Brendan Whitelaw receives 2019 Edward Peck Curtis Awards for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Neuroscience 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
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
On 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 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
In 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
A 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
Researchers 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
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
Next 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
Emily 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.
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
Michael 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
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
Tristram 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
Monique 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
Sydney 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.
The 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."
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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, 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.
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
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
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
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 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
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
The 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.
“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
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
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.
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 JohnRead 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
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
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, 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.Read More: University start-ups highlighted in national innovation report
“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).
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.”
Gene May Hold Key to Hearing Recovery
Monday, April 24, 2017
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
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
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
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."
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
A 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
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:
- Neli Kotlyar, Pittsford Mendon High School (grade 10)
- Maha Khokhar, Pittsford Sutherland High School (grade 12)
- Kathryn Gentile, Pittsford Mendon High School (grade 11)
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
A 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