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‘Time is vision’ after a stroke
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
A research team including professor of ophthalmology Krystel Huxlin (right, in a 2019 photo) provided stroke patients with a form of physical therapy for the visual system using a device Huxlin developed. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)
A person who has a stroke that causes vision loss is often told there is nothing they can do to improve or regain the vision they have lost.
But research from the University of Rochester, published in the journal Brain, may offer hope to stroke patients in regaining vision.
The Rochester team found that survivors of occipital strokes—strokes that occur in the occipital lobe of the brain and affect the ability to see—may retain some visual capabilities immediately after the stroke, but these abilities diminish and eventually disappear permanently after approximately six months. By capitalizing on this initial preserved vision, early vision training interventions can help stroke patients recover more of their vision loss than if training is administered after six months.
“One of our key findings, which has never been reported before, is that an occipital stroke that damages the visual cortex causes gradual degeneration of visual structures all the way back to the eyes,” says Krystel Huxlin, the James V. Aquavella, MD Professor in Ophthalmology at the University of Rochester’s Flaum Eye Institute.
The Rochester research team—including Elizabeth Saionz, a PhD candidate in Huxlin’s lab and the first author of the paper; Duje Tadin, professor and chair of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences; and Michael Melnick, a postdoctoral associate in Tadin and Huxlin’s labs—also discovered that early intervention in the form of visual training appears to stop the gradual loss of visual processing that stroke victims may experience.
Vision stroke rehabilitation remains a developing field, and previous studies and trials of experimental therapies have focused on patients with chronic vision loss—that is, patients who are more than six months post-stroke.
“Right now, the ‘standard of care’ for vision stroke patients is that they don’t receive any targeted therapy to restore vision,” Saionz says. “They might be offered therapy to help maximize use of their remaining vision or learn how to navigate the world with their new limited vision, but there are no treatments offered that can give them back any of the vision that they lost.”
The new study compared chronic patients—those who were more than six-months post-stroke—with early subacute patients, who started training within the first three months after their stroke.
The researchers trained both groups of stroke patients using a computer-based device Huxlin developed. The training is a form of physical therapy for the visual system and involves a set of exercises that stimulates undamaged portions of the visual cortical system to use visual information. With repeated stimulation, these undamaged parts of the brain can learn to more effectively process visual information that is not filtered by the damaged primary visual cortex, partially restoring conscious visual sensations.
The researchers discovered that the subacute patients who underwent such vision training recovered global motion discrimination—the ability to determine the direction of motion in a noisy environment—as well as luminance detection—the ability to detect a spot of light—faster and much more efficiently than the chronic patients.
Overall, the group’s findings suggest that individuals may maintain visual abilities early after a stroke, indicating they have preserved some sensory information processing that may temporarily circumvent the permanently damaged regions of the brain. Early visual training may therefore be critical both to prevent vision from degrading and to enhance restoration of any preserved perceptual abilities.
“For the first time, we can now conclusively say that just as for sensorimotor stroke, ‘time is vision’ after an occipital stroke,” Huxlin says.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, including NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and National Institute of General Medical Sciences, as well as the Research to Prevent Blindness Foundation.Read More: ‘Time is vision’ after a stroke
NGP Student Honored with Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Teaching
Friday, May 22, 2020
Neuroscience graduate student Monique Mendes, M.S., has received the Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student.
"I’m extremely proud of my students and what they have accomplished in and outside of the lab. I am incredibly fortunate to have been presented with opportunities to teach students throughout my Ph.D. I want to thank them because I have learned so much in the process,” Mendes said.
Mendes was one of 13 graduate students to be honored with this award, which requires graduate students to have significant interaction with undergraduate students in the classroom or lab, and excel in advancing the teaching mission of the University by providing highly-skilled and innovative instruction.
“I was thoroughly convinced by the nomination submitted by the faculty that Monique is an outstanding educator with a bright future,” Vice Provost and University Dean of Graduate Education Melissa Sturge-Apple, Ph.D., said. In presenting the award to Mendes virtually earlier this month, Sturge-Apple presented Mendes remarked “I’m grateful for all of your hard work and your mentoring and teaching which is central to the mission of our University, so I was so honored to give you this award. I wish I could do it in person.”
During the presentation, Sturge-Apple read some of the nomination letters considered in the process:
“She [Monique] has a very didactic nature to her that is beautiful complimented by her enthusiasm and her vigor. She sets the setting naturally and her persistent work ethic is taught without words but through actions.”
