Skip to main content
Explore URMC

URMC Logo

menu
URMC / Department of Neuroscience / Department News

News

20182017201620152014 Archive

Subscribe to Neuroscience LISTSERV

In The News: URMC utilizes motion capture technology to study brain, how it ages

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The following article originally appeared on WHAM 13:

Rochester, N.Y. – From Hollywood to Healthcare: Technology used to make movies is being used at the University of Rochester Medical Center to help scientists understand the brain and how it ages.

What researchers learn could help predict a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

13WHAM watched researchers in the Mobile Brain Body Imaging – or MoBi – Lab attach wires to a cap covered in electrodes. The cap picks up the brain wave activity of a volunteer, while infrared cameras surrounding him pick up how his body moves on a treadmill.

This lab is one of 12 around the world combining motion capture technology with brain scans used in real time.

“What we’re saying is: Let’s get people up, let’s get them in a walking situation where they’re solving a task, where we can kind of stress them a bit, and then we can ask, ‘How’s the brain working under duress?’ explained Dr. John Foxe, director of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience. “And that gives us a window into function, maybe like a neural stress test, akin to the cardiac stress test.”

Armed with that information, doctors hope to one day be able to predict a person’s dementia risk a decade before symptoms show up. It can also help give us clues about a person’s risk of falling as they get older.

“We all see it,” said Dr. Foxe. “In certain folks, as they get older, you start to worry about them. You can see their gait and posture is deteriorating, and you know that they’re not as sharp, that they’re not able to flip their mind from one task to the other.”

He added, “The number one killer of people over the age of 65 in the U.S. is falls, not heart disease or cancer. Those are very important issues, but simply falling down, and you end up in the hospital, you end up with a secondary infection; we all know this story.”

But the story doesn’t have to end that way. The work being done is still very much experimental, but researchers feel confident the information could – within a decade, possibly – end up at a doctor’s office near you.

The technology will also help doctors understand other conditions, like autism and Parkinson’s. The hope is that, one day, this technology will be wearable, so patients won’t have to go into a lab.

Researchers are looking for volunteers. If you’re interested, call 275-1674.

Read More: In The News: URMC utilizes motion capture technology to study brain, how it ages

Study: Neurons in the Brain Work as a Team to Guide Movement of Arms, Hands

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Hands waving in the skyThe apparent simplicity of picking up a cup of coffee or turning a doorknob belies the complex sequence of calculations and processes that the brain must undergo to identify the location of an item in space, move the arm and hand toward it, and shape the fingers to hold or manipulate the object. New research, published today in the journal Cell Reports, reveals how the nerve cells responsible for motor control modify their activity as we reach and grasp for objects. These findings upend the established understanding of how the brain undertakes this complex task and could have implications for the development of neuro-prosthetics.

“This study shows that activity patterns in populations of neurons shift progressively during the course of a single movement,” said Marc Schieber, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Neurology and the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience and a co-author of the study. “Interpreting these shifts in activity that allow groups of neurons to work together to perform distinctive and precise movements is the first step in understanding how to harness this information for potential new therapies.”

Read More: Study: Neurons in the Brain Work as a Team to Guide Movement of Arms, Hands

Ed Brown works with Marvin Doyley on Tissue Stiffness is a Mosh Pit Where Cancer Cells Thrive

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Imagine being at a packed concert hall with a mosh pit full of dancers creating a wall against outsiders. When targeted drugs try to make their way toward a pancreas tumor, they encounter a similar obstacle in stiff tissue that surrounds and protects the cancer.

A new University of Rochester study demonstrates how imaging technology can be used to accurately measure tissue stiffness — thereby predicting the likelihood that drugs will be able get through to the tumor and guide drug penetration.

“Being able to ‘see’ stiff tissue in the tumor microenvironment is a detection strategy that could help oncologists plan treatments for their patients and monitor progress,” said senior author Marvin Doyley, Ph.D.

A medical physicist and associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, Doyley is collaborating with David Linehan, M.D., director of clinical operations at UR Medicine’s Wilmot Cancer Institute, and a surgeon/scientist who also has a special interest in pancreatic cancer. For years Linehan has been investigating the critical role the microenvironment plays in promoting pancreas tumors, and he has designed clinical trials for drugs that stimulate the immune system to attack pancreas tumors.

Their collaboration recognizes that chemotherapy followed by surgery is currently the best treatment, and therefore reducing tissue stiffness is critical for that goal.

