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Seminars in Neuroscience

All neuroscience seminars are held on Wednesdays, at 12:30 PM, in room 301 BMRC (Erma Byrd Biomedical Research Center), unless otherwise noted. Check the calendar for the most updated information.

Fall 2017


"Somatotropic signaling is linked to health and aging via metabolism and the epigenome"
Dr. Holly Brown-Borg
UND Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Sciences
University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences
Host: Dr. Liz Engler-Chiurazzi

Synopsis: Endocrine hormones play a significant role in aging and longevity. Growth hormone (GH) affects not only somatic growth but also drives many aspects of metabolism and stress resistance. We have shown that GH modulates oxidative and methionine metabolism, mitochondrial function and longevity in GH mutant mice. Our studies focus on delineating the relationships between the methionine metabolic pathway and plasma GH levels as they relate to epigenetic stability. Components of the methionine pathway were differentially affected by dietary methionine level. Underlying GH status also influenced the metabolic responses to alterations of this amino acid. Long-living Ames and GHRKO mice were not able to discriminate differences in dietary methionine in terms of lifespan, food consumption and body weight. GH transgenic mice and the wild type mice from each line lived longer when fed methionine-restricted but not methionine-supplemented diets as previously reported. We have examined DNA methylation differences between Ames dwarf and wild type mice and show that Ames mice exhibit a more stable methylation pattern across the genome over time when compared to wild type mice supporting the notion that epigenetic stability contributes to longevity. These studies indicate that GH status impacts dietary methionine sensing and downstream aspects of metabolism including DNA methylation, health and lifespan.


"The ups and downs of the extended amygdala"
Dr. Thomas Kash
Distinguished Professor of Alcohol Studies and Vice Chair for Faculty Development
Department of Pharmacology
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, School of Medicine
Host: Dr. David Siderovski and Josh Gross


Title TBD
Dr. Nelson Spruston
Senior Director of Scientific Programs
Janelia Research Campus at Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Host: Dr. George Spirou


Title TBD
Dr. Roger Clem
Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Psychiatry
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Host: Dr. Albert Berrebi


Title TBD
Dr. Theresa Jones
Professor of Psychology
University of Texas at Austin
Host: Dr. Cole Vonder Haar


Title TBD
Dr. Teng-Leong Chew
Center Director, Advanced Imaging Center
Janelia Research Campus at Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Host: Dr. George Spirou


"Multifactorial hypothesis for Alzheimer’s Disease"
Dr. Chengzin Gong
Head, Brain Metabolism Laboratory
Department of Neurochemistry
New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities
Host: Dr. Hunter Zhang

Synopsis: The failure of all AD clinical trials on the basis of a single target, especially on the amyloid cascade hypothesis, during the last two decades lets the AD field think seriously what we have done, where we stand now and where we should head to for AD research. We thus propose the multifactorial hypothesis for AD and a multi-target approach based on this hypothesis for AD drug development. I will present evidence supporting this hypothesis and our preclinical studies that target various pathways/mechanisms involved in AD.

Spring 2017


"Coding and representation of temperature in the Drosophila brain"
Marco Gallio, PhD
Assistant Professor of Neurobiology
Northwestern University
Host: Dr. Andrew Dacks

Synopsis: Our long term goal is to contribute to our understanding of how sensory stimuli are used to build an internal representation of the physical world, and how this representation is in turn processed into our actions and behaviors. For this, we study temperature sensing and preference in the fruit fly Drosophila. How are hot and cold stimuli detected at the periphery? How are they processed in the brain? How are they integrated with additional sensory streams and internal drives to produce behaviors such as attraction and avoidance? Using the fly as a model system is allowing us to study the basic principles of sensory processing, decision making and motivated behavior in an animal with only 100 thousand neurons, and taking advantage of a highly sophisticated experimental toolkit.


"Electronic cigarettes: What are they and what do they do?"
Thomas Eissenberg, PhD
Professor of Psychology (Health Program)
Director, Center for the Study of Tobacco Products
Virginia Commonwealth University
Host: Dr. Melissa Blank

Electronic cigarettes (ECIGs) are a class of products that use a heating element to aerosolize for user inhalation a solution made of solvents like propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin, flavorants, and, usually, the stimulant drug nicotine. Nicotine yield is the amount (in milligrams) of nicotine contained in the aerosol that is emitted by the device. Nicotine delivery is the concentration (in nanograms/milliliter) of nicotine found in user blood plasma after ECIG use. Nicotine yield and delivery are influenced by a variety of factors including device power (battery voltage, heater resistance), liquid nicotine concentration, and user behavior. Data demonstrating the influence of these factors on ECIG nicotine yield and delivery will be presented. In addition, the presentation will include a discussion of the variability of nicotine delivery profiles of ECIG products on the US market, some of which delivery very little nicotine while others exceed the nicotine delivery profile of a tobacco cigarette under similar use conditions. These data are relevant to public health today, given the dramatic rise of ECIG use, particularly in populations where nicotine administration has long-term adverse health outcomes (e.g., adolescents). Understanding factors that influence ECIG nicotine delivery is critical for effective ECIG regulation.


