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Director’s Channel – December 2019

Paul Katz, IONs Director

It’s the end of the year already and, depending on who you ask, the end of the decade. Time to take stock of the last year in UMass Neurosciences. Check out the highlights from 2019. It’s been a very successful year with many amazing discoveries and awards. This year IONs focused on creating bridges between Neuroscience and Engineering. We hope to continue to build those bonds as we look for opportunities to cooperate. Please take a moment to fill out this short survey regarding Neurotechnology collaborations.

The coming year has some exciting events including the annual Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Conference on May 11th, which will feature Thomas Sudhof as the keynote speaker. The focus this year is on “Neural Connectivity: from Synapses to Behavior”. Other events will be announced in the new year so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the beginning of the winter season here in New England.


2019 Year in Review

Here are some of the 2019 highlights from the
UMass Initiative on Neurosciences.

The Annual UMass Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Conference in May focused on Neuroengineering and featured a Lifetime Achievement. The Conference was preceded by a Workshop on Methods for Systems Neuroscience and Neurotechnology. Neuroengineering and Neurotechnology were a theme this year with three seed grants being awarded for collaborations involving new technology.

The Neuroscience and Behavior Graduate program welcomed a large class of talented students, who got to participate in the Fall Retreat. Several students and post-docs were awarded NIH Fellowships this year including Andrea Silva-Gotay, Emily Rothwell, and Jeremy Spool.

Several new faculty Neuroscience Faculty have arrived at UMass in 2019 including Sarah Pallas and Amanda Woerman. Ilia Karatoreos is about land here in January.

Renovations are now complete on the new Neuroscience Wing of the Morrill Science Center. It features eight faculty laboratories, a conference room, and shared facilities. Check out the cool video! People will start moving into the space in 2020.

We had many great speakers in the Spring and Fall Neuroscience Distinguished Lecture Series. Look for more coming up in 2020.

A full house attended Ed Boyden’s recent Distinguished Lecture



UMass Neurosciences Publications – November 2019

This month’s featured researcher is Guangyu Xu. Guangyu is an assistant professor in the the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering. He was recently appointed to the Dev and Linda Gupta Professorship. Guangyu joined UMass in 2016, before which he was a postdoc at MIT with Ed Boyden, who presented the November Neuroscience Distinguished Lecture. Guangyu runs the Integrated Nanobiotechnology Laboratory, which builds tools for subcellular molecular detection that have important uses in Neuroscience. His most recent paper in iScience demonstrates a technology for optogenetic control of intracellular calcium dynamics using micro-LEDs, which may allow for more efficient pharmaceutical screening of drugs and fundamental studies on a variety of cell networks.

Here’s what else is new for ‘ ”University of Massachusetts” AND Amherst AND neuroscience’ in PubMed. These publications appeared on line in November. They are just a fraction of the research that occurs on campus. Continue reading


Student spotlight – Sarah Winokur

Neuroscience and Behavior PhD student, Sarah Winokur, received three awards to support her dissertation research: The Dissertation Fellowship from the Center for Research on Families, The Psychological and Brain Sciences Department’s Rayner Memorial Fund Award, and The UMass Amherst Graduate School’s Dissertation Research Grant. Sarah is in her 5th year of the NSB program, working on her dissertation under the guidance of Dr. Mariana Pereira to explore the neurobiological underpinnings of disturbances to maternal behavior. This funding will help support studies that specifically investigate neurogenetic and hormonal factors that contribute to deficits in maternal behavior, cognition, and motivation. Long term, Sarah aims to work in academia where she can continue researching social relationships and how they impacted by depression and anxiety at the neurobiological level, while also sharing her love for neuroscience with students and through outreach.


UMass Neurosciences Publications – Sept 2019

This month’s featured researcher is Eric Bittman. Eric is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biology. His lab studies the molecular and neural bases for circadian rhythms. His most recent paper appears in the Journal of Biological Rhythms. He recently showed how certain gene alleles alter the function of the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus in ways that may contribute to changes in circadian rhythms.

Here’s what else is new for ‘ ”University of Massachusetts” AND Amherst AND neuroscience’ in PubMed. These publications appeared on line in September. They are just a fraction of the research that occurs on campus. Continue reading


Andrea Silva-Gotay awarded D-SPAN NIH award

Neuroscience and Behavior graduate student Andrea Silva-Gotay was awarded the NIH Blueprint Diversity Specialized Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Advancement in Neuroscience (D-SPAN) Award. She was one of eleven awardees picked from a nationwide pool of applicants. This grant will support the completion of Silva-Gotay’s doctoral dissertation in the Richardson lab for up to 2 years as well as the transition to a neuroscience postdoctoral research position for up to 4 years. Continue reading


Emily Rothwell awarded NIH postdoc fellowship

Postdoctoral associate Emily Rothwell was awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein
National Research Service Award (NRSA) from the National Institutes of
Health (NIH) to investigate preclinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease,
including sleep, altered emotion regulation, and cognitive decline.
Rothwell conducts her research in the lab of Agnes Lacreuse with a non-human
primate model that naturally develops Alzheimer’s-like neuropathology
during aging. Continue reading


UMass Neurosciences Publications – August 2019

This month’s featured researcher is Dr. Rebecca Ready. Dr. Ready is a professor and Director of Clinical Training in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. She works on the assessment of emotion regulation in healthy aging adults and in clinical populations, including Mild Cognitive Impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, and Huntington’s disease. She studies emotion reactions in the lab and in daily life and is interested in how individual differences, such as executive functions, memory, and personality affect emotion regulation outcomes.  She is a member of the Center for Research on Families and the Center for Personalized Health Medicine. She has had 5 papers appear recently in PubMed (see below).

Here’s what else is new for ‘ ”University of Massachusetts” AND Amherst AND neuroscience’ in PubMed. These publications appeared on line in August. They are just a fraction of the research that occurs on campus. Continue reading


The NSB Program Retreat

The Neuroscience and Behavior Program had a fun and productive retreat. Students, postdocs, and faculty met at an idyllic spot in Vermont where they shared a day of discussions about student and post-doc success and how to navigate a life in science. There was a fun Minute of Science competition, where contestants gave a 60 second talk and were judged on arbitrary criteria. Faculty then headed out while students continued to commune over the next day. Here are some images from Melise Edwards.



Lacreuse studying a natural model of Alzheimer’s disease

Dr. Agnes Lacreuse is giving Fitbits and touchscreens to small monkeys called marmosets to observe their activity and cognitive decline as they age. This might give her information about the progression of the devastating Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in humans, for which there is no treatment even after decades of research. New animal models are being developed to address the failures of past research conducted almost exclusively on mice. Lacreuse is taking a more natural approach. Continue reading