Doyley and Linehan are seeking funding to continue the investigation in humans. They would like to confirm that ultrasound technology can be used effectively to guide drug delivery; their team is also working with Wilmot scientist Edward Brown, Ph.D., an associate professor of Biomedical Engineering, who studies the collagen-rich fibers near tumors that contribute to tissue stiffness and cancer metastasis.

Read More: Ed Brown works with Marvin Doyley on Tissue Stiffness is a Mosh Pit Where Cancer Cells Thrive

How well can you walk, think at same time? URMC uses ability to predict Alzheimer's risk

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Neuroscientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center want to find out whether older adults who struggle to do both at once might be at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers recently started using motion capture technology — what’s used to get the realistic movements in sports video games — and recording brain activity to see at what point communication from the brain to the muscles breaks down. They want to know what that means for someone still trying to function in the everyday world.

 

The technology can be applied to autism, traumatic brain injury, concussion, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or Parkinson’s disease. Right now, the focus is Alzheimer’s, which is the sixth leading cause of death nationwide. According to a 2017 report from the state Department of Health, nearly 400,000 New Yorkers had Alzheimer's disease. The figure was expected to be 460,000 by 2025. There is no cure for the disease, but the goal of researchers is to predict who might be at risk so that treatments start earlier and slow the progression of Alzheimer's.

Researchers in the Ernest J. Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience are enrolling three groups of older adults — those who are healthy, those with cognitive impairment and those with Alzheimer’s — to determine whether they can predict someone’s risk of developing the disease. At some point, the technology could be used to track the effectiveness of treatment.

 

Moving targets

Most brain activity is measured when a person is still — either lying in an MRI tube or sitting in chair.

“That’s not what human beings do most of the time,” said John Foxe, director of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience. “We like to think that people will get up and move around, and of course that’s when people run into problems."

He gave the examples of someone with Alzheimer's who gets lost, a child with autism who has poor motor skills or a person who had a stroke and can't walk. "A lot of the things that happen to people because of brain dysfunction happen to them while they're walking around and trying to do stuff.”

He said researchers have been working on new ways to image and record brain activity to see where things go wrong, and what can be done about it. Hence, the brain stress test of walking and doing a mental task at the same time.

Foxe said the Cognitive Neurophysiology Lab of the Del Monte Institute is one of few labs in the world using mobile brain/body imaging, called MoBI. The lab receives funding from the National Institutes of Health, and the technology is open source, meaning URMC researchers will share it with scientists elsewhere.

Over the past 10 years, URMC has been involved in 86 research projects into understanding, diagnosing and treating Alzheimer's, according to the university. Total funding for the projects exceeded $33 million.

Two things at once

Current MSTP (MD/PhD) student, David Richardson, who works with study volunteers, cited scientific literature when he said people with Alzheimer’s can struggle with doing a physical and cognitive task at the same time.

“What happens if you ask somebody with Alzheimer’s to walk and talk?” said Richardson, a medical student and doctoral candidate in the medical scientist training program. “If they want to talk, they stop walking. If they want to walk, they stop talking.”

They may do it subconsciously as a way to keep their focus on one task at a time. By asking study participants to do simultaneous physical and mental tasks, the researchers are looking for clues about what happens when a person perceives one of the tasks as difficult.

Read More: How well can you walk, think at same time? URMC uses ability to predict Alzheimer's risk

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

Peering Into What Goes Awry in Schizophrenia

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Photo of David Dodell-Feder behind fMRI machine

David Dodell-Feder, an assistant professor in the Department of Clinical & Social Sciences in Psychology, uses neuroimaging and MRI scanners in his studies on cognitive functioning in people with schizophrenia. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Personable, with a self-deprecating humor, David Dodell-Feder undertakes research that belies his easy-going manner. A new assistant professor in the University’s psychology department with a secondary appointment in neuroscience, he studies the processes that underlie how humans navigate the social world and how those processes go awry in people with schizophrenia.

Every human’s physical and mental constitution demands social connection and social contact, but “large numbers of people don’t have that social connection and therefore don’t get to reap the benefits of having close social relationships,” says Dodell-Feder. That’s why people with schizophrenia have trouble forming, establishing, and maintaining healthy social relationships, romantic relationships, and relationships at work.

Read More: Peering Into What Goes Awry in Schizophrenia

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

Farran Briggs Publication Highlighted by Journal of Neurophysiology

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Journal of Neurophysiology highlighted Farran's paper "Dynamic communication of attention signals between the LGN and V1" in their Twitter feed.

They showcased the fact that the authors found that attentional modulation of visual information communication was not static, but dynamic over the time course of trials.

Well done Farran!

