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DiLoreto to Chair University of Rochester Medical Center Department of opthalmology, Lead Flaum Eye Institute

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

 

David A. DiLoreto, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., was named chair of the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Department of opthalmology and director of the Flaum Eye Institute, pending approval by the Office of the Provost. He succeeds Chair Steven Feldon, M.D., M.B.A., who will transition to associate vice president and director of the Office of Biomedical Research Development.

“Under Steve Feldon’s leadership, the Flaum Eye Institute experienced remarkable growth in size, volume and reputation over the past decade. We are confident David DiLoreto is the right person to build upon this strong foundation to move us forward in the spirit of Meliora,” said Mark Taubman, M.D.Medical Center CEO. “He has the interpersonal and communication skills to work well with colleagues across the department, Medical Center, and University to advance the institutional missions. We are delighted he has accepted the position.”

DiLoreto will take on the new role Dec. 16.

Read More: DiLoreto to Chair University of Rochester Medical Center Department of opthalmology, Lead Flaum Eye Institute

Brain stimulation speeds up visual learning in healthy adults, helps patients re-learn how to see

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Practice results in better learning. Consider learning a musical instrument, for example: the more one practices, the better one will be able to learn to play. The same holds true for cognition and visual perception: with practice, a person can learn to see better—and this is the case for both healthy adults and patients who experience vision loss because of a traumatic brain injury or stroke.

The problem with learning, however, is that it often takes a lot of training. Finding the time can be especially difficult for patients with brain injuries who may, for instance, need to re-train their brains to learn to process visual cues.

But what if this learning process could be accelerated?

That’s what University of Rochester researchers Duje Tadin, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences, and Krystel Huxlin, the James V. Aquavella, M.D. Professor in Ophthalmology at the University’s Flaum Eye Institute, set out to determine. Motivated by emerging evidence that brain stimulation might aid learning, Tadin and Huxlin collaborated with researchers at the Italian Institute of Technology to study how different types of non-invasive brain stimulation affect visual perceptual learning and retention in both healthy individuals and those with brain damage. Their results, published in a paper in the Journal of Neuroscience, could lead to enhanced learning efficacy for both populations and improved vision recovery for cortically blind patients.

Enhancing learning with brain stimulation

Learning is difficult and often takes a long time, Tadin says, “because after early childhood our brains become less plastic.” The brain’s ability to change and reorganize itself decreases as a person ages, so learning new tasks, or re-learning tasks after experiencing a brain injury, becomes more challenging.

To test if and how visual perceptual learning might be accelerated, researchers presented study participants with a computer-based task. Participants were shown clouds of dots and were asked to determine which way the dots moved across the computer screen. The task measured the participants’ motion integration threshold; motion perception is important in enabling people to see movement and either to avoid or interact with moving objects. Participants were then asked to perform the task while sub-groups were given different types of brain stimulation, each involving a non-invasive electrical current applied over the visual cortex. The researchers found that one particular type of brain stimulation, called transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS), had remarkable effects on improving participants’ motion integration thresholds when they performed the task.

“All groups of participants got better at the dot motion task with practice, but the group that also trained with tRNS improved twice as much and was able to learn the motion task better than other groups,” Tadin says.

Surprisingly, the researchers also found that when they re-tested the participants six months later, the boosts in performance were still there: the participants in the tRNS group had retained what they had learned and were still able to do better on the motion task compared to the groups that were given other stimulation techniques or training alone.

Read More: Brain stimulation speeds up visual learning in healthy adults, helps patients re-learn how to see

Imaging That Twinkle in Your Eye: Assessing Vascular Health by Imaging Blood Cells in the Retina

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Schallek

 

Jesse B. Schallek, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmology, describes a new, noninvasive approach to assess vascular health in the journal eLife. Schallek’s lab, part of the Flaum Eye Institute, developed a method to visualize how single blood cells flow through vessels of the eye using adaptive optics imaging.

The transparency of the eye provides a natural window to the retina, an extension of the brain. Vascular physiology is best studied noninvasively inside the living body, but seeing the details of how microscopic blood cells interact within the vasculature has not been possible with current tools such as fMRI. Schallek’s team developed high-resolution adaptive optics combined with fast camera capture to visualize single-cell blood flow dynamics in the living mouse eye.

“We’re able to image single blood cells and measure their speed. Remarkably, this can be achieved in vessels of all sizes, from the smallest capillaries to the largest retinal vessels,” said Schallek. “This approach may eventually provide a view of patient vascular health without the need for blood draws or dyes.

Krystel Huxlin, Ph.D., Associate Chair for research in the Department of Ophthalmology adds, “This method has the potential to enable early diagnosis of cardiovascular disease and diabetic neuropathy, and will also be of interest to investigators studying blood flow in the context of stroke and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

The study was conducted in large part by Optics graduate students Aby Joseph and Andres Guevara-Torres. “My research interest involves using my physics/optics background to provide insights into biological questions,” said lead-author Joseph. “This paper, at the intersection of physical sciences and neuroscience, provides a novel and noninvasive imaging approach that may advance our understanding of blood flow dynamics in brain and retinal vessels smaller than the width of a human hair.

Schallek’s team, part of the Advanced Retinal Imaging Alliance (ARIA), is now deploying the method in healthy human eyes to establish metrics that will enable researchers to better elucidate the events that initiate and propagate disease. A pre-clinical investigation, funded by the Dana Foundation, is beginning to use this powerful approach to compare what happens in normal and diabetic retinas of human subjects. Schallek holds secondary appointments in the Department of Neuroscience and the Center for Visual Science. The research was funded by the National Eye Institute at the National Institutes of Health and by a Career Development Award from Research to Prevent Blindness.

NGP Alum, Aleta Steevens, awarded Doty prize

Friday, May 3, 2019

Aleta Steevens

Aleta Steevens, recent doctoral graduate from the Kiernan lab, received the Robert Doty prize for the 2019 outstanding dissertation in neuroscience. The Doty prize is named in the honor of longtime faculty member Robert Doty, who made great contributions to neuroscience research at the University of Rochester and nationally. It is awarded on the basis of the impact and importance of research, novelty of experimental design, independence and creativity of the student and research implications and relevance for neuroscience. Aleta’s thesis entitled “The Dynamic Role of SOX2 in Mammalian Inner Ear Development,” which she successfully defended on April 16, 2018, embodied all these characteristics. Aleta was also awarded an NIH predoctoral fellowship, and her work has resulted in two first-author publications. Beyond her research, Aleta was exceptionally active and successful in teaching. She served as a TA in the course Biology of Mental Disorders, and won the Edward Peck Curtis teaching award in 2016. Aleta has now moved to her postdoctoral position with Dr. Walter Low at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Peter Shrager presented the prize at the annual neuroscience retreat on Friday, April 12.

Women of invention: How Rochester faculty find success as patent-holders

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

They create novel devices that enable real-time biopsies, light the way for robotic surgery, and help independent-minded teens manage their asthma.

They develop new technologies to target the delivery of drug therapies with unprecedented accuracy, to help stroke victims regain their sight, and to vaccinate people with a simple, wearable skin patch that could have global impact.

Lisa Beck, Danielle Benoit, Paula Doyle, Hykekyun Rhee, Krystel Huxlin, and Jannick Rolland are among the women inventors who have placed the University of Rochester in an enviable position.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, Rochester ranked fourth among US universities during 2011–2015 for the percentage of patent holders who are women.

Read More: Women of invention: How Rochester faculty find success as patent-holders