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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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.
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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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