and tiny bubbles form in the corner of her mouth. She's completely entranced by the commotion around her.

Though few adults in the room can resist oohing and aww-ing, little Amelia is not there to be fawned over. She's there to work. Researchers at the UR's Baby Lab want to know what she's thinking, what she's learned so far in her young life, and how she learned it.

But there's a problem: Amelia can't talk yet.

The work being investigated in Richard Aslin's Baby Lab was written up in the City Newspaper article "Signs of Intelligent Life".

Read More: Richard Aslin's Rochester Baby Lab Shows

Doing something larger than you could ever do on your own

Friday, February 12, 2016

"There is a tendency for many investigators, especially early in their careers, to hold onto their work and not share it," says David Williams, the William G. Allyn Professor of Medical Optics; Dean for Research in Arts, Sciences and Engineering; Director of the Center for Visual Science - and a leading eye expert who pioneered the use of adaptive optics for vision correction.

"They don't realize - and it's one of the things that took me longer to learn than I wish it had - that one of the best ways to build your reputation is to share your ideas or your technology with the hope that they will be adopted.

"I was lucky enough to realize that if I let my students take my adaptive optics technology and use it to build their own labs, for example, it not only helped them get their independent research programs off the mark but also enhanced my reputation because so many more people were able to access and deploy the technology."

Is it any wonder then, that of the five NEI Audacious Goals grants recently awarded to Williams and four other investigators:

  • four of the projects use adaptive optics as their core technology?
  • three of the other PI's are either current collaborators with Williams or former postdocs in his lab?
  • which means that four of the PI's will be cooperating with each other, even as they individually collaborate with other experts in the field on their individual projects - in effect widening the opportunities for synergy?

    "That's the excitement of this," Williams says. "Why should we compete when one group can do one piece of it, and a second group can do another, and as along as you can manage authorships and credit appropriately and fairly, we can be much more efficient and effective in getting things done?"

    "One of the things I'm proudest about in this community of people around the world doing adaptive optics and retinal imaging is that almost all of us get along really well, and we're moving science forward as rapidly as we can by helping each other. That doesn't always happen in science."

    As Dean of Research for Arts, Science and Engineering, Williams is always looking for young faculty throughout AS&E who have the right personality and vision to take on larger, multi-investigator, multi-institutional projects.

    "You have to be gregarious and interested in working with other people and tolerating the quirks that they have, just as they have to tolerate the quirks you have," Williams said.

    "The largest source of optimism for me about the AS&E research portfolio is the quality of our junior faculty members - their enthusiasm and energy. Many of them have cut their teeth on individual investigator awards and will reach a certain point in mid career when they realize they need to reach out for complementary expertise in order to do more."

    Williams' advice: The best collaborator may not be the first one that comes to mind.

    "One of the biggest mistakes faculty members make is to choose a collaborator who is just like them, who has the same interests in a problem and the same background and who they can easily begin a conversation with because they are so closely aligned. But that doesn't really help your research. You want to have somebody who . . . has a completely different skills set. As obvious as that is, it doesn't always get factored into planning how to accumulate the necessary wisdom to do something larger than you could ever do on your own."

Study Sheds Light on Source of Drug Addicts' Risk-Taking Behavior

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Representation of Drug Addiction

A study out today provides new insight into how the brains of drug addicts may be wired differently. The findings, which appear in the journal Psychopharmacology, show that while drug users have very strong motivation to seek out "rewards," they exhibit an impaired ability to adjust their behavior and are less fulfilled once they have achieved what they desire. Addressing this disconnect between the craving for a drug and the ability to regulate behavior may be one of the keys to breaking the cycle of addiction.

"The vast majority of people, when faced with something they want, will assess how achievable the goal is and adjust their actions and expectations in order to maximize their potential to achieve it," said John Foxe, PhD, the chair of the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center and senior author of the study. "However, it appears that the integrity of this system of assessment and self-regulation is impaired in substance abusers and this may contribute to the risk-taking behaviors and poor decision-making commonly associated with this population."

Read More: Study Sheds Light on Source of Drug Addicts' Risk-Taking Behavior

Study Details Source of Mental Problems Associated with MS

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A study out today sheds new light on multiple sclerosis (MS), specifically damage in the brain caused by the disease that may explain the slow and continuous cognitive decline that many patients experience.  The findings, which appear in the Journal of Neuroscience, show that the brain’s immune system is responsible for disrupting communication between nerve cells, even in parts of the brain that are not normally considered to be primary targets of the disease.