Read More: Farran Briggs Publication Highlighted by Journal of Neurophysiology

Professor Carney will speak at Rochester Science Cafe

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Professor Laurel Carney will be speaking at the Rochester Science Cafe at the Pittsford Barnes & Noble on Tuesday, October 23 at 7pm. She will be speaking in the community room on the topic, “‘What?’ How Hearing Loss Affects Speech Perception.” Science Cafes are interactive events involving face-to-face conversations with leading scientists about relevant current topics. For more information, visit sciencecaferochester.blogspot.com.

Professors Anne Luebke and Ross Maddox receive NSF award

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

BME Professors Anne Luebke and Ross Maddox along with Co-PI Elizabeth Marvin (Eastman School of Music) have received an award from the National Science Foundation for their project, "NeuroDataRR. Collaborative Research: Testing the relationship between musical training and enhanced neural coding and perception in noise.” This is a collaborative effort involving several universities: University of Minnesota (Dr. Andrew Oxenham, Lead PI), Purdue University, Carnegie Mellon University, Boston University, University of Western Ontario, and the University of Rochester.

This project will determine whether formal musical training is associated with enhanced neural processing and perception of sounds, including speech in noisy backgrounds. Music forms an important part of the lives of millions of people around the world, and it is one of the few universals shared by all known human cultures. Yet its utility and potential evolutionary advantages remain a mystery. This project will test the hypothesis that early musical exposure has benefits that extend beyond music to critical aspects of human communication, such as speech perception in noise. In addition, this project will test whether early musical training is associated with less severe effects of ageing on the ability to understand speech in noisy backgrounds. Degraded ability to understand speech in noise is a common complaint among older listeners, and one that can have a profound impact on quality of life, as has been shown by the associations between hearing loss, social isolation, and more rapid cognitive and health declines. If formal musical training is shown to be associated with improved perception and speech communication in later life, the outcomes could have a potentially major impact on many aspects of public and educational policy.

UR Medicine Unveils Upstate New York’s First Mobile Stroke Unit

Thursday, September 27, 2018

mobile stroke photo 2

 

Next month, UR Medicine will begin operation of a Mobile Stroke Unit (MSU), a high-tech ‘emergency room on wheels’ that is designed to provide life-saving care to stroke victims. The $1 million unit will be operated in partnership with AMR as a community resource and represents a significant step forward for stroke care in the Rochester region.

While the MSU resembles an ambulance on the outside, inside it contains highly specialized staff, equipment, and medications used to diagnose and treat strokes. The unit is equipped with a portable CT scanner that is capable of imaging the patient’s brain to detect the type of stroke they are experiencing. The scans and results from a mobile lab on the unit are wirelessly transmitted to UR Medicine stroke specialists at Strong Memorial Hospital, who will consult with the on board EMS staff via telemedicine and decide if they can begin treatment immediately on scene.

If it is determined that the patient is experiencing an ischemic stroke – which account for approximately 90 percent of all strokes – the MSU team can administer the drug tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) to attempt to break up the clot in the patient’s brain. While en route to the hospital, UR Medicine specialists will continue to remotely monitor and assess the patient’s symptoms.

“The UR Medicine Mobile Stroke Unit essentially brings the hospital to the patient,” said neurosurgeon Tarun Bhalla, M.D., Ph.D., with the UR Medicine Comprehensive Stroke Center. “This unit will improve care and outcomes by shortening the gap between diagnosis and treatment and enable us to initiate care before the patient reaches the hospital.”

It is estimated that 3,000 people in Monroe County suffer from a stroke every year. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and the number one cause of long-term disability in the U.S. However, if caught early, many stroke victims can make a full recovery.

“Ten years ago we realized there was an epidemic of stroke in our community which resulted in tremendous human suffering and health care costs,” said Web Pilcher, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the UR Medicine Department of Neurosurgery. “We decided to embark on a long-term plan to provide the best stroke care in upstate New York. The Mobile Stroke Unit represents the next evolution in that effort and places Rochester among an elite list of communities with this cutting-edge technology.”

mobile stroke photo 1

 

The current best treatment for stroke is tPA. But in order to work properly, the drug must be given within four and half hours of the first stroke symptoms. Depending upon the circumstances, doctors may also elect to perform a minimally invasive endovascular surgical procedure that involves threading a catheter through the blood vessels and physically removing the obstruction in the brain. The capabilities provided by the MSU to diagnose, start treatment, and prepare hospital staff to receive the patient before they arrive at the emergency department will save lives and improve chances of recovery.