"Noninvasive and bi-directional neural interfaces using ultrasound"
Parag Chitnis, PhD
Assistant Professor of Bioengineering
George Mason University
Host: Dr. Valeriya Gritsenko

Synopsis: This presentation will highlight recent efforts to develop noninvasive neural interface for detecting and modulating activity in the central or peripheral nervous system. Specifically, we will discuss: 1) feasibility of using photoacoustics for monitoring changes in cell-membrane potential, 2) utility of focused ultrasound for localized modulation of brain activity, and 3) ultrasound-based control of a prosthetic hand.


"Medications testing for cocaine use disorder: Neurobiological substrates, experimental methods, and FDA requirements"
Richard De La Garza, PhD
Professor of Psychiatry Research
Baylor College of Medicine
Host: Dr. James Mahoney

Synopsis: Despite decades of testing, there are no FDA-approved treatments for cocaine use disorder. Cocaine itself impacts multiple neurotransmitter systems and these effects are complicated by the fact that cocaine users also abuse tobacco (nicotine), alcohol, and marijuana. As such, the identification and testing of medications for cocaine use disorder is challenging. This lecture will outline the means by which candidate medications are selected and tested in humans.


"Transforming smells into action"
Bob Datta, PhD
Assistant Professor of Neurobiology
Harvard Medical School
Host: Dr. Kevin Daly

Synopsis: The Datta lab studies how information from the outside world is detected, encoded in the brain, and transformed into meaningful behavioral outputs. We address this fundamental problem by characterizing the olfactory system, the sensory system used by most animals to interact with their environment. Here we discuss recent results relevant to understanding sensorimotor coupling in the olfactory system. We first describe a novel molecular mechanism that underlies odor perception; this mechanism defines a new mode of sensory encoding in mammals, and is likely relevant to odor perception across deuterostomal lineages, including humans. We also describe new approaches we have recently developed to understand how genes and circuits important to sensorimotor coupling in the olfactory system might impact behavior; these methods may afford insight into mechanisms that allow animals to flexibly navigate the outside world, and serve as a quantitative prism through which the function of genes and neural circuits can be understood.

Fall 2016


"Invasive cortical neuroprosthetics for sensorimotor science and rehabilitation"
Robert Gaunt, PhD
Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine + Rehabilitation
University of Pittsburgh
Host: Dr. Sergiy Yakovenko

Synopsis: Over the past decade, several groups have been implanting microelectrode arrays into the sensorimotor cortex of paralyzed individuals. At the University of Pittsburgh, we have worked with two volunteers and have shown that recording and decoding the activity of a few hundred neurons in motor cortex enables a person to control a prosthetic arm in up to 10 degrees-of-freedom simultaneously. But we know that the sensory system is crucially important to regulate ongoing movement and to enable controlled interactions with our environment. In this talk I will focus on our recent efforts to understand how proprioception, that sense of where our limbs are in space, influences motor control using a brain-computer interface and how we might begin to restore cutaneous sensations through electrical microstimulation of the primary somatosensory cortex. Ultimately we aim to restore dexterous hand and arm movements, complete with the appropriate sensory experiences, to people who have lost their limbs or are unable to use them because of injury or disease.


"GABAergic inhibition in neucortical dendrites"
Michael Higley, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Neurobiology
Program in Cellular Neuroscience, Neurodegeneration and Repair (CNNR)
Kavli Institute for Neuroscience
Yale School of Medicine   
Host: Dr. Aric Agmon

Synopsis:  The vast majority of inhibitory GABAergic synapses in the cortex target pyramidal neuron dendrites, though their function is not well understood.  Using an array of approaches, we show that both phasic and tonic inhibition play key roles in the local regulation of dendritic calcium signaling.  Furthermore, we find that the molecular composition of dendritic inhibitory synapses makes them particularly sensitive to long-term modulation by glutamatergic signaling.  These interactions likely participate in the dynamic rebalancing of excitation and inhibition necessary for the proper function of cortical circuits.


"Development of interneuronal connectivity: role of primary cilia" 
Eva Anton, PhD 
Professor of Cell Biology + Physiology
UNC Neuroscience Center 
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Host: Dr. Eric Tucker


"Mechanisms of neuroplasticity following Constraint Induced Movement therapy: implications for rehabilitation planning"
Lynne Gauthier, PhD 
Associate Professor of Physical Medicine + Rehabilitation 
Director, Neurorecovery + Brain Imaging Laboratory
The Ohio State University, College of Medicine  
Host: Dr. Valeriya Gritsenko 

Fall 2015


Paul Barnes, PhD
Oregon Health & Science University
Function of Non-Functional Kinases in the Developing Brain
Host: Dr. Eric Tucker


Tzumin Lee, MD, PhD
Howard Hughes Medical Institute - Janelia Farm 
Lineage- and Age-Dependent Neural Stem-Cell Fate
Host: Dr. George Spirou


Robert Friedlander, MD
University of Pittsburgh
Role of Caspase Pathways in Neurological Disease
Hosts: Kelly Smith and Dr. Charles Rosen


Justus Verhagen, PhD
Yale University
Time in Olfactory Coding and Perception: 
Optogenetic, Behavioral and Electrophysiological Studies
Host: Dr. Kevin Daly


Barry Stein, PhD
Wake Forest School of Medicine
How Does the Brain Develop Its Ability to Integrate Information from Different Senses?
Hosts: Paula Webster and Dr. Richard Dey

All seminars are held Wednesdays at 12:30, in 301 BMRC (unless otherwise noted).

Sponsored by the Dept. of Neurobiology and Anatomy and the WVU Centers for Neuroscience