“This study identifies for the first time a new disease mechanism in MS which causes damage to neurons independent of the loss of white matter and demyelination that is the hallmark of the disease,” said the lead author, neurologist Matthew Bellizzi, M.D., Ph.D., with the Center for Neural Development and Disease at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). “This damage represents another component of the disease and one that is not prevented by the current immunosuppressive drugs employed to treat MS.”

Read More: Study Details Source of Mental Problems Associated with MS

Dirk Bohmann to Lead Basic Science Research at URMC

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Dirk Bohmann, Ph.D., an accomplished molecular biologist and scientific leader at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, has been appointed Senior Associate Dean for Basic Research pending approval of the University’s Board of Trustees.

Bohmann’s term is effective Jan. 1, 2016, and he’s begun making plans to improve the links between the Medical Center’s vast research community and its leadership, and to strategically integrate the science and education missions.

“I really consider this to be a service function for the scientific community,” said Bohmann, who holds the Donald M. Foster MD Professorship in Biomedical Genetics. “I hope to receive input from my colleagues and I look forward to interacting with them to come up with ways to improve our existing strengths and foster new ideas.”

Read More: Dirk Bohmann to Lead Basic Science Research at URMC

Immune System Cells Key to Maintaining Blood-Brain Barrier

Monday, January 11, 2016

New research shows that the cells responsible for protecting the brain from infection and inflammation are also responsible for repairing the system of defenses that separates the brain from the rest of the body. These findings have significant clinical implications because certain cardiovascular drugs could possibly impede the brain’s ability to repair itself after a stroke or other injury.

“This study shows that the resident immune cells of the central nervous system play a critical and previously unappreciated role in maintaining the integrity of the blood-brain barrier,” said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and lead author of the study. “When this barrier is breached it must be rapidly repaired in order to maintain the health of the brain and aid in recovery after an injury – a process that could be impaired by drugs that are intended to prevent this damage in the first place.”

Read More: Immune System Cells Key to Maintaining Blood-Brain Barrier

One year as European Journal of Neuroscience co-editors-in-chief

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

John FoxeOne year into their terms as co-editors-in-chief of the European Journal of Neuroscience, John Foxe (University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, USA) and Paul Bolam (University of Oxford, UK) talk about the changes they have made to the journal and the changes the journal has made to their lives.

Read the FENS article.

Read More: One year as European Journal of Neuroscience co-editors-in-chief

New Drug for Periodic Paralysis has Roots in URMC Research

Monday, December 7, 2015

photo of Robert Griggs

Robert “Berch” Griggs, M.D.

More than 15 years of research led by neurologists at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) has culminated in the first approved treatment for individuals with a rare neuromuscular disorder called periodic paralysis. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved dichlorphenamide, which is being marketed under the brand name Keveyis by Taro Pharmaceuticals, for individuals with the disease.

Periodic paralysis is extremely rare – an estimated 5,000 people in the U.S. suffer from the disease – and the condition is generally neither fatal nor life shortening, but can have a significant impact on quality of life depending upon the frequency and severity of the paralytic “attacks” that are the hallmark of the disease. Some patients can go months without an attack and may only experience limited movement in an extremity, while others experience attacks daily and can be immobilized for several hours at a time. Over time, many patients become weaker.

“This is one of the most dramatic diseases in medicine,” said Robert “Berch” Griggs, M.D., a professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Neurology and principal investigator of the clinical studies that led to the drug’s approval. “A patient can wake up in the morning and be completely paralyzed from the neck down. Over the course of hours they regain mobility so by the time they get the doctor’s office they are often completely normal.”

Griggs is an internationally recognized expert in periodic paralysis and is sought out by patients from around the world. Almost 45 years ago, Griggs first demonstrated that the drug acetazolamide was partially effective in treating periodic paralysis and, more recently, was part of a team of researchers that discovered the genetic cause of periodic paralysis. In 2003, the National Institutes of Health tapped Griggs to head a national network of physicians and scientists that are focusing on rare neurological disorders such as periodic paralysis.

URMC’s role in bringing dichlorphenamide to market began in 2000, when Griggs and his colleague Rabi Tawil, M.D. showed in a small study that dichlorphenamide was highly effective in preventing the attacks and keeping patients’ muscles strong.

