Student Spotlight – Parag Juvale

This month’s student spotlight is on Parag Juvale, an MCB student in Dr. Sarah Pallas’s lab. Parag recently received 2 awards to support his research: The Sigma Xi Grants in Aid of Research (GIAR) and The UMass Amherst Graduate School’s Pre-Dissertation Research Grant. His research interests broadly include using biochemistry and molecular biology techniques to investigate the cellular signaling pathways underlying activity-dependent brain plasticity, and in his current work, these grants will help him investigate the synaptic factors that lead to visual plasticity during adulthood.

After completing his B.Sc. in Microbiology in Pune, India, Parag earned a M.Sc. in Cancer Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Leicester, where he completed his M.Sc. thesis at the Medical Research Council (MRC)’s Toxicology Unit, Leicester, U.K. Parag worked for a few years in India before moving to Georgia State University for his Ph.D. and later transferring to UMass Amherst in 2019 with Dr. Pallas. In the coming year, he looks forward to completing his dissertation research and preparing for what is next. Parag aims to work in academia long-term where he will continue researching the cellular mechanisms underlying activity-dependent plasticity.

On behalf of the IONs community, congratulation to Parag!

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Dr. Agnes Lacreuse named 2022 Public Engagement Faculty Fellow

Dr. Lacreuse is a professor in the Psychological and Brain Sciences graduate program and head of the Hormones and Cognition Lab. She studies age-related cognitive decline in nonhuman primates to improve understanding of human aging and Alzheimer’s disease. As a Public Engagement Project (PEP) Fellow, she plans to develop strategies to inform the public and policymakers about the critical importance of animal research for medical advances. Dr. Lacreuse also plans to advocate for more research transparency to help the public understand the facts about humane and ethical animal research.

The UMass Amherst Public Engagement Project is a collaboration between the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR) and the Center for Research on Families (CRF). The PEP Faculty Fellowship has been made possible by funding from the UMass College of Education, College of Engineering, College of Humanities and Fine Arts, College of Natural Sciences, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, School of Public Health and Health Sciences, Office of the Provost, University Relations, as well as the collaborating centers and institutes. There were eight faculty members named as Fellows in the 8th cohort this year. Fellows will receive a stipend and training in communicating about research outside of an academic setting. This project encourages communication and collaboration between researchers, journalists, lawmakers in Congress and the State House and practitioners not involved in academia.

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New neuroscience journal club focused on movement and neurodegenerative disorders

When: Friday, March 18, 2022 (ongoing one Friday per month)
2-3pm
Where: Zoom
Contact: Douglas Martini (dmartini@umass.edu)

The UMass Intercampus Movement and Neurodegenerative Disorders Interest Group is an intercampus collaboration aimed at creating a forum for research talk on movement and neurodegenerative disorders. Current attendees include folks from UMass Med, Lowell, and Amherst. We encourage participation (including presenting your work) from a wide range of disciplines, support students/trainees (presentation practice) and advance collaborations. We currently meet (Zoom) once a month on Fridays from 2-3pm. The next scheduled meeting is for March 18th. If you are interested in participating in the Interest Group or have follow-up questions, please contact Douglas Martini (dmartini@umass.edu).

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UMass Neurosciences Publications – February 2022

Gerry Downes

This month’s featured researcher, Dr. Gerald Downes, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology. Gerry is also the Director of the Summer Program in Neuroscience, Excellence and Success (SPINES) at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. His lab uses zebrafish to study the neurogenetics underlying locomotor behavior and epilepsy. This month a paper from his lab appeared in the journal Genetics in which they used CRISPR-Cas9 to mutate GABA-A receptor subunit genes to see their effects on swimming behavior. The first author on the study, was NSB student Wayne Barnaby.

Here’s what else is new for ‘ ”University of Massachusetts” AND Amherst AND neuroscience’ in PubMed. These publications appeared online in February. They are just a fraction of the neuroscience research that occurs on campus. You can click on the PubMed ID to find the publication.

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Director’s Channel – February 2022

Paul Katz

Regardless of what some groundhog might have seen today, I’m convinced that spring is around the corner. There is so much activity in the Neurosciences that I can feel the community coming back alive after the isolation of the pandemic. This month, Guoping Feng, the Director of the McGovern Institute at MIT will deliver the first in-person Distinguished Neuroscience Lecture in almost two years. Plans are underway to once again hold a UMass Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Conference. This year, the theme will be Neuroscience and AI, which is emerging as an important intersectional field. I am really pleased to announce the Inspiration Awards, which is an opportunity for graduate students and postdocs to propose research that reaches across neuroscience, engineering, and computer science. UMass has tremendous untapped potential. It is our premise that the trainees can help lead the way to future collaborations. Yes, spring is in the air even if there is snow on the ground.

