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.


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.


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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UMass Neurosciences Publications – December 2021

Mary Harrington

This month’s featured researcher is Mary Harrington. Mary is the Tippit Professor in the Life Sciences at Smith College. She is an associate member of the UMass Neuroscience and Behavior Program. Her research focuses on circadian rhythms. She recently published a paper in the Journal of Biological Rhythms with collaborators at Amherst College and UMass Medical School using a Per2:Luciferase reporter to track circadian activity in freely-moving mice. The cross-institution collaborations point to the vibrant cooperative community of researchers in the 5-Colleges.

Here’s what else is new for ‘ ”University of Massachusetts” AND Amherst AND neuroscience’ in PubMed. These publications appeared online in December. 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 – December 2021

Paul Katz
Paul Katz, IONs Director

The Neuroscience community at UMass is coming back to life after isolation during the pandemic. It was great to see the breadth of research at the Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Poster Conference last month. As we approach 2022, my hope is that we can again have more in-person events. This fall, we held two faculty forums to identify and strengthen interdisciplinary neuroscience research. IONs will be awarding seed grants this year to pursue some of the research areas emerging from these meetings. Stay tuned for more information.

November 2021 Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Poster Conference.

UMass Neurosciences Publications – November 2021

Buju Dasgupta
Buju Dasgupta

This month’s featured researcher is Nilanjana “Buju” Dasgupta. Buju is a professor in Psychological & Brain Sciences and the Director of the Institute of Diversity Sciences. Her research focuses on implicit bias. Her recent publication in Cognitive Research: Principles & Implicatations, which was in collaboration with Dr. Lisa Sanders, is titled, “Anger, race, and the neurocognition of threat: attention, inhibition, and error processing during a weapon identification task.” This study has important implications for social justice. It uses measurements of neural activity to examine whether anger impacts threat assessment.

Here’s what else is new for ‘ ”University of Massachusetts” AND Amherst AND neuroscience’ in PubMed. These publications appeared online in November. 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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Karine Fenelon and David Moorman awarded collaborative research seed grant

The UMass Amherst ADVANCE program, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), began in 2018 to cultivate collaboration in science and engineering that furthers equity among faculty regardless of race, gender, or sexuality. One of three recent collaborative research seed grants was awarded to Dr. Karine Fenelon in Biology, and Dr. David Moorman in Psychological and Brain Sciences. The research project titled, Investigating Amygdala Circuit Dysfunctions in a Mouse Model Relevant to Schizophrenia aims to identify amygdala mechanisms that cause pre-pulse inhibition (PPI) deficits as promising drug targets, using a mouse model of schizophrenia. To do so, the team will perform in vitro (Fenelon group) and in vivo (Moorman group) electrophysiological recordings of neurons central to PPI. You can read more about Karine and David’s project, here. Congratulations to Karine and David!