“As a younger black woman who wants to go into science and medicine I don’t have very many people in my life who go into my field of interest and definitely not many who look like me, so Monique is a role model in that sense as well. She takes away some of the feelings of otherness that I had in certain situations and serves as a reminder that I can do this and I do belong.”
“She has a passion that’s contagious and she is clear and succinct in conveying information. She wants those around her to understand the material and to love it the same way that she does.”
Mendes is a 5th year student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program and is studying the dynamics and kinetics of microglia self-renewal in the adult brain.
Two 2020 NGP Graduates Honored for Thesis Work
Friday, May 22, 2020
Rianne Stowell, Ph.D. was awarded the Wallace O. Fenn Award for her thesis that characterizes the dynamics of microglia, and the mechanisms regulating the function of these cells in different areas of the brain. This award is given annually to a graduating student who has performed especially meritorious research. According to her advisor Ania Majewska, Ph.D., the research that contributed to Stowell’s thesis was published in a series of three manuscripts and two reviews. Stowell’s work put microglia in the spotlight, as heterogeneous complex cells that are exquisitely tuned to activity in the brain. One of the main ¬- ¬and surprising - findings was that their activities are largely carried out in the quiescent or sleeping brain. This discovery has broad implications for understanding how microglia fit into the functions of the brain’s networks and the development of novel therapeutics for neurological diseases where microglial function is likely altered. “The work highlights Stowell’s strong independent streak and a great work ethic,” Majewska said. “That, coupled with her innate intellectual abilities and creativity, results in a winning combination that will take her far in the future. This thesis is a great beginning to an incredibly promising scientific journey.”
Dawling Dionisio-Santos, M.D., Ph.D. was awarded The Vincent du Vigneaud Award for his thesis work that was judged as superior and unique with the potential to stimulate and extend research in the field. According to Dionisio-Santos’ advisor M. Kerry O’Banion, M.D., Ph.D., Dionisio-Santos moved his research in a more translational direction and initiated a series of experiments using glatiramer acetate, a drug currently prescribed for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. He discovered that, in addition to reducing amyloid plaque levels, glatiramer acetate also reduces tau pathology and improves behavioral performance, demonstrating clear translational relevance for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. “Dionisio-Santos is a talented future physician-scientist,” O’Banion said. “With outstanding potential based on his demonstrated ability to carry out complex experiments and analyses, develop new ideas and experiments based on thorough evaluation of the literature, and inspire others with his passion for wanting to better understand neurodegenerative diseases.”
Animal Study Shows Human Brain Cells Repair Damage in Multiple Sclerosis
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
A new study shows that when specific human brain cells are transplanted into animal models of multiple sclerosis and other white matter diseases, the cells repair damage and restore function. The study provides one of the final pieces of scientific evidence necessary to advance this treatment strategy to clinical trials.
“These findings demonstrate that through the transplantation of human glial cells, we can effectively achieve remyelination in the adult brain, ” Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Neurology and Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine, and lead author of the study. “These findings have significant therapeutics implications and represent a proof-of-concept for future clinical trials for multiple sclerosis and potential other neurodegenerative diseases.”
The findings, which appear in the journal Cell Reports, are the culmination of more than 15 years of research at URMC understanding support cells found in the brain called glia, how the cells develop and function, and their role in neurological disorders.
Goldman’s lab has developed techniques to manipulate the chemical signaling of embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells to create glia. A subtype of these, called glial progenitor cells, gives rise to the brain’s main support cells, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes, which play important roles in the health and signaling function of nerve cells. Read More: Animal Study Shows Human Brain Cells Repair Damage in Multiple Sclerosis
NGP Survey: Favorite Board Games
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Games with one vote:
- Axis and Allies
- Betrayal at Baldur's Gate
- Cany Land
- Captain Sonar
- Chutes & Ladders
- Dinosaur Island
- Elder Sign
- Exploding Kittens
- Guess Who
- King of Tokyo
- Oh Hell
- Puerto Rico
- Secret Hitler
- Shadows over Camelot
- Snakes and Ladders
- Top Secter Spies
- Trivial Pursuit
Congratulations Class of 2020 NGP Graduates
Friday, May 15, 2020
Congratulations to our four outstanding graduates. Your dedication and hard work have paid off. Meliora!
- Aimee Morris, M.D., Ph.D.
- Dawling Dionisio-Santos, M.D., Ph.D.
- Jessica Hogestyn, Ph.D.
- Rianne Stowell, Ph.D.
University Degree Conferral & Program Awards
Friday, May 15, 2020
Congratulations Rianne and Dawling on earning these awards!
