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Richard Davidson's, director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience, and his team's investigation on the brain's transformation through meditation will be center stage at the Dance Program's Fall Faculty Concert SPLASH! Combining MRI images from Davidson's research with UW Dance Program assistant professor Peggy Choy's choreography, the piece "Transform 2" examines notions of the mind and brain, and the meaning of transformation.
Neuroscience graduate student Robert Krencik has been chosen to attend the National Graduate Student Research Festival at NIH in November to showcase his research which also is cited as a "hot topic" for the media materials at this year's Society for Neuroscience meeting.
Dr. Michael Peterson is looking for males to participate in a study investigating sleep and performance. They must be available for 3 full-time, 6-day stays at the sleep laboratory in August, September, and October. Recruitment closes Wed July 15th! [PDF]
1st year NTP student, Kile Mangan, received an Epilepsy Foundation's Health Sciences Student Fellowship Award from July 2009 to September 2009
Ashutosh Dharap has received an American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship from July 2009 until July 2011.
The Department of Psychiatry and the Neuroscience Training Program are pleased to announce the inception of the Ann Kelley Fellowship in Behavioral Neuroscience, established in honor of our beloved colleague, Dr. Ann Kelley, who tragically passed away in 2007. The Fellowship is intended to foster the development of promising young behavioral neuroscientists.
If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to the fund, please send donations to the address below. Please include the following form with your donation: [PDF]
Ann Kelley Fellowship in Behavioral Neuroscience
c/o The University of Wisconsin Foundation
1848 University Ave
Madison WI 53726
The Iskandar lab in Neurological Surgery is looking to hire an undergraduate student for the summer. His lab studies the relationship between central nervous system repair, the folate pathway, genetics, and epigenetics. This is done using various approaches: animal surgery, in vitro neuronal cultures, molecular analyses, etc. The student will start by performing basic laboratory techniques (cutting sections, measuring axons in culture, staining, etc.) and will gradually be responsible for his/her own experiments. If you are interested in this position, please email a resume to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stem-cell researcher lured to L.A.
MADISON — Highly regarded UW-Madison stem-cell researcher Clive Svendsen is heading to Los Angeles to become director of the new Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute.
Svendsen, who is co-director of the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center at UW-Madison, will start his new position Dec. 1.
1st year NTP student Valerie Grant has received an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. The fellowship provides 3 years of stipend funding.
NTP plans to host an event at this Fall's SfN meeting in Chicago. Please watch your e-mail for updates about this upcoming event.
In his Editorial "Science for science" (3 April 2009, p. 13), B. Alberts writes of the need to increase the contacts between scientists and the rest of society, and he comments on the initiative underway in California to bring scientists together with policy-makers. The University of Wisconsin–Madison recognized the needs mentioned in the Editorial a few years ago, and took a step toward meeting them by establishing an integrated, dual-degree graduate program in Neuroscience and Public Policy, which offers graduate students the opportunity to earn a Ph.D. degree in neuroscience and Master's degree in public policy.
Patric Hernandez, Lindsay Pascal and Ishmael Amarreh heard key national speakers address legal, social and ethical issues in environmental, genomic and neuroscience research. “We learned about current management and structural issues facing centers working on the societal implications of biomedicine,” Pascal says. “We also spoke with a range of researchers, policymakers and attorneys in a setting that maximized communication between the ethical, legal and science sectors.”
Twelve UW-Madison faculty members have been named finalists to compete for five spots in the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, the public part of a $150 million public-private research building going up on the 1300 block of University Avenue.
- Craig Berridge, psychology; computational neural networks.
Roundtable unveils spring lineup
Chiara Cirelli, an associate professor of psychiatry in the School of Medicine and Public Health, will discuss sleep in a talk titled “Sleep on It: The Function of Sleep and the Consequence of Sleep Loss” on Wednesday, April 8.