Read More: New Drug for Periodic Paralysis has Roots in URMC Research

NASA Grant Will Explore Impact of Space Travel on the Brain

Friday, November 13, 2015

M. Kerry O'Banion Kerry O'Banion, M.D., Ph.D., has been awarded $1.8 million from NASA to study whether extended deep space travel places astronauts at risk for neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

The grant is one of nine announced by NASA that will fund research that employ beams of high-energy, heavy ions simulating space radiation. The studies will be conducted in part at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island. By colliding matter together at very high speeds, the accelerators at Brookhaven can reproduce the radioactive particles found in space.

The studies will seek to better understand and reduce the risks to humans associated with long journeys in deep space, specifically focusing on neurological and cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Understanding the potential health impact of space travel is a priority for NASA as it develops future plans for maned voyages to Mars and other destinations.

Read More: NASA Grant Will Explore Impact of Space Travel on the Brain

Study Sheds Light on Health Needs of Adults with Autism

Friday, November 6, 2015

Seizure Disorders, Depression Among Issues More Prevalent than in General Population

While the spotlight of autism research generally shines on children, research at the University of Rochester Medical Center shows that adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more likely to suffer serious health problems like seizure disorders and depression. The study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, reveals a need for greater advocacy and awareness to ensure that adults with autism have access to appropriate and effective care.

Read More: Study Sheds Light on Health Needs of Adults with Autism

What 'Drives' Curiosity Research?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Scientists have been studying curiosity since the 19th century, but combining techniques from several fields now makes it possible for the first time to study it with full scientific rigor, according to the authors of a new paper.

Benjamin Hayden and Celeste Kidd, researchers in brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, are proposing that scientists utilize these techniques to focus on curiosity’s function, evolution, mechanism, and development, rather than on what it is and what it isn't.

Curiosity is a long-standing problem that is fascinating, but has been difficult to approach scientifically, said Hayden, an assistant professor and co-author of a Perspective article published today in Neuron.

Read More: What 'Drives' Curiosity Research?

Study: Brain's Immune System Could Be Harnessed to Fight Alzheimer's

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

M. Kerry O'BanionA new study appearing in the Journal of Neuroinflammation suggests that the brain’s immune system could potentially be harnessed to help clear the amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

This research confirms earlier observations that, when activated to fight inflammation, the brain's immune system plays a role in the removal of amyloid beta, said M. Kerry O'Banion, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the University of Rochester Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, the Del Monte Neuromedicine Institute, and the lead author of the study. We have also demonstrated that the immune system can be manipulated in a manner that accelerates this process, potentially pointing to a new therapeutic approach to Alzheimer's disease.

The findings are the culmination of years of investigation that were triggered when O'Banion and his colleagues made a surprising discovery while studying mouse models of Alzheimer's disease. They observed that amyloid beta plaques – which scientists believe play a major role in the disease – were being cleared in animals with chronic brain inflammation.

For more information, visit the URMC Newsroom

Read More: Study: Brain's Immune System Could Be Harnessed to Fight Alzheimer's

What We Hear, Even Subconsciously, Fine Tunes Our Sense of Distance

Friday, October 30, 2015

Duje TadinMost of us at one time or another have counted the seconds between a lightning flash and its thunder to estimate distance. University researcher Duje Tadin and his colleagues have discovered that humans can unconsciously notice and make use of sound delays as short as 40 milliseconds (ms) to fine tune what our eyes see when estimating distances to nearby events.

Much of the world around us is audiovisual, says Tadin, Associate Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and senior author of the study. Although humans are primarily visual creatures, our research shows that estimating relative distance is more precise when visual cues are supported with corresponding auditory signals. Our brains recognize those signals even when they are separated from visual cues by a time that is too brief to consciously notice.

For the study, published in PLOS ONE, researchers used projected three-dimensional (3D) images to test the human brain's ability to use sound delays to estimate the relative distance of objects.

For the entire story, visit the Univ. Rochester Newscenter.

Read More: What We Hear, Even Subconsciously, Fine Tunes Our Sense of Distance

UR Medicine Building New Site for Outpatient Imaging, Autism Care

Saturday, October 17, 2015

UR Medicine leaders will today break ground on a new building that will house a state-of-the-art outpatient Imaging Center, as well as the region’s first stand-alone clinic to integrate care of autism with pediatric neuromedicine and child and adolescent psychiatry services.

The 90,000-square-foot, three-story building creates space to relocate outpatient imaging, interventional radiology clinics and autism/neuromedicine/behavioral health pediatric programs from the University of Rochester Medical Center campus to an easily accessible location along East River Road and the I-390 corridor.

