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Tom O'Connor Study Says Sensitive Parenting Saves Money

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The director of the Wynne Center for Family Research found that sensitive, responsive parenting correlates directly with financial benefits for families and society. "We show for the first time that early parenting quality predicted financial costs associated with health, education and welfare approximately a decade later," he says.

Read More: Tom O'Connor Study Says Sensitive Parenting Saves Money

Shraddha Shah publishes first author paper in the Journal of Comparative Neurology

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Congratulate Shraddha when you see her. Her paper, "Attention differentially modulates multiunit activity in the lateral geniculate nucleus and V1 of macaque monkeys" has just been published in the Journal of Comparative Neurology. The work used rigorous data processing & statistical techniques to offer some clues to why the effects of attention differ vastly in magnitude in humans & macaques.

Attention promotes the selection of behaviorally relevant sensory signals from the barrage of sensory information available. Visual attention modulates the gain of neuronal activity in all visual brain areas examined, although magnitudes of gain modulations vary across areas. For example, attention gain magnitudes in the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) and primary visual cortex (V1) vary tremendously across fMRI measurements in humans and electrophysiological recordings in behaving monkeys. We sought to determine whether these discrepancies are due simply to differences in species or measurement, or more nuanced properties unique to each visual brain area. We also explored whether robust and consistent attention effects, comparable to those measured in humans with fMRI, are observable in the LGN or V1 of monkeys. We measured attentional modulation of multiunit activity in the LGN and V1 of macaque monkeys engaged in a contrast change detection task requiring shifts in covert visual spatial attention. Rigorous analyses of LGN and V1 multiunit activity revealed robust and consistent attentional facilitation throughout V1, with magnitudes comparable to those observed with fMRI. Interestingly, attentional modulation in the LGN was consistently negligible. These findings demonstrate that discrepancies in attention effects are not simply due to species or measurement differences. We also examined whether attention effects correlated with the feature selectivity of recorded multiunits. Distinct relationships suggest that attentional modulation of multiunit activity depends upon the unique structure and function of visual brain areas.

Read More: Shraddha Shah publishes first author paper in the Journal of Comparative Neurology

Kathryn-Mary Wakim's Thesis Paper Accepted in Neuropharmacology

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

When you see her, congratulate Kamy on her first authorship of "Assessing combinatorial effects of HIV infection and former cocaine dependence on cognitive control processes: A high-density electrical mapping study of response inhibition" which was accepted to the journal Neuropharmacology.

Stimulant drug use in HIV+ patients is associated with poor personal and public health outcomes, including high-risk sexual behavior and faster progression from HIV to AIDS. Inhibitory control--the ability to withhold a thought, feeling, or action--is a central construct involved in the minimization of risk-taking behaviors. Recent neuroimaging and behavioral evidence indicate normalization of inhibitory control processes in former cocaine users as a function of the duration of drug abstinence, but it is unknown whether this recovery trajectory persists in former users with comorbid HIV. Here, we investigate the neural correlates of inhibitory control in 103 human subjects using highdensity EEG recording as participants performed a Go/NoGo response inhibition task. Four groups of participants were recruited, varying on HIV and cocaine-dependence status. Electrophysiological responses to successful inhibitions and behavioral task performance were compared among groups. Results indicate persistent behavioral and neurophysiological impairment in HIV+ patients' response inhibition despite current abstinence from cocaine. Analysis of task performance showed that HIV+ abstinent cocaine-dependent participants demonstrate the lowest performance of all groups across all metrics of task accuracy. Planned comparisons of electrophysiological components revealed a main effect of scalp site and an interaction between HIV-status and scalp site on N2 amplitudes during successful inhibitions. Analysis of the P3 time region showed a main effect of scalp site and an interaction between HIV-status and cocaine dependence. These results suggest synergistic alterations in the neurophysiology of response inhibition and indicate that abstinence-related recovery of inhibitory control may be attenuated in patients with HIV.

UR Graduate Women in Science (GWIS) 2021 Mentoring-Up Resolution Challenge CONTEST RESULTS

Monday, May 24, 2021

Contest Details:

Full-time UR grad students (gender-inclusive) in biomedical, biological, or chemical sciences took charge of their futures by setting and, through mentoring-up, achieving professional and personal goals for Spring 2021. Participants submitted their goals in a January write-up and progress reports on their professional goals in May. The anonymous faculty evaluation committee selected finalists to present on May 20th. All four presenters were selected to win $1500 ea. in technology-related (hardware, software and/or peripherals) prizes. Of note, submissions for this contest were received from graduate students of 12 different programs!