The Wallace O. Fenn Award – Dr. Rianne Stowell (Neuroscience)
Dr. Ania Majewska, Advisor
Dr. Wallace Fenn was a Professor of Physiology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry from 1924 to 1961. He served as the Chairperson of the Department of Physiology from 1924 to 1959 and thereafter until his death in 1971, he was appointed by the University to the position of Distinguished University Professor of Physiology. As well, Dr. Fenn served as the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies from 1957 to 1959. Click here for full award description.
Rianne’s thesis encompassed a large body of work characterizing the dynamics of microglia, and the mechanisms regulating these dynamics in different areas of the brain. It was published in a series of three first author research manuscripts and two reviews. Rianne’s work put microglia in the spotlight, as heterogeneous, complex cells that are exquisitely tuned to activity in the brain. One of the main and surprising findings was that their activities are largely carried out in the quiescent or sleeping brain. This has very broad implications for understanding how microglia fit into the larger brain network and for developing novel therapeutics based on microglial function, for many different neurological diseases where microglial function is likely altered. The ideas behind the work are novel, the experiments rigorous and thorough, the implications are wide ranging and have already had a great impact on the field. The work highlights Rianne’s strong independent streak and a great work ethic. That, coupled with her innate intellectual abilities and creativity, results in a winning combination that will take her far in the future. This thesis is a great beginning to an incredibly promising scientific journey.
The Vincent du Vigneaud Award – Dr. Dawling Dionisio-Santos (Neurobiology and Anatomy)
Dr. Kerry O’Banion, Advisor.
This award is conferred by the Office of Graduate Education at the School of Medicine and Dentistry to a graduating student from any program whose thesis is judged superior and unique in potential for stimulating and extending research in the field. The award is given in honor of Vincent du Vigneaud, (1901-1978) who received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry (formerly known as Vital Economics) in 1927 at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, studying on the sulfur component of insulin. Dr. du Vigneaud performed postdoctoral research with the famous John Jacob Abel at The Johns Hopkins University Medical School (1927-1928), at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Dresden Germany, working with Max Bergmann, and at the University of Edinburgh Medical School. He returned to the U.S. to take successive positions as Professor at the University of Illinois and then at George Washington University Medical School. In 1932 he became a Professor at the Cornell Medical School, in New York City, where he remained until retiring to emeritus status in 1967. He accepted an invitation from Dr. Harold Scheraga, head of the Chemistry Department at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, to move his laboratory to Ithaca. He continued to do research in the Cornell Chemistry Research Building until suffering a stroke in 1974. Click here for full award description.
A graduate of the University of Puerto Rico, Dr. Dawling Dionisio-Santos entered Rochester’s Medical Scientist Training (MD-PhD) Program in 2013 and the Neurobiology and Anatomy PhD program in 2015. Dawling’s initial work examined the effects of anti-inflammatory cytokine signaling on tau phosphorylation in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Tau phosphorylation is a critical step in the development of neurofibrillary tangles, the pathological hallmark of AD that is most directly related to progression of cognitive deficits. Dawling demonstrated a remarkable inhibition of tau phosphorylation with acute IL-4 treatment that was accompanied by a shift in microglial phenotypes as well as improvements in behavioral endpoints. Motivated by a desire to move his research in a more translational direction, Dawling proposed and then initiated a series of experiments using glatiramer acetate, a drug currently prescribed for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis. He discovered that besides reducing amyloid-? plaque levels, glatiramer acetate also reduced tau pathology and improved behavioral performance; thus, demonstrating clear translational relevance for patients with Alzheimer’s Disease. Dawling Dionisio-Santos is a talented future physician-scientist with outstanding potential based on his demonstrated ability to carry out complex experiments and analyses, develop new ideas and experiments based on thorough evaluation of the literature, and inspire others with his passion for wanting to better understand neurodegenerative diseases.Read More: University Degree Conferral & Program Awards
Favorite Local Parks
Monday, May 11, 2020
Parks with one vote:
- Ellison Park
- Genesee Valley Greenway
- Genesee Valley Park
- Genesee River
- Harriet Hollister
- Lehigh Valley Trail
- Riverfront near downtown
- Tinker Park
- Turning Point Park
- Washington Grove
Rochester scientist earns national recognition for research
Sunday, May 10, 2020
Adam Snyder, assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)
University of Rochester faculty member Adam Snyder has been named one of this year’s recipients of a Sloan Research Fellowship, a national recognition awarded to young scientists considered to be potential future leaders in the scientific community.
