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Pat White Research Featured on WROC: A Breakthrough in Recovering from Hearing Loss, Naturally

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Read More: Pat White Research Featured on WROC: A Breakthrough in Recovering from Hearing Loss, Naturally

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

Study: Attention Requires Balance in the Brain

Monday, October 29, 2018

The ability to focus attention is a fundamental challenge that the brain must solve and one that is essential to navigating our daily lives. In developmental disorders such as Autism this ability is impaired. New research published in the journal Nature Communications shows that nerve cells maintain a state of balance when preparing to interpret what we see and this may explain why the healthy brain can block out distractions.

The new research, which was co-authored by Adam Snyder, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the University of Rochester Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and UR Medicine Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience, marks a departure from the established view of how the brain tackles the task of identifying what is important.  

“The visual world contains more information than our brains can handle,” said Snyder. “This research shows that when anticipating stimulus, the brain maintains a pattern consisting of stimulated and unstimulated neurons and that these patterns differ from when the brain is actually processing information.”

While it is known that the process of paying attention amplifies neural signals in the brain in order to prepare for relevant information, how the brain achieves this state of readiness remains unknown. One theory that has gained acceptance among the neuroscience community is that the nerve cells in the brain anticipate stimuli and maintain a heightened state of readiness.

“The prevailing view is that something happens to activate neurons so they will amplify the response to stimuli, like turning up the stereo so when the music starts it is already louder,” said Snyder. “Our suspicion is that the brain doesn’t work this way because the problem when you crank up the volume is you also get static noise.” 

Disorders like Autism are characterized by the inability to parse through stimuli and identify what is important. This is often manifested in oversensitivity to certain visual or auditory environments where the brain has difficulty in separating the relevant information from ‘static.’ Over time, this inability to focus and block out distractions can give rise to atypical social behavior.

Read More: Study: Attention Requires Balance in the Brain

New Research Seeks to Understand Link Between Iron and Brain Development

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Image of pregnant woman with a holographic image of a brainIron deficiency is the one of the most prevalent nutritional deficiencies in the world and affects mainly pregnant mothers and young children.  Numerous studies have found that mothers who have low iron levels during pregnancy, have a higher risk of giving birth to a child that develops cognitive impairments like autism, attention deficit syndrome, and learning disabilities. While the link between gestational iron deficiency (GID) and cognitive impairment in offspring is well establish, the mechanisms by which this occurs remain unknown.

Margot Mayer-Proschel, Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Biomedical Genetics, has established animal models of GID and was the first to pinpoint the critical periods of gestation during which the developing central nervous system is most vulnerable to GID. Her laboratory recently demonstrated that nerve cells in the brains of animals born to iron deficient mice behave abnormally to excitatory brain stimuli and has shown that functional impairments cannot be restored by iron supplements later in life.

Read More: New Research Seeks to Understand Link Between Iron and Brain Development

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

Study Points to Possible New Therapy for Hearing Loss

Monday, October 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Krishnan Padmanabhan 2018 CAREER Recipient

Friday, September 14, 2018

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

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

Read More: Krishnan Padmanabhan 2018 CAREER Recipient

Neuroscience Graduate Program Student Receives Award for SfN Trainee Professional Development

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

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

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

Congratulations Emily!

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

Neuroscience Graduate Program Student Receive 3 Convocation Awards

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Congratulations to our NGP students for again earning these honors at this year's School of Medicine and Dentistry Convocation Ceremony.

  • Kathryn Toffolo (1st year):  Merritt and Marjorie Cleveland Fellowship Award
    • This fellowship was established in 1991 from Mr. and Mrs. Merritt Cleveland and is awarded to a Ph.D. student entering graduate study through the Biomedical Sciences Program with interest in developing a neuroscience-related research career.
  • Monique Mendes (4th year): Outstanding Student Mentor Award
    • This award, established in 2015, recognizes a student mentor who guides, supports and promotes the training and career development of others.
  • Gregory Reilly (1st year): J. Newell Stannard Graduate Student Scholarship Award
    • This scholarship was established by Dr. Stannard, Professor Emeritus, to recognize one deserving incoming graduate student for their commendable academic achievements. Dr. Stannard developed the world’s first doctoral program in radiation biology at the School of Medicine and was a faculty member for almost 40 years before retiring in 1975. He taught and mentored hundreds of students who went on to become leaders and experts in the field of radiation health.