Read More: UR Medicine Building New Site for Outpatient Imaging, Autism Care

GFCF Diets Found to be Ineffective for Children with Autism

Monday, September 14, 2015

Image of GFCF foods

Gluten-free, casein-free diets have become popular complementary treatments for children with autism spectrum disorder, but a rigorous study at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) found that eliminating these foods had no effect on a child’s behavior, sleep, or bowel patterns.

Results of the study, which was the most tightly-controlled research on dietary intervention and autism to date, were published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders earlier this month.

The study, which followed a group of children between the ages of 2.5 and 5.5 over the course of 30 weeks, strictly implemented the gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet with each child. The foods were then reintroduced as double-blind placebo-controlled challenges, while the children’s attention, activity, sleep patterns, and bowel movements were meticulously recorded. No significant changes were found when the children were given snack foods with gluten, casein, a combination of both, or a placebo.

Read More: GFCF Diets Found to be Ineffective for Children with Autism

Brain Damage During Stroke May Point to Source of Addiction

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Image of No Smoking Sign in Man's Hand

A pair of studies suggests that a region of the brain – called the insular cortex – may hold the key to treating addiction. Scientists have come to this conclusion after finding that smokers who suffered a stroke in the insular cortex were far more likely to quit smoking and experience fewer and less severe withdrawal symptoms than those with strokes in other parts of the brain.

“These findings indicate that the insular cortex may play a central role in addiction,” said Amir Abdolahi Ph.D., M.P.H., lead author of the studies. “When this part of the brain is damaged during stroke, smokers are about twice as likely to stop smoking and their craving and withdrawal symptoms are far less severe.”

Abdolahi is a clinical research scientist at Philips Research North America and conducted the research while an epidemiology doctoral student in Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

While smoking rates have remained flat for the last decade, smoking is still responsible for nearly one of every five deaths in the U.S. and smoking places individuals at a significantly higher risk for heart disease, cancer, and stroke.

Read More: Brain Damage During Stroke May Point to Source of Addiction

Menopause Infographic: Brain Fog

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

You’re in the middle of a conversation with a colleague, and lose your thought halfway through a sentence. You call your children by the dog’s name. (If you name your dog after your first born, you might save yourself some embarrassment!). Your desk is plastered with sticky note reminders. You find yourself asking your significant other, Honey, can you call my phone? I can’t find it. You wish you could do the same with your keys and wallet.

It’s not in your head: Menopausal memory loss is real.

If a woman approaching menopause feels she is having memory problems, no one should brush it off or attribute it to a jam-packed schedule. She can find comfort in knowing that there are new research findings that support her experience. She can view her experience as normal, lead researcher Miriam Weber, Ph.D., said in a statement. Between one-third and two-thirds of women report forgetfulness and other memory difficulties during perimenopause and menopause, according to Weber.

Read More: Menopause Infographic: Brain Fog

Could Your Sleep Position Help Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Researchers at SUNY Stony Brook and The University of Rochester think so.

Sleeping in the lateral, or side position, as compared to sleeping on one’s back or stomach, may more effectively remove brain waste and prove to be an important practice to help reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases, according to researchers at Stony Brook University.

In the paper, “The Effect of Body Posture on Brain Glymphatic Transport,” Dr. Benveniste and colleagues used a dynamic contrast MRI method along with kinetic modeling to quantify the CSF-ISF exchange rates in anesthetized rodents’ brains in three positions – lateral (side), prone (down), and supine (up).

Dr. Benveniste and first-author Dr. Hedok Lee, Assistant Professor in the Departments of Anesthesiology and Radiology at Stony Brook developed the safe posture positions for the experiments. Their colleagues at the University of Rochester, including Lulu Xie, Rashid Deane and Maiken Nedergaard, PhD, used fluorescence microscopy and radioactive tracers to validate the MRI data and to assess the influence of body posture on the clearance of amyloid from the brains.

Read More: Could Your Sleep Position Help Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk?

Work of Liz Romanski Recognized by the University Research Community

Thursday, July 23, 2015

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.

Read More: Work of Liz Romanski Recognized by the University Research Community

Babies' expectations may help brain development

Monday, July 20, 2015

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.

Read More: Babies' expectations may help brain development

Researcher Wins Auditory Neuroscience Award

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Laurel CarneyLaurel 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.

