Student Spotlight: Yanya Ding

Jul. 29, 2021
Yanya Ding headshot

Yanya Ding is starting her second year in the Neuroscience Graduate Program (NGP) at the Medical Center. Originally from China, she graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a B.S. in Neuroscience in 2019.

In June, Ding joined the Cognitive Neurophysiology Laboratory of John Foxe, Ph.D., and Ed Freedman, Ph.D., and she is also co-mentored by Kuan Hong Wang, Ph.D. Her current research is examining neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis – the underlying neural circuity of Batten disease. Using in vivo imaging, she is attempting to identify brain areas with ceroid accumulation and will compare MRIs and electroencephalograms (EEGs) between animal models and human scans.

Access to the University of Rochester Batten Center is invaluable to Ding’s research. “Having human patients report from that center and participate in our research raises the level of our understanding that we can’t get from just looking at animal models. This collaboration is a huge and important part of our research,” Ding said.

Batten disease affects at least one out of every 50,000 children in the United States, and can result in seizures, movement dysfunction, and cognitive impairment. The average life expectancy of someone diagnosed with the disease is less than 20 years. “I think it is really beneficial to study this disease and underlining process so we can help more people. There is much we do not understand about this disease, which gives me a lot of freedom to explore in my research,” Ding said.

Ding plans to continue to pursue research in an academic setting after graduation. She is looking forward to more in-person experiences and learning opportunities in the 2021- 2022 school year.