Dr. Hsu to Continue Stem Cell Research with $2.5 Million Grant

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Wei Hsu, Ph.D., dean’s professor of Biomedical Genetics in the Center for Oral Biology and a scientist with the Eastman Institute for Oral Health at the University of Rochester Medical Center, received a $2.5 million, five year grant to continue his groundbreaking work involving the role of stem cells in tissue regeneration and reconstructive surgical repair.

Currently, the only solution for extensive large bone defects caused by cancer surgery, congenital malformation, trauma and progressive deforming diseases, is to undergo a reconstructive operation. For the 2.2 million cases a year around the world conducted in orthopedic, plastic and oral surgeries, these operations usually involve autografts that require transferring bones from other parts of the body.

“However, bone grafts are encumbered by numerous disadvantages, including donor site morbidity, limited bone supply and complications of extended operating time,” Dr. Hsu explained. “The success of such reconstructions also remains highly challenging due to several limitations.”

Read More: Dr. Hsu to Continue Stem Cell Research with $2.5 Million Grant

School of Medicine Names New Dean for Graduate Education

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Photo of Richard Libby

Richard T. Libby, Ph.D.

Richard T. Libby Ph.D., professor of Ophthalmology and of Biomedical Genetics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and a member of the University’s Center for Visual Science, has been named Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA), pending approval of the University Board of Trustees. Beginning Sept. 1, Libby will direct the School of Medicine and Dentistry’s Ph.D., postdoctoral and master’s degree programs. He succeeds Edith M. Lord, Ph.D., who served a decade in the role and is shifting her focus to microbiology and immunology research.

An innovative researcher in the neurobiology of glaucoma, Libby arrived in Rochester in 2006 after postdoctoral and fellowship experiences that enlightened him on the power of model genetics systems in the study of eye disease. Years spent training at the Medical Research Council’s Institute for Hearing Research in Nottingham, England, and the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, formed the foundation for his current laboratory, which is focused on understanding the cell signaling pathways that lead to vision loss in glaucoma.

Libby is director of the Cell Biology of Disease Graduate Program, has served on numerous academic committees integral to research activities and graduate education, and is a respected mentor and teacher. He has published, as author or co-author, more than 60 peer-reviewed scientific articles and numerous reviews, book chapters and commentaries, and has presented internationally on a range of topics in eye and vision research.

“Rick understands that excellence in a research enterprise is essential to attracting the best and brightest talent and has articulated a vision for further improving the experience here, making it clear to the outside world that Rochester is the best place to learn and study,” said Mark Taubman, M.D., CEO of the Medical Center and Dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Rochester. “He is a passionate scientist whose experience in a clinical department will bring valuable insight to graduate programs in basic and clinical research—a true asset to his role in helping prepare future generations of scientists.”

“Complementing his expertise in leading graduate programs, and thorough understanding of their needs, Rick has developed a thoughtful approach to what it will take to continue moving them forward. It’s clear that he’s driven by a desire to develop our trainees and motivated to give them the best graduate/postdoctoral experience possible,” said Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., Vice Dean for Research at the School of Medicine and Dentistry and Associate Vice President for Health Sciences Research at the University of Rochester. “In addition, having developed his own career in a somewhat untraditional way, Rick brings an added dimension to understanding and supporting others who are exploring diverse career options.”

Libby received a doctorate degree in biology from Boston College in the field of neurodevelopment.  He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Medical Research Council’s Institute for Hearing Research in Nottingham England, and a postdoctoral fellow at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. He joined the School of Medicine and Dentistry faculty as an assistant professor in 2006, was named associate professor in 2012, and professor in 2018.

“Rick is a great choice to succeed Edith Lord as the Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education,” said Dirk Bohmann, Ph.D., Donald M. Foster, M.D. Professor of Biomedical Genetics and Senior Associate Dean for Basic Research, who led the search committee. “He realizes that research excellence and successful graduate and postdoctoral programs are mutually dependent. You cannot have one without the other. He will be a passionate advocate for the graduate students and postdocs.”

“Under Dr. Lord’s leadership, GEPA has greatly enhanced the support and training of URMC’s graduate students and postdoctoral fellows,” Libby said. “In fact, GEPA has helped lead the nation in providing enhanced educational opportunities to ready trainees for the numerous careers available to the modern-day scientist. I am excited to be a part of this team. I look forward to further developing GEPA’s missions of providing world-class training for our graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and to helping our trainees continue their important work focused on understanding human health and disease.”

