InFocus Volume 6 Issue 3



In the News

Upcoming Events



ADC Hosts Spring Seminar on Research Advances

On April 9th, the Alzheimer's Disease Center Educational Core hosted its annual Participants Seminar, "Alzheimer's Disease Research Update: What is New in 2014". This year, nearly 100 individuals gathered at Farkas Auditorium to listen to presentations made by James E. Galvin, MD, MPH; Steven Ferris, PhD; Melanie Shulman, MD; and Jane Bear-Lehman.

The audience learned about some of the latest developments in brain research, in which NYU investigators are involved. Compared to previous years, in attendance at this seminar were a greater number of health and social service providers. This is especially beneficial as it helps with heightening awareness of our research progress to a more diverse group.
The ADC will continue its educational efforts focusing on the interests of the community and targeting specific topics based on information gathered through completed surveys by attendees.

Written by:
Licet Valois, LMSW, MPS
Social Worker/Outreach Coordinator

The Unforgettables Chorus Receives Well-Deserved Praise

We know that music plays an important role in how the brain processes information. Research indicates that music engages the areas of the brain involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating events in memory. Music has also been found to reduce stress, aid relaxation and alleviate depression. Taking this one step further, in 2011, Mary Mittelman, Research Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, founded a unique choral group – composed of persons with dementia and their caregivers. The goal: to provide people with dementia and their family members and friends with a stimulating activity that they can enjoy together in a group, in which they are a part of something larger than themselves that will bring pleasure to others in the community. In the last three years, the singing group has continued, and what began as a pilot study has evolved into a full-fledged chorus that performs regular concerts three times a year. The Unforgettables rehearses weekly, selecting their own songs and learning singing and performance techniques.

Dr. Mittelman has been developing and evaluating psychosocial interventions for people with cognitive impairment and their family members for more than 25 years. She was Principal Investigator of the NIH-funded study of the NYU Caregiver Intervention (NYUCI), the results of which have been published widely. The NYUCI has won many awards, including the first global award for Alzheimer's psychosocial research from Alzheimer's Disease International/ Fondation Mederic Alzheimer. She and her colleagues are developing online training for social service professionals as well as a telehealth version of the NYUCI. In the past decade, Dr. Mittelman has been evaluating and developing interventions that include the person with dementia together with the caregiver.

The Unforgettables, led by choral directors Tania Papayannopoulou and Dale Lamb will perform their 12th concert on Thursday, July 10th from 3-4pm at St. Peter's Church Sanctuary, 619 Lexington Avenue.

Read more about the work of hte NYU Caregiver Intervention program:

The Washington Post- April 10th, 2014
Alzheimer's Disease Support Model Could Save Minnesota Millions
As states eye strategies to control the costs of caring for Alzheimer's patients, a New York model is drawing interest, and findings from a study of Minnesota's effort to replicate it shows it could lead to significant savings and improved services.

New Jersey Jewish News- April 9th, 2014
Help for Caregivers of Those with Dementia
Research by the NYU Caregiver Intervention Program, led by Mary Mittelman, has shown that such intervention not only improves the physical and mental health of a caregiver, it can delay the need to institutionalize a patient by an average of 18 months.

PBS NewsHour- April 17th, 2014
Professional gets Personal as Doctor Considers Care of the Alzheimer's Caregiver
"There are other reports in the Health Affairs issue about work that's happened in Indianapolis with dementia care management and Mary Mittelman's program for longitudinal caregiver support. If those programs were systematically tied to all of the dementia care in a particular area—Indianapolis is doing it somewhat, and if you happen to live in New York City you can connect to Mary Mittelman's program—those are the types of resources that I would like to see more universally available."

Newsweek- March 28th, 2014
For Caregivers, Alzheimer's can be a Life Sentence

"The chorus is a way of making it clear to the outside world that people with dementia are still people. You have to focus on the personhood as opposed to the illness," says Mary Mittelman, a research professor in the psychiatry department at the New York University School of Medicine, who in 2011 founded the Unforgettables, a chorus for people with Alzheimer's and their caregivers.

Neuroscience Institute Hosts Annual Retreat

Annually, neuroscientists of the NYU community unite at the Neuroscience Retreat held at the Mohonk Mountain House in upstate New York. This meeting includes participants from the uptown and downtown campuses of NYU, and the Nathan Kline Institute. This year, the Neuroscience Retreat was held from April 10 to April 12 and had more than 200 participants who engaged in talks, poster presentations and informal discussions. Postdoctoral fellows were given a platform to share their work by delivering short talks and participating in poster sessions.

Some highlights of the 2014 Neuroscience Retreat include:

Sleep session In this panel, researchers talked about the importance of sleep in memory consolidation, and the role of the thalamus in regulating sleep. There were also talks about genetic mechanisms during sleep, and the changes that take place in the brain during sleep.

Memory session Dr. György Buzsaki chaired this session, which began with Dr. Wen Biao Gan's talk about the role of dendritic spines in formation and stability of memory. Dr. Chris Cain of the Nathan Kline Institute shared his work that has implications for anxiety disorders; and Dr. Andre Fenton discussed findings from his lab about neuronal circuits involved in memory, and how they may synchronize or desynchronize depending on the information they are trying encode. It is important to learn how memory is encoded and retained in the brain, as it will eventually help us understand how memory that can be dysfunctional in neurological disorders like epilepsy and schizophrenia can be treated.

