IONs Director’s Channel – July 2019

Paul Katz and Luke Remage-Healey at the NSB picnic enjoying a special dessert.

It’s summer and the fun never ends. We’re really pleased to hear that Dr. Ilea Karatsoreos has accepted a faculty position in Psychological and Brain Sciences. That further strengthens the great group of neuroendocrinologists at UMass.  Research is going strong across campus, which you can read about here. The Neuroscience Summer Seminar Series is in full swing. It’s been a great opportunity to learn about the research on campus. If you’re looking for other things to do this summer besides enjoying the beautiful weather in the valley, go cheer the NSB grad student softball team, Spikes ‘n Strikes.



UMass researchers find sex differences in cognition of middle-aged marmosets

In a paper recently published in the journal e-Neuro, NSB doctoral recipient Matthew LaClair and his advisor Agnes Lacreuse, examined what is a highly controversial topic in humans, by turning to the nonhuman primate, the common marmoset. The investigators asked whether biological sex modulates some aspects of cognitive performance as well as neural connectivity measures. They identified sex differences in cognitive flexibility that are correlated with sex-dependent patterns of resting brain networks.  The findings support the idea that cognitive sex differences may have identifiable intrinsic neural correlates. Investigating the dynamics of cognitive sex differences and associated brain networks across the lifespan may shed a new light on sex-specific cognitive disorders. Continue reading


UMass Neurosciences Publications – June 2019

This month’s featured Researcher is Luke Remage-Healey. He recently received a renewal of $1.7 million grant from NIH to investigate fundamental mechanisms of how the bird brain learns and processes complex stimuli like song.  In general, his lab studies how neural circuits for vocal communication are modulated by the actions of local neurochemicals. For example, changing levels of brain estrogens can alter the pattern or ‘tone’ of neural circuit activity, enabling many flexible outputs from the same circuit. They think this modulation allows interconnected forebrain circuits to subserve a wide variety of complex behaviors, like singing, song learning, and song memory. Luke and his student Daniel Vahaba published a paper in the journal Hormones and Behavior that appeared this month in PubMed.

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


IONs Director’s Channel – June 2019

Barto award

UMass Neurosciences Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Andy Barto by Neurosciences Director Paul Katz and Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy

May was an exciting time for the Neurosciences at UMass and more is planned for the summer like the inaugural Neuroscience Summer Seminar Series.
The Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Conference was a great success and started a conversation on campus between the neurosciences and engineering. The Workshop on Methods in Systems Neuroscience and Neurotechnology,  laid out some of the newest techniques for understanding complex brain circuitry. Andy Barto was awarded a UMass Neurosciences Lifetime Achievement Award by Chancellor Subbaswamy. Tributes to Andy poured in from leaders in the fields of Machine Learning and Reinforcement learning.  Here is just a small sample.  Continue reading


Neuroscience Summer Seminar Series

This summer, we will have our inaugural Neurosciences Summer Seminar Series featuring UMass faculty and post-docs. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the work going on here at UMass. Seminars will be at noon in 423 Tobin Hall. Bring your lunch! Hang out afterward and talk to the speaker.

Line up of speakers:



UMass Neurosciences Publications – May 2019

This month’s featured researcher is Margaret Stratton.  Meg is an assistant professor in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UMass. Her research focuses on  understanding the molecular components of memory. In particular, she works on a protein called calcium-calmodulin dependent protein kinase II or CaMKII. molecule is actually a complex of twelve subunits that provide it with unique properties that allow it to alter neuronal activity. In recent paper published in the journal Neuron, Meg and her collaborators demonstrated a novel mechanism that allows CamKII to have persistent effects.

Here’s what’ 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 research that occurs on campus. Continue reading


IONs Director’s Channel – May 2019

IONs Director: Paul Katz

As we enter May, there are many exciting developments to announce. The annual UMass Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Conference will be held at the end of the month on Tuesday May 28th. This year it will have an emphasis on Neuroengineering and features two keynote speakers and 5 shorter talks from UMass faculty and faculty from Worcester Polytechnical Institute. In the morning leading up the lectures, there will be a Workshop on Methods in Systems Neuroscience and Neurotechnology. In the evening there will be a poster session, which is not limited to neuroengineering, but open to all students, postdocs, and faculty to present their neuroscience-related research. Registration is free, but the deadline is May 10th. At the conference, Chancellor Subbaswamy will be presenting keynote speaker Andrew Barto with a UMass Neurosciences Lifetime Achievement Award for his pioneering research into reinforcement learning. Continue reading


Andrew Barto presented UMass Neurosciences Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Andrew Barto has been selected to receive a UMass Neurosciences Lifetime Achievement Award for his pioneering research into reinforcement learning. The award will be presented to him by Chancellor Subbaswamy after his lecture at the UMass Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Conference on May 28th. Dr. Barto is Professor Emeritus and former Chair of Information and Computer Sciences at UMass.  He is perhaps best known for an influential book, which he co-wrote with Richard Sutton, called “Reinforcement Learning” (MIT Press). The book, which is now in its 2nd edition is considered almost a sacred text by neuroscientists studying the neural basis learning as well as engineers and computer scientists who work on artificial intelligence.

The extent to which Dr. Barto is loved and admired by researchers around the world is obvious in the tributes that are pouring in as a result of this announcement. If you would like to add your words to this website praising Dr. Barto’s contribution, send them to

Continue reading