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!

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Student Spotlight – Annabelle Flores-Bonilla

Annabelle Flores-Bonilla is a 2nd year student in the NSB program in Dr. Heather Richardson’s lab. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico in 2019. Annabelle was a fellow in the UMass Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP), which is funded by the National Institutes of Health. As a PREP student, she started a project studying sex differences in alcohol drinking behavior, which was recently published in the journal Biology Sex Differences.

Publication: Flores-Bonilla A, De Oliveria B, Silva-Gotay, A, Lucier KW, Richardson HN (2021). Shortening time for access to alcohol drives up front-loading behavior, bringing consumption in male rats to the level of females. Biology of Sex Differences.12, 51

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UMass Neurosciences Publications – September, October 2021

The featured researcher is Heather Richardson, who is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. Heather’s lab studies the neurobiology of stress and addiction. They have two papers that just appeared in Pubmed authored by two of her graduate students in the Neuroscience & Behavior graduate program. Andrea Silva-Gotay is the first author on a paper published in the journal Neuropharmacology that examines the effect of alcohol on Interleukin-1 beta and Toll-like receptor 4 gene expression in adolescent rats. The other paper is authored by Annabelle Flores-Bonilla, a 2nd year PhD student, who is featured in the Student spotlight this month.

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

Paul Katz, IONs Director

Excuse me, it’s been a while since I have written; there have been technical difficulties in putting out the newsletter. But frankly, I was feeling malaise after the initial hope in June that the pandemic was over. I’m allowing myself to feel hopeful again as the case numbers continue to decrease and the vaccination rate continues to rise. We are having in-person seminars again and it feels great to be in the presence of people and have those little unplanned conversations, which are so important in science. To help those along, I’m excited that we’ll be hosting an Interdisciplinary Neuroscience, Computer Science, & Engineering Poster Conference on Tuesday, November 2nd. Researchers from three colleges will be meeting and sharing their work and getting to know one another to build collaborations. Much of the future of neuroscience lies in collaborative team science that incorporates the skills and expertise of computer scientists and engineers. To build the bridges across disciplines, we have started a series of faculty forums to allow faculty meet and find the threads that can be woven together into new and interesting patterns. I’m excited to see what new ideas emerge from these.

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UMass Neurosciences Publications – Summer 2021

Richard Van Emmerik

This summer’s featured researcher is Professor Richard Van Emmerik, who is chair of the Department of Kinesiology in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences. Richard’s lab works on human motor control. They apply dynamical systems theory to understand the control and coordination of human movement and posture. This summer, they published results of their research in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders in a paper titled, “Non-ambulatory measures of lower extremity sensorimotor function are associated with walking function in Multiple Sclerosis

Here’s what else is new for ‘ ”University of Massachusetts” AND Amherst AND neuroscience’ in PubMed. These publications appeared on line in June, July, and August. 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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Mélise Edwards awarded HHMI Gilliam fellowship

Congratulations to Mélise Edwards and Agnès Lacreuse on being awarded the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Gilliam Fellowship! This award is given to outstanding graduate students and their advisers with the goal of supporting students from underrepresented groups in their pursuit in preparing for leadership roles in scientific fields, particularly with a focus on advancing diversity and inclusion in the sciences.

Only 50 pairs of students and their advisers were selected for the 2021 Gilliam Fellowship program. They span 38 academic institutions across the country with research ranging from life sciences to biomed.

Through this Fellowship Mélise and Professor Lacreuse have leadership and research training opportunities, with a focus on inclusion and cultural awareness with monthly online training sessions, two in-person workshops in Maryland, and an annual meeting of all Fellows and their advisers. They will also receive $50,000 per year up to 3 years. To be eligible for the program, Fellows must be enrolled in their 2nd or 3rd year of a PhD program in biomedical or life sciences, be from a racial, ethnic or other underrepresented group, and demonstrate a commitment to furthering inclusion and diversity in the field of science.

The NSB community is proud and excited and extends a group congratulations to both Mélise and Agnès!

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ChangHui Pak and Gerry Downes awarded the Armstrong Fund for Science

The Armstrong Fund for Science was established in 2006 by benefactors John and Elizabeth Armstrong to help research projects gain more ground before they are eligible for traditional grants. The 2021 award was given to Biology’s Gerald Downes, and MCB’s ChangHui Pak for their collaborative research into the disruption of brain development by the mutation of a gene, TBCK. Mutations of the gene cause a rare condition called TBCK Syndrome. Professors Pak and Downes will receive funding of $40,000 for 2 years for the preliminary research needed to prepare for a larger research project.

ChangHui and Gerry hope to learn more about how the mutations in the TBCK gene cause the debilitating syndrome which leads to a high rate of mortality in children and adolescents with progressive loss of muscle tone, intellectual disability, and drug-resistant epilepsy among some of the symptoms. The collaboration will involve the zebrafish that the Downes Lab has already engineered with TBCK syndrome. Pak will be using pluripotent stem cells that will be engineered with the mutations specific to TBCK syndrome, grow them into neurons and compare the mutated cells with healthy cells. They are both excited to work together learning from each model.

The entire neuroscience community extends an enthusiastic congratulations and will look forward to seeing the progress!

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UMass Neurosciences Publications – May 2021

Qiangfei Xia

This month’s featured researcher is Qiangfei Xia, who is a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Qiangfei works in the area of nanoelectronics. His research group is developing energy-efficient hardware systems for machine intelligence, security, sensing and communication. He is an author on a paper that recently appeared in Frontiers in Nanotechnology, “Engineering Tunneling Selector to Achieve High Non-linearity for 1S1R Integration“, which describes technology to increase the density-packing of memristors, which can act like artificial synapses.

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

Paul Katz
Paul Katz, IONs Director

As the semester draws to a close, we are starting to think about a non-virtual world again. Over half the population of Massachusetts has now received at least one dose of the vaccine. UMass will be requiring all students to be vaccinated before returning in the fall when classes will once again be face-to-face. I am looking forward to seeing students and colleagues again. However, I hope that the “normal” that we return to after the pandemic is a more enlightened one than the one we had before.

It has been a very difficult year with the pandemic, the insurrection at the Capitol, and the public murder of George Floyd and other people of color. The continued trauma from structural racism led to a groundswell of activism this year. Here at UMass, NSB student Wayne Barnaby helped lead that activism, by initiating a petition to the administration. He was recognized for his leadership by a College Award for Excellence. NSB faculty member Karine Fénelon was also recognized with this award for the leadership role that she played this year in the racial reckoning on campus. I wish that they did not need to devote energy to this issue; I wish that we could be celebrating their science instead of their activism. But, this important work is what will lead us to a new, more enlightened “normal”.

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