Congratulations, Mentoring-Up Resolution Challenge Winners:

Taylor Uccello
Immunology, Microbiology & Virology Grad Student

4th year | Gerber Lab

Ashlin Poruthoor
Biophysics, Structural & Computational Biology Grad Student

3rd year | Grossfield Lab

Lily Cisco
Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology & Physiology Grad Student

3rd year | Lueck Lab

Shraddha Shah
Neuroscience Grad Student

5th year | Briggs Lab

Honorable Mentions:

Medina Afandiyeva, Chemistry Grad Student, 1st year, Kennedy Lab

Sara Ali, BSCB Grad Student, 2nd year, Mathews Lab

Debamitra Chakraborty, Materials Science Grad Student, 3rd year, Sobolewski Lab

Brandon Davis, BMB Grad Student, 4th year, O'Connell Lab

Lananh Ho, Biomedical Engineering Grad Student, 1st year, rotating

Mary Moran, IMV Grad Student, 4th year MBI/1st year MPH, Beck & Gill Labs

Kuan-Lin (Zona) Yeh, Nursing Grad Student, 3rd year, Groth Lab

Frances Tolibzoda Zakusilo, Neuroscience Grad Student, 3rd year, Gorbunova & O'Banion Labs

Sponsored by GWIS, an initiative of the NIH T32 Predoctoral Training Grant in Cellular, Biochemical and Molecular Sciences.

Andrew Wojtovich is the University’s Student Supervisor of the Year

Friday, May 7, 2021


Andrew Wojtovich, an assistant professor of anesthesiology, pharmacology, and physiology, is the University's Student Supervisor of the Year. The award is selected by a committee of students and staff members and goes to a person who integrates students into their roles, provides guidance and mentoring, and supports the University's Vision and Values.

Congrats Andrew!

Researchers find breastfeeding linked to higher neurocognitive testing scores

Monday, April 26, 2021

New research finds that children who were breastfed scored higher on neurocognitive tests. Researchers in the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) analyzed thousands of cognitive tests taken by nine and ten-year-olds whose mothers reported they were breastfed, and compared those results to scores of children who were not.

"Our findings suggest that any amount of breastfeeding has a positive cognitive impact, even after just a few months." Daniel Adan Lopez, Ph.D. candidate in the Epidemiology program who is first author on the study recently published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health. "That's what's exciting about these results. Hopefully from a policy standpoint, this can help improve the motivation to breastfeed."

Hayley Martin, Ph.D., a fourth year medical student in the Medical Scientist Training Program and co-author of the study, focuses her research on breastfeeding. "There's already established research showing the numerous benefits breastfeeding has for both mother and child. This study's findings are important for families particularly before and soon after birth when breastfeeding decisions are made. It may encourage breastfeeding goals of one year or more. It also highlights the critical importance of continued work to provide equity focused access to breastfeeding support, prenatal education, and practices to eliminate structural barriers to breastfeeding."

Researchers reviewed the test results of more than 9,000 nine and ten-year-old participants in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. Variations were found in the cumulative cognitive test scores of breastfed and non-breastfed children. There was also evidence that the longer a child was breastfed, the higher they scored.

"The strongest association was in children who were breastfed more than 12 months," said Lopez. "The scores of children breastfed until they were seven to 12 months were slightly less, and then the one to six month-old scores dips a little more. But all scores were higher when compared to children who didn't breastfeed at all." Previous studies found breastfeeding does not impact executive function or memory, findings in this study made similar findings.

"This supports the foundation of work already being done around lactation and breastfeeding and its impact on a child's health," said Ed Freedman, Ph.D., the principal investigator of the ABCD study in Rochester and lead author of the study. "These are findings that would have not been possible without the ABCD Study and the expansive data set it provides."

Read More: Researchers find breastfeeding linked to higher neurocognitive testing scores

Research Funded to Study Efficacy of Early Visual Training after Occipital Stroke

Friday, April 16, 2021

Up to half-a-million people each year suffer occipital strokes that cause loss to some portion of their vision, permanently affecting how they navigate through life.

A team at the University of Rochester recently showed that visual rehabilitation can more effectively reverse some of this blindness if patients are treated in the first few months after their stroke. Such patients will now have the opportunity to become part of a research study at the Flaum Eye Institute of the University of Rochester, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

"In occipital strokes, there is a loss of conscious vision opposite the side of the brain where the stroke occurred," said James V. Aquavella Professor of Ophthalmology Krystel Huxlin, Ph.D. The occipital lobe of the brain contains the primary visual cortex, the first cerebral region responsible for complex visual processing and interpretation of signals received from the eye via the optic nerve.