“In stroke care, time equals brain,” said neurologist Curtis Benesch, M.D., M.P.H., with the UR Medicine Comprehensive Stroke Center. “The approximately 30 minutes that could be saved by the Mobile Stroke Unit by starting treatment before a stroke patient reaches the hospital could mean the difference between the recovery of function or a lifetime of impairment.”

“Patients who receive tPA sooner are more likely to go home and retain the ability to walk and care for themselves,” said Bob Holloway, M.D., M.P.H., chair of the UR Medicine Department of Neurology. “The Mobile Stroke Unit will improve outcomes for stroke victims in our community and, because people with less disability use fewer health care resources, lower costs in the long term.”

The unit is owned by UR Medicine and will be operated by AMR. The MSU will be staffed by a UR Medicine nurse trained in stroke care and a CT technician, an AMR paramedic and emergency medical technician, and remotely by a stroke specialist at UR Medicine.

The construction and operating costs of the unit, which was custom built by Frazer Ltd. in Houston, are being funded by UR Medicine and philanthropy, including a lead gift from Elena Prokupets and support from the Del Monte family and other donors in the Rochester community.

“We are extremely grateful to Elena for her gift to the School of Medicine and Dentistry, which has made it possible to bring this life saving technology to Rochester,” said Mark Taubman, M.D., CEO of the University of Rochester Medical Center. “Her generosity, along with the support of many others, has provided us the resources to invest in the infrastructure, technology, and clinical talent necessary to provide the most advanced stroke care to our community.”

The MSU is part of a broader UR Medicine initiative to bring state-of-the-art stroke care to the region. This includes Strong Memorial Hospital’s designation as the region’s only Comprehensive Stroke Center by the Joint Commission, a certification that indicates that the hospital either meets or exceeds the highest standards of care required to provide timely, advanced, and coordinated care to patients with cerebrovascular disease, and the Neuromedicine Intensive Care Unit, a 12-bed ICU that provides care to critically ill patients with complex neurological life threating illnesses such as stroke. UR Medicine stroke specialists also provide 24/7 consultation services for emergency department personnel in several hospitals in the region via telemedicine.

Eight years ago, UR Medicine, in partnership with the Greater Rochester Health Foundation, created the Stroke Treatment Alliance of Rochester/New York (STAR-NY), to educate medical professionals and the broader community about stroke recognition and prevention.

Read More: UR Medicine Unveils Upstate New York’s First Mobile Stroke Unit

Neuroscience Faculty Awarded Grants

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Congratulations to Neuroscience faculty members Krishnan Padmanabhan for receiving the CAREER: Investigating how internal states, learning and memory shape olfactory coding grant from NSF and to Marc Schieber for his project Observation of Performance issued from DHHS/PHS/NIH.

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 Faculty Earn Awards at Convocation 2018

Friday, August 24, 2018

Faculty Teaching, Mentoring & Diversity Awards

Martha Gdowski and Sarah McConnell at URMC Convocation 2018

  • Martha J. Gdowski, PhD - Commendation for First Year Teaching, awarded by URSMD Class of 2021
  • Ania Majewska, PhD - Academic Mentoring Award for Trainees in Basic Science
  • Sarah E. McConnell, PhD - Manuel D. Goldman Prize for Excellence in First Year Teaching, awarded by URSMD Class of 2021
  • Sergiy M. Nadtochiy, PhD - Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Teaching, awarded by UR Medical Student Interclass Senate

Postdoctoral Achievement Awards

  • Kevin A. Mazurek, PhD (currently Research Professor in Dept. NS)

Congratulations everyone!!

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.

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!

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!

Kevin Mazurek Receives CTSI Career Development Award

Friday, June 15, 2018

The University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute has selected the recipients of its Career Development Award, which provides two years of support to help early career scientists transition to independent careers as clinical and translational investigators. This year’s awardees will study suicide prevention among Hispanic populations and how the brain controls voluntary movements.

Kevin A. Mazurek, research assistant professor of neuroscience, whose project is “Determining how Cortical Areas Communicate Information to Perform Voluntary Movements.” Mazurek, whose primary mentor is John Foxe, professor of neuroscience, received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Brown University in 2008 and his doctorate in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 2013. He studies the neural control of voluntary movements in order to develop rehabilitative solutions that can restore function to individuals with neurologic diseases by effectively bypassing impaired or damaged neural connections.

The Career Development program is supported by a KL2 award from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health. The UR CTSI Career Development Award Program releases its request for applications each September with applications due in November.

Read More: Kevin Mazurek Receives CTSI Career Development Award

Neuroscience Grad Student Awarded NIH Diversity Fellowship

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

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