Awarded annually since 1955 by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the fellowships are also designed to recognize independent research accomplishments and creativity. A total of 126 researchers were selected this year for the two-year award, which carries $75,000 in research support.
Snyder, who is an assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences in the School of Arts & Sciences and holds a joint appointment in the Department of Neuroscience in the School of Medicine and Dentistry, investigates the neural mechanisms that make it possible for the brain to process information. He is specifically trying to understand the neural mechanisms of selective attention, the ability to preferentially process information from the environment that is important for our goals, while blocking out potential distractions.Read More: Rochester scientist earns national recognition for research
Favorite Local Breweries
Wednesday, May 6, 2020
Local Favorites with one vote:
- Black Button
- Brindle Haus
- Iron Tug
- Other half
- Community Beer Works
- Seven Story Brewing
- Southern Tier
- The Alchemist Brewery (Vermont)
- Zero Gravity Brewing (Vermont)
- Orono Brewing (Maine)
- K2 Brothers Brewing (Irondiquoit)
- Sam Adams
- Ballast Point
- Sierra Nevada
NGP Faculty & Student Favorite Pop Sci Books
Monday, April 27, 2020
Books with 1 vote:
- A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines - Janna Levin
- A Primate's Memoir - Sapolsky
- Big Bang - Simon Singh
- Botany of Desire - Micheal Pollen
- Childhood’s End - Arthur C. Clark
- Emperor of All Maladies - Siddhartha Mukherjee
- Ever since Darwin - Steven Jay Gould
- Explorers of the Black box – Susan Allport
- Fabric of the Cosmos - Briane Greene
- Guns, Germs and Steel - Jared Diamond
- Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated Organ
- How the Mind Works - Steven Pinker
- How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed - Ray Kurzwell
- I am a Strange Loop - Douglas Hofstadter
- I am Joe’s Body – J.D. Ratcliff
- I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life - Ed Yong
- I wish I'd made you angry earlier - Igor F. Tsigelny and Max Perutz
- In Praise of Imperfection: My Life and Work - Rita Levi-Montalcini
- In serach of memory: the emergence of a new science of mind - Eric Kandel
- Jurassic Park - Michael Crichton
- Microbe hunters – Paul de Kruif
- Mountains beyond mountains - Tracy Kidder / Paul Farmer
- On a Pale Horse - Piers Anthony
- On Intelligence – Jeff Hawkins
- On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer's - Greg O'Brien
- Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness - Peter Godfrey-Smith
- Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell
- Pale Blue Dot - Carl Sagan
- Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind - Sandra Blakeslee and V.S. Ramachandran
- Radium Girls - Kate Moore
- Reductionism in Art and Brain Science - Kandell
- Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves - George Church
- Rendezvous with Rama - Arthur C. Clark
- Selfish gene – Richard Dawkins
- Stiff – Mary Roach
- The Blank Slate - Steven Pinker
- The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World
- The Butchering Art – Lindsey Fitzharris
- The Caves of Steel - Isaac Asimov
- The Chronicles of Amber - Roger Zelazny
- The emperor of all maladies - Siddhartha Mukherjee
- The Extended Phenotype - Richard Dawkins
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Sloot
- The Mismeasure of Man – Steven Jay Gould
- The Panda’s Thumb – Steven Jay Gould
- The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons – Sam Kean
- The universe in a nutshell – Stephen Hawking
- Thinking Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman
- When the Air Hits Your Brain: Tales from Neurology
- Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams
Favorite Restaurants Prior to Quarantine?
Friday, April 24, 2020
NGP faculty and students sent in their favorite restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are their favorites:
Congratulations on our F30 Fellowship Recipients
Thursday, April 23, 2020
Ruth L. Kirschstein Individual Predoctoral NRSA for MD/PhD and other Dual Degree Fellowships
The purpose of this Kirschstein-NRSA program is to enhance the integrated research and clinical training of promising predoctoral students, who are matriculated in a combined MD/PhD or other dual-doctoral degree training program (e.g. DDS/PhD, AuD/PhD, DVM/PhD), and who intend careers as physician-scientists or other clinician-scientists.
Keshov Sharma was awarded an F30, starting 4/1/2020, entitled “An Amygdala to Ventrolateral Prefrontal Cortex Projection Implicated in Emotional Recognition”. His Co-Mentors are Dr. Julie Fudge and Dr. Lizabeth Romanski.
Karl Foley was awarded his F30 starting 2/1/2020, entitled "Protein Phosphatase 1 isoforms and human de novo mutations in synaptic plasticity". His mentor is Hugh Xia.