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UMass Neurosciences Publications – January 2022

Jennifer Rauch

This month’s featured researcher is Jennifer Rauch. Jennifer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology. Her primary research centers on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that contribute to diseases associated with protein misfolding and aggregation, particularly neurodegenerative tau protein. Her lab examines the spread of tau and inflammatory mechanisms in microglia and astrocytes. In addition, she has a recent publication in JAMA comparing screening methods for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome resulting from Coronavirus.

Here’s what else is new for ‘ ”University of Massachusetts” AND Amherst AND neuroscience’ in PubMed. These publications appeared online in January. They are just a fraction of the neuroscience research that occurs on campus. You can click on the PubMed ID to find the publication.

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Inspiration Awards for Neuroscience and Technology

The Initiative on Neurosciences is pleased to announce Inspiration Awards for Neuroscience & Technology to support UMass graduate students and postdoctoral researchers proposing research at the interface of neuroscience and either engineering or computer sciences.

Funding amount: Up to $10,000 for single trainee awards and up to $15,000 for collaborative awards involving two or more trainees.
Funding is available for up to 8 awards.

The proposal must be for research that incorporates new methodologies or employs existing methodologies in new ways to address problems in neuroscience or problems inspired by neuroscience. This includes, but is not limited to, novel ways of collecting, analyzing, or modeling data.

Deadline for application, March 25, 2022

Proposals will be judged on the following criteria:
1) Creativity
2) Feasibility
3) Integration of neuroscience with engineering or computer sciences.

Considerations will be made to allocate awards broadly to across neuroscience, engineering, and computer science as well as demographically to broaden participation of women and under-represented groups. Demographic information will be collected separately and not available to the review panel.

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Director’s Channel – January 2022

Paul Katz
IONs director, Paul Katz

The 19th century physicist, Johann Philipp Gustav von Jolly, is quoted as telling Max Planck “…in this field, almost everything is already discovered, and all that remains is to fill a few unimportant holes.” Ironically, Planck’s work would help move the field from Newtonian dynamics to Quantum physics. I am fond of saying that neuroscience is in its Newtonian phase; we know all of the parts and how they work. We can explain how photons excite opsins in photoreceptors and how retinal ganglion cells convey the information to the thalamus and how it is transformed in cortex. We know how shapes and colors are encoded by the firing of particular neurons in particular parts of the brain. But we fail to have an explanation about how that activity causes you to have the experience you are having. We don’t know why red has a different quality from blue.

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Student Spotlight – Kyle Kainec

Kyle Kainec with his family

Kyle Kainec is a 5th year NSB student in the Somneuro Lab led by Dr. Rebecca Spencer. His research interests broadly include using advanced neuroimaging tools and analysis techniques to investigate the intersection of sleep and memory consolidation. In 2021, Kyle co-authored 4 publications, received a Graduate School Dissertation Research Grant, and nearly submitted the first manuscript of his dissertation work investigating sleep-dependent associated memory consolidation in young adults. Kyle’s first, first author publication, titled “Age-related changes in sleep-dependent novel word consolidation”, was recently published in Acta Psychologica and contributes growing evidence that encoding strength is crucially important to understand the expression of sleep-dependent benefits in older adults. In the coming year, he looks forward to completing his dissertation work, expanding his industry involvement, and preparing for what is next. On behalf of the NSB community, congratulations to Kyle!

Publication: Kainec, K. A., Paracha, A. W., Ali, S., Bussa, R., Mantua, J., & Spencer, R. (2022). Age-related changes in sleep-dependent novel word consolidation. Acta psychologica, 222, 103478.

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UMass Amherst is home to new collaborative Center on AI, Aging, and Alzheimer’s

Deepak Ganesan

UMass Amherst and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have just announced a new collaborative Center with a goal to improve in-home care for aging adults and patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The Massachusetts AI and Technology Center for Connected Care in Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease (MassAITC) aims to apply groundbreaking research and innovation to real world problems associated with in-home patient care. The center is meant to be a research accelorator– to bring projects that are still in the lab and transition them to the field. The $20 million grant over 5 years awarded to MassAITC, is funded by the National Institute on Aging which is a part of the National Institute of Health.

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