Flaum Eye Institute Scientist Gets Funding to Study Vision Loss in Batten Disease

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Ruchira Singh, PhD

Ruchira Singh, Ph.D.

University of Rochester Medical Center scientist Ruchira Singh, Ph.D., received a grant from the Knights Templar Eye Foundation to investigate how neurodegenerative diseases, such as juvenile Batten disease, cause blindness.

Singh, assistant professor of Ophthalmology and Biomedical Genetics, will use the $60,000 grant to create a human model of Batten disease (CNL3) using patient’s own cells. The project may lead to better understand the disease mechanisms, aiding in the development of drug therapies to preserve vision in affected patients.

For the complete article, visit the URMC newsroom.

Read More: Flaum Eye Institute Scientist Gets Funding to Study Vision Loss in Batten Disease

Mink Receives First Ever Tourette’s Association of America Award

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Jon Mink, MD, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Mink

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.

Duje Tadin explains how understanding GPS can help you hit a curveball

Monday, June 22, 2015

Curveball

Our brains track moving objects by applying one of the algorithms your phone's GPS uses, according to researchers at the University of Rochester. This same algorithm also explains why we are fooled by several motion-related optical illusions, including the sudden break of baseball's well known curveball illusion.

Like GPS, our visual ability, although quite impressive, has many limitations, said the study's coauthor, Duje Tadin, associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester.

The new open-access study published in PNAS shows that our brains apply an algorithm, known as a Kalman filter, when tracking an object's position. This algorithm helps the brain process less than perfect visual signals, such as when objects move to the periphery of our visual field where acuity is low.

Read More: Duje Tadin explains how understanding GPS can help you hit a curveball

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Laurel CarneyLaurel 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.

Foxe Appointed to Head Neuromedicine Research at URMC

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

John FoxeJohn 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.

Read More: Foxe Appointed to Head Neuromedicine Research at URMC

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

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Suzanne HaberSuzanne 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.

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

Memorial Service Held for Neurologist Richard Satran

Thursday, May 14, 2015

photo of Richard Satran

Dr. Richard Satran, M.D.

A memorial service was held Thursday May 7th, at the Rochester Academy of Medicine in honor of neurologist, Dr. Richard Satran who died September 20, 2014 at the age of 86. Please view the video of the service, above.

Dr. Satran was a founding member of the department of Neurology arriving in Rochester in 1962 under the leadership of Paul Garvey. He never left and built his formidable career around patient care, teaching, and the history of neurology. He became Professor Emeritus in 1997.

From the first week I moved to Rochester in 1990 when he was my attending in resident clinic, to the very last discussions we had about health care and teaching, Dr. Satran was always a mentor to me and to many others, said chair of Neurology, Robert G. Holloway, M.D., M.P.H.

He was a neurologist's neurologist and his passion, integrity and approach to neurology lives on in all of us. He was from the biopyschosocial era of the Medical School and was always a fierce advocate for patients and their quality of life - he taught many to always think about the broader context within which a patient’s disease occurs, lessons that are more relevant today than ever, continued Holloway.

Understanding the Enemy Within that Causes Brain Damage after Cardiac Arrest

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A new $1.7 million grant will bring together a team of researchers to study – an ultimately thwart – the chain reaction that occurs in the body after cardiac arrest that can ultimately lead to brain damage and death.

“While the biological sequence of events is triggered by cardiac arrest, the death and disability associated with this event is the result of a broader systemic injury caused the initial loss of blood flow and subsequent tissue inflammation once blood circulation is restored,” said University of Rochester Medical Center neurologist Marc Halterman, M.D., Ph.D., the principal investigator of the study. In fact, it is the cumulative effect of this systemic injury on the brain, and not the heart – that ultimately leads to mortality in the disorder.

Read More: Understanding the Enemy Within that Causes Brain Damage after Cardiac Arrest

Investigating Batten Disease

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Dr. Jonathan Mink discusses Batten Disease in a recently published Research Media article.

International Innovation, published by Research Media, is the leading global dissemination resource for the wider scientific, technology and research communities, dedicated to disseminating the latest science, research and technological innovations on a global level.

More information and a complimentary subscription offer to the publication can be found at Research Media's website.