Kemnitz to step down as Primate Center director
Joseph W. Kemnitz, who has led Wisconsin’s National Primate Research Center (WNPRC) for more than a decade, announced this week (Jan. 9) that he plans to step down from his position as director of the center and return to the faculty at the end of 2009.
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Depression saps endurance of brain's reward circuitry.
"Being able to sustain and even enhance one's own positive emotional experience is a critical component of health and well-being," notes the study's senior author, Richard Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry and director of both the UW-Madison Center for Investigating Healthy Minds and the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior. "These findings may lead to therapeutic interventions that enable depressed individuals to better sustain positive emotion in their daily lives."
Can meditation sharpen our attention?
Being able to sustain attention on a chosen object through time is a critical component of attention regulation, explains the study's senior scientist Richard Davidson, director of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds and professor of psychology and psychiatry at UW-Madison.
"In untrained individuals, one gets easily distracted, requiring a refocusing of attention," says Davidson. "Such ongoing fluctuations in attention stability are thought to reflect competitive interactions between task-related and task-unrelated processes, such as mind-wandering. Our work holds that the capacity to stabilize attention is best regarded as a skill that can be trained."
The scientists offer the first concrete evidence that a protein called synaptotagmin plays a critical role in initiating fusion by bending a section of a target membrane. The protruding dimple provides a small point of contact that can fuse with another membrane with less effort. "Fusion occurs when a sperm and an egg combine to make a person and when a virus such as HIV invades an immune cell," says senior author Edwin R. Chapman, PhD, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor in the physiology department at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.
Su-Chun Zhang, UW-Madison professor of anatomy and a Waisman researcher, was among the first to create neural cells from embryonic stem cells.
Reduced diet thwarts aging, disease in monkeys
In addition, the brain health of animals on a restricted diet is also better, according to Sterling Johnson, a neuroscientist in the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. "It seems to preserve the volume of the brain in some regions. It's not a global effect, but the findings are helping us understand if this dietary treatment is having any effect on the loss of neurons" in aging.
At the UW-Madison, Bach-y-Rita focused his studies on sensory substitution, the idea that the brain can learn how to use other senses to replace one that has been lost or damaged. He concentrated on the power of touch, studying what happens in the brain when visual cues come from the sensitive nerves of the skin, such as those on the fingertips.
"If a drug or genetic treatment could be designed to control Syt-IV expression and modify its effect on other key players involved in synaptic function, synapses might work better," says senior author Edwin R. Chapman, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH).
Researchers use brain interface to post to Twitter
Some brain-computer interface systems employ an electrode-studded cap wired to a computer. The electrodes detect electrical signals in the brain — essentially, thoughts — and translate them into physical actions, such as a cursor motion on a computer screen. "We started thinking that moving a cursor on a screen is a good scientific exercise," says Justin Williams, a UW-Madison assistant professor of biomedical engineering and Wilson's adviser. "But when we talk to people who have locked-in syndrome or a spinal-cord injury, their No. 1 concern is communication."
When Minutes Matter
What seems to be key isn't necessarily the force or the velocity of the injury, experts say, but where contact occurs. "You've got to hit your head in just the right place," said John Kuo, director of UW's comprehensive brain tumor program and the neurosurgeon who operated on Samarah. That spot is at the temple right over the ear, where the shell of the skull is especially fragile. When the skull fractures or cracks, nicking or tearing a key artery, there is no place for the leaking blood to go. "The skull doesn't get any bigger, so if you introduce anything in there like a blood clot, the brain will get squashed. That's what happened to Samarah and also Natasha Richardson," Kuo explained.
Sleep: Spring Cleaning for the Brain?
Sleep — by allowing synaptic downscaling — saves energy, space and material, and clears away unnecessary “noise” from the previous day, the researchers believe. The fresh brain is then ready to learn again in the morning.
The researchers — Giorgio Gilestro, Giulio Tononi and Chiara Cirelli, of the Center for Sleep and Consciousness — found that levels of proteins that carry messages in the synapses (or junctions) between neurons drop by 30 to 40 percent during sleep.
