Director’s Channel – April 2020

Zoom screen shot of IONs Director Paul Katz

I am very proud of the way that UMass is working to keep people safe in this extraordinary time. For up-to-date information go to https://www.umass.edu/coronavirus. I am also thankful for the way that our neuroscience community is pulling together to maintain contact while remaining physical distant. Like everywhere else in the nation, classes, lab meetings, and seminars are being held by Zoom.  We have a Slack Workspace for people to contact each other (http://umassneuroscience.slack.com) including a channel to share COVID-19 information. NSB Students and postdocs have created structure in their lives by organizing accountability buddies (aka Accountabilibuddies) who check in on each other regularly.

It goes without saying that this pandemic is creating extraordinary suffering. It is likely to get worse before it gets better. Yes, it’s sad that research projects have been interrupted. Yes, it’s sad that conferences and seminars have been canceled, including our annual Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Conference. All of our Distinguished Neuroscience Lectures have been rescheduled for 2021. These cancellations and delays are essential measures to flatten the infection curve. Conferences will be rescheduled, life will pick up again on the other end of this calamity. As a privileged academic, I can safely stay at home and work on papers and grants. I have been encouraging my students to use this down time productively by reading the literature more deeply. It’s a chance to learn and think more thoroughly about their projects. I’m hoping that this enforced stop to lab work will result in better planned research going forward and more thorough understanding of the published literature.  Together, we will pull through as a community.

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UMass Neuroscience Publications – March 2020

This month’s featured researcher is Richard van Emmerick. Richard is a professor in the Department of Kinesiology in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences. His lab studies motor control and coordination, applying principles from complex and nonlinear dynamical systems to the study of posture and locomotion. More specifically, they examine mechanisms of balance and gait disorders due to aging and neurological disease, such as Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis (MS). This month, a publication of theirs appeared in PubMed related to MS patients.

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

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Director’s Channel – March 2020

IONs Director, Paul Katz

Wow, the breadth of neuroscience special events going on in March at UMass is astounding from Biomedical engineering to primate cognition. Leading off on March 2nd, we have Judson Brewer coming to the Old Chapel to talk about mindfulness and addiction. There will be a reception after his talk. March 6th is another special talk by Laurie Santos on primate theory of mind. March 9th, Damien Fair will be giving the CNS Distinguished Scientist and Engineer Lecture and March 11th Danielle Lee will be giving a BRIDGE lecture. Later in the month, Lynn Nadel will be giving a Neuroscience Distinguished Lecture on the nature of memory and space.

This diversity makes me appreciate the diversity of the Neurosciences. There is no one best way to understand the brain. The human brain is an extraordinarily complicated organ with 100 trillion neurons forming a thousand times more connections. Understanding, how this biological device evolved, how it self-assembles, how it functions to control the body, and how it continuously changes to store memories requires a multitude of approaches.  Continue reading

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UMass Neuroscience Publications – February 2020

This month’s featured researcher is Yahya Modarres-Sadeghi. Yahya is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering in the College of Engineering. He is the Graduate Program Director for Mechanical Engineering. His lab studies fluid structure interactions. He has studied the fluid movements of fish and crayfish through water. In his paper, which appeared in PubMed in February, he proposes a model that provides patient-specific details for cerebral aneurysms.  Yahya is a co-PI on the recently submit NSF NRT graduate training grant on Biological Neurotechnology

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

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Director’s Channel – February 2020

IONs Director: Paul Katz

February may be the shortest month, but we have a lot going on. I am particularly pleased to be hosting this month’s Distinguished Neuroscience Lecture, Eve Marder. She has been a big influence on me and others in the field. In addition to the seminars, the Neuroscience & Behavior (NSB) Program is going to have its annual recruitment open house. We’re excited to meet the next class of PhD students. We also in the process of submitting an NSF  graduate training grant to support students in several graduate programs called Team Research in Biological Neurotechnology (TRiBioNT). If successful, it will help fund students in three life sciences graduate programs (NSB, OEB, MCB) and two engineering programs (ECE and MIE). There are several themes running through the proposal. One is to reintegrate Neuroscience more with other life-sciences graduate programs. Another is to engage engineers to build devices for studying the brain and to be inspired by not just the human brain, but the amazing neural computations that animals can do.  Continue reading

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UMass Neuroscience Publications – January 2020

This month’s featured researcher is Sarah Pallas. Sarah joined the Biology Department at UMass in September 2019, arriving from Georgia State University.  Her lab studies the mechanisms underlying development, plasticity, and evolution of sensory pathways in the brain. Her latest paper in PubMed shows that gradients of growth factors and receptors change in response to brain injury. This helps adjust maps of the visual world in the brain constant despite loss of brain tissue. Sarah also has a collaborative project with a lab in Chile that studies the visual system of a diurnal South American rodent called a Degu.

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

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Director’s Channel – January 2020

IONs Director, Paul Katz

It’s the beginning of a new year and full of anticipation. Neuroscience labs have started to move into the newly renovated space in the Morrill Science Center. There is a great line up of speakers for the spring 2020 Distinguished Neuroscience Lecture Series:

Mark your calendars for the Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Conference on May 11th, which features as Keynote speaker, Nobel Laureate Thomas Südhof. Other exciting talks are in the works.

For my New Year’s resolution, I resolved to write more about what I’m thinking in this Director’s Channel. Continue reading

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UMass Neuroscience Publications – December 2019

This month’s Featured Researcher is Ilia Karatsoreos, who just joined the faculty of Psychological and Brain Sciences. Ilia’s research addresses how the body’s internal circadian clock and “stress response” systems help maintain mental and physical health.  His latest paper, which just appeared in the December issue of Frontiers in Neuroendrinology, reviews the research explaining how the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis interacts with downstream pathways to mediate resilience to environmental stresses.  Ilia is joining UMass from Washington State University. We are pleased to have him aboard. His lab is located in the newly renovated Neuroscience Wing on the 2nd floor of Morrill Science Center 4N.

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

Continue reading

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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.

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