"After two decades of discovery in our lab, we believe we have arrived at a critical point in our understanding of how to maximize vision restoration for cortically-blinded patients," she said. "Within the first few months of having an occipital stroke, retinal ganglion cells, which transmit signals from the eye to the brain, are still largely intact. After six months, these cells show signs of degeneration, making later-onset rehabilitation more difficult to achieve. And any vision recovered at later stages is grainy and limited to the border of the patients' blind fields. It's as if we are looking at a window of opportunity slowly closing."

The $2.5 million National Eye Institute-sponsored R01 grant, which includes funding for a small clinical trial, will support a collaborative team under Huxlin's leadership, which brings together cross-campus expertise from Duje Tadin, Ph.D. (Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences, UR) and Brent Johnson, Ph.D. (Department of Biostatistics, UR). NYU's Dr. Marisa Carrasco (Department of Psychology and Neural Science) will also contribute to the research.

Patients who have recently suffered a visual stroke--within zero to five months--will be divided into groups to receive vision rehabilitation training. Their first week will be spent in Huxlin's laboratories at the Flaum Eye Institute and Center for Visual Science. Here, a team of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and ophthalmic imaging specialists will measure each participant's baseline visual functions, and ocular and brain structures, before teaching them the complex rehabilitation routine they must perform. Each patient will then receive equipment to take home, where their therapy will be performed with remote monitoring. They will return to the Flaum laboratory at 6 and 12 months post-stroke for assessments of training efficacy, as well as to measure changes in their ocular and brain structures.

This study is designed to assess how visual restoration potential changes with time after occipital stroke in humans. It will first measure structural and mechanistic aspects of progressive degeneration along the early visual pathways induced by the stroke, correlating them with changes in visual performance in the blind field. It will then contrast the impact of visual training administered at different stages of degeneration, both on the magnitude of recovery and on the process of degeneration itself. These findings will be key to ascertain the degree to which visual training interventions administered early after stroke can prevent or slow retrograde degeneration, preserve the vision that is still present, and help recover some of the vision already lost.

In addition, knowing how long blind-field visual abilities are preserved after stroke and how this relates to the rate of structural degeneration of early visual pathways is critical to assess if interventions that promote neuronal survival and regeneration could be beneficial for this condition. The project is designed to advance scientific knowledge, technical capability and, ultimately, clinical practices for restoring vision and quality of life for people suffering from occipital strokes.

First-ever lab model of human eye offers hope for macular degeneration patients

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Rochester researchers say their breakthrough could lead to patient-specific treatments.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which leads to a loss of central vision, is the most frequent cause of blindness in adults 50 years of age or older, affecting an estimated 196 million people worldwide. There is no cure, though treatment can slow the onset and preserve some vision.

Recently, however, researchers at the University of Rochester have made an important breakthrough in the quest for an AMD cure. Their first three-dimensional (3D) lab model mimics the part of the human retina affected in macular degeneration.

Their model combines stem cell-derived retinal tissue and vascular networks from human patients with bioengineered synthetic materials in a three-dimensional "matrix." Notably, using patient-derived 3D retinal tissue allowed the researchers to investigate the underlying mechanisms involved in advanced neovascular macular degeneration, the wet form of macular degeneration, which is the more debilitating and blinding form of the disease.

The researchers have also demonstrated that wet-AMD-related changes in their human retina model could be targeted with drugs.

"Once we have validated this over a large sample, the next hope would be to develop rational drug therapies and potentially even test the efficacy of a specific drug to work for individual patients," says Ruchira Singh, an associate professor of ophthalmology at the University's Flaum Eye Institute.

The lab of Danielle Benoit, professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Materials Science Program, engineered the synthetic materials for the matrix and helped configure it, as described in a paper in Cell Stem Cell.

Read More: First-ever lab model of human eye offers hope for macular degeneration patients

Dr. Martina Poletti Honored with Award from Vision Sciences Society

Monday, March 29, 2021

Photo of Marina PolettiMartina Poletti, an assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences, has received the 2021 Elsevier/Vision Sciences Society Young Investigator Award for her fundamental contributions to better understanding the fovea—a small region of the retina that is essential for high-resolution vision—and how it works in tandem with microscopic eye movements and attention to enable vision.

Read More: Dr. Martina Poletti Honored with Award from Vision Sciences Society

NGP student honored with significant national achievement

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Photo of Sarah YablonskiSarah Yablonski received an honorable mention on her NSF GRFP proposal!

The Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is a National Science Foundation-wide program that provides Fellowships to individuals selected early in their graduate careers based on their demonstrated potential for significant research achievements in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) or in STEM education. The NSF accords Honorable Mention to meritorious applicants who do not receive Fellowship offers. This is considered a significant national academic achievement.