Lord’s four-decade career in Rochester is dotted with milestones and accomplishments. She joined the School of Medicine and Dentistry faculty as a senior instructor in 1976 and rose through the ranks to professor in 1994. In 10 years as Senior Associate Dean, she worked to improve the experience of graduate students and postdocs in and outside the lab, adding Postdoctoral Affairs to the Office for Graduate Education’s name, standardizing salaries and benefits, and advocating on behalf of trainees. She spearheaded a revamping of the fundamental basic science courses, incorporating more workshops and active learning components and emphasizing team-based science. She also fostered professional development initiatives and guided efforts to support students’ health and wellbeing. Her return to the research lab will include focusing on an NIH grant to study the immune response in tumors.

NGP Student Monique Mendes Selected as a Neuroscience Scholars Program Fellow

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Photo of Monique MendesMonique was selected by the Society for Neuroscience's Professional Development Committee and its Diversity in Neuroscience Subcommittee as a Neuroscience Scholars Program Fellow.  This program is designed to provide underrepresented graduate students in neuroscience with career development and networking opportunities to help them with success going into the future.

The program provides the following benefits:

  • A mentoring team consisting of a senior mentor and a member of the Diversity in Neuroscience Subcommittee.  The team will discuss a fellow's research, career plans, and overall experience.
  • Two years of complimentary SfN membership.
  • A travel award to attend the SfN annual meeting each fall during the two-year program.
  • Up to $1500 in enrichment funds to support allowed professional development activities.

Congratulations Monique!

Neuroscience Graduate Program Student Plays with the RPO

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Monique Mendes and Patricia Sunwoo at Eastman Theatre

Monique and Patricia Sunwoo

July 12th, the Brighton Symphony  Orchestra, including Neuroscience Graduate Student Monique Mendes, performed with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra at the Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.  The RPO held Summer Side by Side Sessions where amateur musicians rehearsed with professionals.  Monique's stand partner was Patricia Sunwoo, a critically acclaimed violinist who joined the RPO in 2003.

The rehearsal included: Rimsky-Korsakov - Mlada: Processioin of the Nobles, Dvorak - Symphony No. 9, "New World" (2nd and 4th movements), and Williams - Raiders of the Lost Ark: Raider's March.

Brighton Sympony Orchastra at Eastman Theatre

Brighton Symphony Orchestra members and RPO Side by side guest conductor (to the right

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

NGP Student Receives Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Photo of Rianne StowellRianne Stowell, a fourth year NGP graduate student, has been awarded a two year NIH Fellowship award (F31) for her project titled, “Noradrenergic modulation of microglial dynamics and synaptic plasticity”. Rianne works in the laboratory of Ania Majewska, Ph.D.

The purpose of the Kirschstein National Research Service Award program is to enable promising predoctoral students with potential to develop into a productive, independent research scientists, to obtain mentored research training while conducting dissertation research.

Well done Rianne!

Neuroscience Grad Student Awarded NIH Diversity Fellowship

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

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

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

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

Read the local Jamacian Observer newspaper article.

Read More: Neuroscience Grad Student Awarded NIH Diversity Fellowship

Fourth year NGP Graduate Student Publishes in Journal of Neuroscience

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Fourth year NGP graduate student Patrick Miller-Rhodes (Gelbard lab) has recently published a single author review in Journal of Neuroscience (Journal Club, J Neurosci. 2018 38(19):4457– 4459) tackling the fascinating and timely topic of the heterogeneity of microglial mechanisms that contribute to normal brain functions such as synaptic plasticity. In this publication, Patrick highlights a recent study by NGP alumna Rebecca Lowery (Majewska lab; Glia 65(11):1744-1761), showing that microglial CX3CR1 loss does not affect multiple forms of plasticity, to make his point that the mechanisms microglia use to support neuronal function are likely diverse and differ based on brain region and developmental stage.

Congratulations Patrick and go NGP!

Ian Dickerson awarded University seed funding

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

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

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

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

Read More: Ian Dickerson awarded University seed funding

URMC Researcher Featured in Academic Stories

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

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

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

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

Read More: URMC Researcher Featured in Academic Stories

Syd Cash, MD, PhD Delivers Elizabeth Doty Lecture

Thursday, May 24, 2018

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

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

Brain Science Suggests This Is the Best Position to Sleep In

Thursday, May 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rochester Research Cited in Psychology Today Article

Monday, May 14, 2018

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

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

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

Read More: Rochester Research Cited in Psychology Today Article

Words from Wallis Hall: The University's Neuroscience Network

Friday, May 11, 2018

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

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

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

Schieber lab publishes paper in Journal of Neuroscience

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

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

Read More: Schieber lab publishes paper in Journal of Neuroscience

Liz Romanski Awarded R21 from NIDCD

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

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

Congratulation Liz!