"The fundamental point of the study is that it proves unequivocally that extensive remyelination can lead to recovery from a severe neurological disorder," says Ian Duncan, the UW-Madison neuroscientist who led the research. "It indicates the profound ability of the central nervous system to repair itself."
Building a Better Brain
Davidson, a professor of psychology and psychiatry and director of the UW’s Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience, was speaking on neuroplasticity — the ability of the brain to remain flexible, adaptable and trainable. It’s one of the foundations of his work.
Aimee Arnoldussen has a sort of thing for waves. In Madison, Wis., where she works to perfect a device that helps the blind people learn to see with their tongues, she focus on technologies that affect certain kinds of brain waves. In pool and open water Masters swimming events and triathlons, she focuses on waves of the aquatic kind. Both kinds of waves keep Arnoldussen going.
Five UW-Madison researchers were invited to Obama's ceremony. UW-Madison spokesman Terry Devitt said those invited include scientist James Thomson; the co-directors of the school's Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center, Tim Kamp and Clive Svendsen; bioethicist Alta Charo; and National Stem Cell Bank Director Derek Hei.
Let the Restoration Begin
President Obama promised in his inaugural address to “restore science to its rightful place” and “transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.” These were refreshing and uplifting words from a president after the long and dark night to which science and its findings had been relegated during the previous eight years.
Coordinated by the University of Wisconsin Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine Center and BTCI, this symposium brings together world leaders in the area of cancer stem cells, and recruitment of tumor precursor cells. The focus is on basic cellular and molecular mechanisms that govern the cell growth potential of tumors, and whether there is a relationship between the long-lived/immortal cells of tumors and the long-lived/immortal cells of somatic tissues.
One of the speakers: John S. Kuo, M.D., Ph.D. (Assistant Professor, Neurological Surgery and Human Oncology and Director, Comprehensive Brain Tumor Program, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health)
Psychoactive compound activates mysterious receptor
"We have no idea at present if or how the sigma-1 receptor may be connected to hallucinogenic activity," says senior author Arnold Ruoho, chair of pharmacology at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. "But we believe that the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) may be interested in biological mechanisms underlying psychoactive and addictive drug action."
Many types of heart disease have known genetic causes, so creating cardiomyocytes grown from patients who have those diseases will likely be some of the next steps in the research. One of Kamp's colleagues, Clive Svendsen, a UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health professor of neurology and anatomy, has grown the iPS cells into disease-specific neural cells. Kamp and Svendsen are also on the faculty of the Waisman Center and the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center.
Mouse study reveals genetic component of empathy
"The core of empathy is being able to have an emotional experience and share that experience with another," says UW-Madison graduate student Jules Panksepp, who led the work along with undergraduate QiLiang Chen. "We are basically trying to deconstruct empathy into smaller functional units that make it more accessible to biological research."
Adding extra copies of a gene that makes a normal, protective protein neutralized a toxic chemical that would normally devastate the substantia nigra. "This complete abolition of toxicity was far greater than we expected," says Jeffrey Johnson, a UW-Madison professor of pharmacy. "It was striking. We thought we would see a 20 or 30 or 40 percent reduction in cell death."
Early childhood stress has lingering effects on health
"Even though these children's environments have changed, physiologically they're still responding to stress. That can affect their learning and their behavior, and having a compromised immune system is going to affect these children's health," says senior author Seth Pollak, a professor of psychology and pediatrics at UW-Madison.
"The findings raise very interesting possibilities for women's health, in which rising and falling hormone levels play a key role in many biological processes," says senior author Meyer Jackson, a professor of physiology at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH). More studies will be needed to better understand the protein, he adds.
He teamed with Edwin Chapman, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, fellow SMPH physiology professor and synaptotagmin expert. The UW-Madison researchers conducted high-powered biophysical measurements to understand exactly what Syt IV does in the pituitary. They made a thorough comparison of the pituitaries from normal mice and mice in which Syt IV had been knocked out.