Read More: NGP student honored with significant national achievement

MRIs from Study by John Foxe & Ed Freedman Reveal More Incidental Findings in Children

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Photo of Ed FreedmanPhoto of John FoxePublished in JAMA Neurology, scan results from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study revealed one in 25 children needed further medical evaluation. The findings by the Del Monte faculty members and their colleagues could change our understanding of the prevalence of neurological problems in children and how neuroimaging is used to screen for these problems.

Read More: MRIs from Study by John Foxe & Ed Freedman Reveal More Incidental Findings in Children

An experimental neurofeedback imaging treatment has emerged for psychiatric patients. Does it work?

Monday, March 22, 2021

Does neurofeedback imaging work for psychiatric patients?

University of Rochester psychologists have found that real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging neurofeedback (rtfMRI-NF) can help a person regulate neural activity in a way that might improve psychiatric illness.

Photo of David Dodell-FederDavid Dodell-Feder, an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience, together with Emily Dudek, who after graduating from Rochester became Dodell-Feder's full-time lab manager, looked at 17 relevant studies that included a total of 410 participants. The findings of their meta-analysis have been published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.

According to lead author Dudek, their review found that when people were shown their own brain patterns in real time, they were able to regulate activity in specific regions of the brain. "This training, known as neurofeedback, offers an exciting and novel treatment method for psychiatric illness."

Coauthor Dodell-Feder agrees that the findings are "very promising," especially because there are very few treatments, psychopharmacological included, that specifically target neural circuits known to contribute to psychopathology.

Yet, there are caveats: the data show less clear evidence that volitional control over the brain regions targeted by neurofeedback translates to an improvement in a person's symptoms or cognitive impairments. For example, when analyzing the impact of rtfMRI-NF on symptoms, the team found an approximately 60 percent chance that a randomly selected person who received rtfMRI-NF showed improvement in symptoms compared to a randomly selected person who received a placebo procedure.

Read More: An experimental neurofeedback imaging treatment has emerged for psychiatric patients. Does it work?

Andrew Anderson & Edmund Lalor Explore How Brain Comprehends Sentences

Monday, March 22, 2021

Photo of Andrew AndersonPhoto of Edmund LalorThe Del Monte Institute faculty members and their colleagues studied and described the complex network within the brain that comprehends the meaning of a spoken sentence. The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, is an example of how the application of artificial neural networks, or A.I., is enabling researchers to unlock the extremely complex signaling in the brain that underlies functions such as processing language.

Read More: Andrew Anderson & Edmund Lalor Explore How Brain Comprehends Sentences

NGP well featured in recent publications

Friday, March 5, 2021

Photo of MaKenna CealieCongratulations to MaKenna Cealie for publishing an article with NGP alums Rebecca Lowery and Monique Mendes. MaKenna is a second year NGP student in Dr. Ania Majewska's lab.

Photo of Uday ChockanathanPhoto of Emily CrosierCongratulations to Uday Chockanathan and Emily Crosier for their work being accepted into the Journal of Neurophysiology. Uday is an MD/PhD student and third year in NGP; Emily is a 5th year NGP student. Both Uday and Emily are members of the Neural Circuits and Computation Laboratory lab. You can find their article here

Drs. Ania Majewska and Monique Mendes in a podcast for NINDS on F applications

Monday, March 1, 2021

Icon for NINDS Building up the Nerve PodcastDr. Ania Majewska and NGP alum, Dr. Monique Mendes, will be featured in The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke's Building Up the Nerve podcast on 3/5/2021. In this episode, our grantee guests discuss how they involved their mentor(s)/sponsor(s) in the application process to ensure the training plan reflects their individual needs and the mentor is able to provide the appropriate level of support and expertise to achieve those training goals.

The podcast features Jaroslaw Aronowski, PhD, Professor, UTHealth McGovern Med School; Alexis S. Mobley, MS, PhD Candidate, UTHealth McGovern Med School; Ania Majewska, PhD, Professor, University of Rochester; Monique Mendes, PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher, Stanford University; Mark Wu, MD, PhD, Professor, Johns Hopkins University; Margaret Ho, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Spread the word.

Read More: Drs. Ania Majewska and Monique Mendes in a podcast for NINDS on F applications

Two faculty members received Sloan Awards for research on how the brain perceives the world.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Two University of Rochester researchers in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences are being honored with a celebrated award for their contributions to and leadership in the scientific community.