Neuroscience Lab Holds ‘Brain Day’ at Local School

Monday, April 30, 2018

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

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

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

Neuroscience Graduate Student publishes paper with the Briggs lab

Friday, April 27, 2018

Neuroscience Graduate student Allison Murphy co-authored a paper with the Briggs lab while in a rotation with the lab.  Allison contributed an extensive amount of work toward the paper during her fall rotation, and the paper was accepted shortly after her joining the lab.

Postdoctoral fellow, Mike Hasse was the first author on the paper, "Morphological heterogeneity among corticogeniculate neurons in ferrets: quantification and comparison with a previous report in macaque monkeys."

Nice work Allison and Mike!!

Read More: Neuroscience Graduate Student publishes paper with the Briggs lab

Krishnan Padmanabhan Recognized as a Polak Young Investigator

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

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

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

Congratulations Dr. Padmanabhan!!

Read More: Krishnan Padmanabhan Recognized as a Polak Young Investigator

Neuroscience Graduate Student Awarded Messersmith Dissertation Fellowship for 2018-2019

Monday, April 23, 2018

Jessica Hogestyn

Jessica Hogestyn, a PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program has been awarded a $23,000 Messersmith Dissertation Fellowship for 2018-2019.  The Messersmith Fellowship is a competitive one-year fellowship for students in the pre-clinical departments of the School of Medicine and Dentistry or in Biology, Chemistry, Optics or Physics. Appropriate candidates have passed the qualifying exam and are in the process of writing their dissertations or are at least engaged in full-time research.

Congratulations Jessie!!

Neuroscience Graduate Student Receives American Heart Association Pre-Doctoral Fellowship

Monday, April 23, 2018

Kathleen Gates

Kathleen Gates has been awarded an American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship.  This fellowship is meant to enhance the integrated research and clinical training of promising students who are matriculated in pre-doctoral or clinical health professional degree training programs and who intend careers as scientists, physician-scientists or other clinician-scientists, or related careers aimed at improving global cardiovascular health.

Congratulations Kathleen!!

Martina Poletti Awarded University Furth Fund

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Furth Fund, established through the generosity of Valerie and Frank Furth, provides early career scientists with $10,000 in research funds. The funds are used to promote the research activities of the faculty member, which may include the purchase of new equipment or support for graduate students or postdocs.

Dr. Poletti studies the “finely orchestrated interplay between sensory processing, the control of motor behavior, and the allocation of attentional resources” in enabling visual perception, with a particular interest in fine spatial vision processes in the foveola. This is a small high-acuity region of the retina that humans use to inspect objects of interest. Foveal vision is fundamental for normal functioning, yet surprisingly little is known about its mechanisms.

Poletti “strongly exemplifies the highest professional qualities of a junior, tenure track faculty member: productive, innovative researcher with an early and strong publication track record in highly competitive and visible journals; and, highly-competitive grant funding,” says John Foxe, director of the Ernest J. Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience and chair of neuroscience. “Her background and research on human visual perception, attention, and oculomotor control enrich the Department of Neuroscience and complement well the research programs of fellow faculty members.”

Congratulations Martina!!

Neuroscience Graduate Student Kathryn-Mary Wakim one of Eight Finalists in the Three Minute Thesis Competition

Friday, April 6, 2018

Communicating research with three minutes and a slide

At a time when it is more important than ever for scientists to communicate clearly with the public, eight University PhD students and postdocs will do their best to summarize their research with just three minutes and a slide.

They are finalists in the University’s annual Three Minute Thesis competition, which will be held at 4 p.m., next Thursday, April 12, in the Class of ’62 Auditorium at the Medical Center.

A total of 44 students initially entered the competition, which was founded at University of Queensland, and is now in its third year at Rochester. The eight finalists are:

  • Jillian Ramos (biology)
  • Derek Crowe (genetics, development, and stem cells)
  • Parker Riley (computer science)
  • Robert Maynard (cellular biology of disease)
  • Marian Ackun-Farmmer (biomedical engineering)
  • Lauren VanGelder (chemistry)
  • Simeon Abiola (translational biomedical science)
  • Kathryn-Mary Wakim (neuroscience)

The winner will receive a $750 research travel award. There are also $500 and $200 research travel awards, respectively, for the runner-up and the people’s choice winner.

Congratulations Kamy on reaching the finals!!!

Read More: Neuroscience Graduate Student Kathryn-Mary Wakim one of Eight Finalists in the Three Minute Thesis Competition

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.

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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