Laura Owlett was awarded her F30 starting 7/1/2019, entitled "Modulating microglial phagocytosis and inflamation in Alzheimer's disease: investigating a role for Axl". Her mentors are Kerry O’Banion and John Olschowka.
Congratulations Keshov, Karl, and Laura.
Humberto Mestre is Lead Author on Study "Brain 'Drowns' in Its Own Fluid after a Stroke"
Thursday, January 30, 2020
Cerebral edema, swelling that occurs in the brain, is a severe and potentially fatal complication of stroke. New research, which was conducted in mice and appears in the journal Science, shows for the first time that the glymphatic system – normally associated with the beneficial task of waste removal – goes awry during a stroke and floods the brain, triggering edema and drowning brain cells.
“When you force every single cell, which is essentially a battery, to release its charge it represents the single largest disruption of brain function you can achieve – you basically discharge the entire brain surface in one fell swoop,” said Humberto Mestre, M.D., a Ph.D. student in the Nedergaard lab and lead author of the study. “The double hit of the spreading depolarization and the ischemia makes the blood vessels cramp, resulting in a level of constriction that is completely abnormal and creating conditions for CSF to rapidly flow into the brain.”Read More: Humberto Mestre is Lead Author on Study "Brain 'Drowns' in Its Own Fluid after a Stroke"
Suzanne Haber Honored by Society of Biological Psychiatry for Research on Mental Disorders
Thursday, January 30, 2020
Suzanne N. Haber, Ph.D., Dean’s Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, will receive the Society of Biological Psychiatry’s 2020 Gold Medal Award at the Society’s 75th Annual Scientific Convention & Meeting in the spring. The award honors members of the Society whose significant and sustained work has advanced and extended knowledge on the neurobiology of mental illness.
Haber’s lab investigates the cortico-cortical and cortico-basal ganglia systems in the brain. Her work demonstrates the specific hard-wired connections that are associated with normal decision making, emotional and cognitive control, and the connectional abnormalities in those circuits that are linked to a wide range of mental health disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), drug abuse and addiction, schizophrenia, and motor control disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. This work has played a key role in targeting and interpreting the effects of noninvasive and invasive therapeutic approaches for OCD and depression.
For the past ten years, Haber has led the Silvio O. Conte Center for Basic and Translational Mental Health Research at the University of Rochester. Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the Center uses translational approaches to probe the neurocircuitry that underlies neuromodulation for OCD, pinpointing specific abnormalities within the brain circuits that are associated with the disease. This information is being used to guide new treatment options for the three million-plus Americans who live with the disorder.
“Suzanne’s seminal contributions to elucidating specific neural networks that control learning, decision-making, reward and motivation, and how pathologies associated with these neural communication hubs underlie multiple neurological, movement, and mental health disorders make her uniquely qualified to receive this prestigious career award,” said Robert T. Dirksen, Ph.D., Lewis Pratt Ross Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology. “Her work is making a difference in the lives of individuals and families suffering from neurological and mental health disorders. We are extremely proud that she represents the University of Rochester as a Society of Biological Psychiatry Gold Medal Award winner.”
The Society of Biological Psychiatry was founded in 1945 to emphasize the medical and scientific study and treatment of mental disorders. It’s the oldest neuropsychiatry research society in America, currently made up of more than 1,500 members from across the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. Members conduct research in areas spanning from basic cellular studies to clinical trials and prevention research.
Haber, who is also a professor of Neuroscience, Brain and Cognitive Science, and Psychiatry, will split the 2020 Gold Medal Award with Carol Tamminga, M.D. of UT Southwestern Medical Center.
Two NGP Students First Author Nature Paper on Alzheimer's Disease
Thursday, January 23, 2020
Udaysankar Chockanathan and Emily J. Warner are the lead authors on the paper, "Altered dorsal CA1 neuronal population coding in the APP/PS1 mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease" published in the journal Nature.
Abstract: While the link between amyloid β (Aβ) accumulation and synaptic degradation in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is known, the consequences of this pathology on population coding remain unknown. We found that the entropy, a measure of the diversity of network firing patterns, was lower in the dorsal CA1 region in the APP/PS1 mouse model of Aβ pathology, relative to controls, thereby reducing the population’s coding capacity. Our results reveal a network level signature of the deficits Aβ accumulation causes to the computations performed by neural circuits.
Excellent work Uday and Emily!
Read More: Two NGP Students First Author Nature Paper on Alzheimer's Disease