Martina Poletti and Manuel Gomez-Ramirez, both assistant professors of brain and cognitive sciences and of neuroscience, are among this year's recipients of Sloan Research Fellowships. Awarded annually by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation since 1955, the fellowships recognize young scientists for their independent research accomplishments, creativity, and potential to become leaders in the scientific community. Each fellowship carries a $75,000, two-year award. This year, 128 scientists across the US and Canada were awarded fellowships. Gomez-Ramirez and Poletti are the University's fourth and filth Sloan fellows in the last three years.

Read More: Two faculty members received Sloan Awards for research on how the brain perceives the world.

2020 in a Word

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

During the NGP 2020 Holiday Party, students were asked to provide a word to describe 2020.

The image below reflects the results. A larger font size indicates a word mentioned more than once.

Words describing the year 2020

Brain changed by caffeine in utero, study finds

Thursday, February 4, 2021

New research finds caffeine consumed during pregnancy can change important brain pathways in baby.

New research finds caffeine consumed during pregnancy can change important brain pathways that could lead to behavioral problems later in life. Researchers in the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) analyzed thousands of brain scans of nine and ten-year-olds, and revealed changes in the brain structure in children who were exposed to caffeine in utero.

"These are sort of small effects and it's not causing horrendous psychiatric conditions, but it is causing minimal but noticeable behavioral issues that should make us consider long term effects of caffeine intake during pregnancy," said John Foxe, Ph.D., director of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience, and principal investigator of the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development or ABCD Study at the University of Rochester. "I suppose the outcome of this study will be a recommendation that any caffeine during pregnancy is probably not such a good idea."

Elevated behavioral issues, attention difficulties, and hyperactivity are all symptoms that researchers observed in these children. "What makes this unique is that we have a biological pathway that looks different when you consume caffeine through pregnancy," said Zachary Christensen, a M.D/Ph.D. candidate in the Medical Science Training Program and first author on the paper published in the journal Neuropharmacology. "Previous studies have shown that children perform differently on IQ tests, or they have different psychopathology, but that could also be related to demographics, so it's hard to parse that out until you have something like a biomarker. This gives us a place to start future research to try to learn exactly when the change is occurring in the brain."

Investigators analyzed brain scans of more than 9,000 nine and ten-year-old participants in the ABCD study. They found clear changes in how the white matter tracks -- which form connections between brain regions -- were organized in children whose mothers reported they consumed caffeine during pregnancy.

Pregnant woman standing at window holding mug.

Researchers analyzed the brain scans of more then 9,000 nine and ten-year-olds and found a change in important brain pathways in those whose mothers retrospectively reported consuming caffeine while pregnant.

URMC is one of 21-sites across the country collecting data for the ABCD study, the largest long-term study of brain development and child health. The study is funded by the National Institutes of Health. Ed Freedman, Ph.D., is the principal investigator of the ABCD study in Rochester and a co-author of the study.

"It is important to point out this is a retrospective study," said Foxe. "We are relying on mothers to remember how much caffeine they took in while they were pregnant."

Previous studies have found caffeine can have a negative effect on pregnancy. It is also known that a fetus does not have the enzyme necessary to breakdown caffeine when it crosses the placenta. This new study reveals that caffeine could also leave a lasting impact on neurodevelopment.

The researchers point out that it is unclear if the impact of the caffeine on the fetal brain varies from one trimester to the next, or when during gestation these structural changes occur.

"Current clinical guidelines already suggest limiting caffeine intake during pregnancy -- no more than two normal cups of coffee a day," Christensen said. "In the long term, we hope to develop better guidance for mothers, but in the meantime, they should ask their doctor as concerns arise."

Motion got you feeling queasy? It may be all in your head... or your ears

Friday, January 29, 2021

New research from the University of Rochester Medical Center has detailed a part of the nervous system by which the brain can modify our sense of balance. The current study expands our understanding of how balance stimuli are received by the brain while also offering insights into potential drug targets in the ear, which may be leveraged for treating motion sickness and balance disorders.

"In my opinion, these data are one of the first steps in beginning to unravel the functional significance of the efferent vestibular system," Joseph C. Holt, Ph.D., senior author of the study published in the journal Scientific Reports said. The efferent vestibular system (EVS) begins as a small collection of neurons that travel from the brainstem out to the ear where our sense of balance begins. While there is still little known about the function of the EVS, URMC researchers are uncovering more about the role these neurons may play in processing motion stimuli and maintaining our balance.

NGP student wins award at NE Regional APSA Conference

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Congratulation Udaysankar Chockanathan whose talk at the American Physician Scientists Association won second place. Uday presented his exciting work on population coding in the APP/PS1 mouse model of Amyloid pathology.