URMC Start-up Takes Aim at Memory and Cognitive Problems

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Drug Developed at School of Medicine and Dentistry Targets Damaging Inflammation in the Brain

NGP faculty members Handy Gelbard M.D., Ph.D. and Stephen Dewhurst Ph.D. have founded Camber NeuroTherapeutics Inc. based on work done in their laboratories. They plan to attack the cognitive component of neurodegenerative diseases using a completely new approach: stopping the inflammation in the brain, so-called neuroinflammation, that impairs the function of nerve cells and the vast networks they create. These neural networks allow us to store and recall memories, plan and prioritize, focus on particular tasks, and process sensory information.

For more information, visit the URMC newsroom.

Read More: URMC Start-up Takes Aim at Memory and Cognitive Problems

Study Sheds New Light on Brain’s Source of Power

Friday, April 24, 2015

New research published today in the journal Nature Communications represents a potentially fundamental shift in our understanding of how nerve cells in the brain generate the energy needed to function. The study shows neurons are more independent than previously believed and this research has implications for a range of neurological disorders.

These findings suggest that we need to rethink the way we look at brain metabolism, said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the University of Rochester Center for Translational Neuromedicine and lead author of the study. Neurons, and not the brain’s support cells, are the primary consumers of glucose and this consumption appears to correlate with brain activity.

Read More: Study Sheds New Light on Brain’s Source of Power

Study Finds New Genetic Clues to Pediatric Seizure Disorders

Friday, April 3, 2015

Researchers have identified a new genetic mutation at the heart of a severe and potentially deadly seizure disorder found in infants and young children. The finding, which was reported today in the American Journal of Human Genetics, may help scientists unravel the complex biological mechanism behind these diseases.

These findings allow us to open up what was, up to this point, a black box and more fully understand the biological pathways associated with these disorders and why some individuals do not respond to treatment, said Alex Paciorkowski, M.D., an assistant professor of Neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and lead author of the study.

Once the mutation was identified, the researchers worked with neurobiologists in the lab of Marc Halterman, M.D., Ph.D. in the URMC Center for Neural Development and Disease, and were able to identify the downstream impact of the mutation, namely that it regulated another gene that has been associated with severe seizures called myocyte-specific enhancer factor 2C (MEF2C).

Read More: Study Finds New Genetic Clues to Pediatric Seizure Disorders

Mouse Model Helps Researchers Target Deadly Brain Disease

Friday, February 13, 2015

Mouse Model

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.

Read More: Mouse Model Helps Researchers Target Deadly Brain Disease

Neuroprotection for Parkinson’s Remains Elusive

Friday, February 13, 2015

A new study appearing today in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that creatine does not slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. However, researchers are still committed to pursuing therapies that may help patients manage the symptoms of the disease for a longer period of time.

The study, which was led by Karl Kieburtz, M.D., director of the University of Rochester Clinical and Translational Science Institute, was halted in 2013 when it became apparent that creatine was not providing a benefit to Parkinson’s patients. While the findings are a setback, efforts are ongoing to identify a therapy that may slow the disease’s progress. Most notably STEADY-PD 3, a $23 million Phase 3 clinical trial co-led by the University of Rochester and Northwestern University, is currently underway to evaluate isradipine, a drug currently used to treat high blood pressure.

Read More: Neuroprotection for Parkinson’s Remains Elusive

Curious monkeys share our thirst for knowledge

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Monkeys are notoriously curious, and new research has quantified just how eager they are to gain new information, even if there are not immediate benefits. The findings offer insights into how a certain part of the brain shared by monkeys and humans plays a role in decision making, and perhaps even in some disorders and addictions in humans.

The study, by researchers at the University of Rochester and Columbia University, shows that rhesus macaques have such robust curiosity that they are willing to give up a surprisingly large portion of a potential prize in order to quickly find out if they selected the winning option at a game of chance.

“It’s like buying a lottery ticket that you can scratch off and find out if you win immediately, or you can buy one that has a drawing after the evening news,” explained Benjamin Hayden, co-senior author of the study and professor in brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester. “Regardless, you won’t get the money any more quickly, or in the case of the monkeys, they won’t get the squirt of water any sooner. They will just find out if they selected the winning option.”

In the study published in Neuron, monkeys were presented with a video gambling task in which they consistently chose to learn in advance if they picked the winning option. The monkeys did not receive their prize any sooner, which was a measure of juice or water; they were simply informed immediately if they selected a winner.

“When it’s simply a choice between getting the information earlier or not, the monkeys show a pretty strong preference for getting it earlier. But what we really wanted to do is quantify this preference,” said first author and lead researcher Tommy Blanchard, a Ph.D. candidate in Hayden’s lab.

Read More: Curious monkeys share our thirst for knowledge