Decision-making In this session, Dr. Pamela Kahn talked about her study looking at social and non-social reward learning processes, and how this may go awry in schizophrenia; and Dr. Adam Mar discussed his efforts in setting-up a rodent behavioral core. This session came to a close with talk by Dr. Wei ji Ma who shared his work on visual ambiguity and how the brain deals with uncertainties in visual stimuli.

Neuromodulation The highlights of this session were talks by Dr. Neils Ringstad who shared with the audience his latest work in Caenorhabditis elegans, or the roundworm, on chemosensation (the capacity to sense chemical stimuli).

Dynamic breakout sessions complemented the earlier talks. Heather McKellar, PhD, founder of the The Neuroscience Outreach Group at NYU (NOGN) led a session about neuroscience outreach in the New York area. Participants talked about different ways to get involved through blogging and school visits, among others. Dr. McKellar shared the work that NOGN does on a daily basis to make science, particularly neuroscience, more accessible to the general public.

Written by:
Sloka S. Iyengar, PhD., postdoctoral fellow at the Nathan Kline Institute, New York, in the lab of Dr. Helen Scharfman.

In the Spotlight...

Shan Liu, PhD
Post Doctorate Fellow

Shan Liu joined NYU Langone Medical Center as a post doctorate fellow in 2009. Previously, she was a research fellow in the Neuroscience department at the University of Minnesota. She earned her PhD in Genetics at Fudan University in Shanghai City, China.

What is your area of research focus?
My area of research focus is on therapeutic interventions related to neurodegenerative disease, particularly Alzheimer's disease and prion disease.

Recently, you were first author on a paper in the Journal of Neurochemistry on blocking the apolipoprotein E/Amyloidβ interaction in triple transgenic mice and how that ameliorates Alzheimer's disease related amyloid β and tau pathology. Could you further explain this and its relevance to finding a new approach to Alzheimer's therapy?

This research was an extension of previous studies conducted in our lab. Just to provide some background, inheritance of the apolipoprotein E4 (apoE4) genotype has been identified as the major genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer's disease (AD). Studies have shown that the binding between apoE and amyloid-β(Aβ) peptides occurs within the brain and that ApoE4 has been implicated in promoting Aβdeposition and impairing clearance of Aβ.

Our team hypothesized that blocking the apoE/Aβinteraction would serve as an effective new approach to AD therapy. We have previously shown that treatment with Aβ12-28P can markedly reduce amyloid plaques and vascular amyloid without cerebral microhemorrhage in AD mice. In the present study, we investigated whether the Aβ12-28P elicits a therapeutic effect on tau-related pathology in addition to amyloid pathology using old triple transgenic AD mice (from the ages of 21 to 26 months) with established pathology. We show that treatment with A β12-28P substantially reduces tau pathology, both immunohistochemically and biochemically, as well as reducing the amyloid burden and suppressing the activation of astrocytes and microglia. These affects also correlate with a behavioral amelioration in the treated mice.

The apolipoprotein E (apoE)/amyloidβ (Aβ) interaction plays an important role in the aggregation and clearance of Aβ. Our research indicates that the apoE/Aβbinding blocker, Aβ12-28P, elicits a therapeutic effect on tau related pathology, in addition to amyloid deposition, in Alzheimer's disease model mice. We believe this presents a novel therapeutic approach for AD.

What is the toughest challenge you face in your research studies?

I think it is the complexity, degree of difficulty, and tangled web of unknowns associated with neurodegenerative diseases, that we all, in this field, try to unravel and better understand. It is crucial that we grasp and make sense of the physiological mechanisms that, being disrupted, could lead to neurodegeneration, as this knowledge may ultimately lead to the identification of novel therapeutic strategies.

What led you to become interested in neuroscience?
I think the brain is the most complex, intricate and interesting part of the human body. It controls all bodily functions and we have so much to learn about it. With that said, I am always fascinated by translational research, taking the results from the lab and applying them in a clinical setting. So for me, neuroscience and discovery go hand-in-hand.

Who has played a pivotal role in helping you achieve your professional goals and how?
My current mentor, Dr. Thomas Wisniewski, plays a very important role in my career, not only scientifically, but as someone who provides inspiration, encouragement, and support. In the field of scientific research, you hardly receive the results you want or expect. This can be very disheartening and frustrating. Dr. Wisniewski helps me broaden my thinking and provides me with the tools I need to find alternative ways of looking at a problem. He doesn't give me the answers, but helps lead me into different directions. Instead of looking at a result as a setback or failure, he often helps me understand that there are different ways to view a complication or problem. I consider myself very lucky to be working in his lab and to have his reassurance.

I would also like to give credit to my mentor from graduate school, Dr. Long Yu, who was influential in helping me with advancing my knowledge in genetic engineering and he helped me see how what we do in the lab can really make a difference. Lastly, if it hadn't been for my biology teacher in middle school, I'm not sure I would be here today. At a very young age, she opened my eyes to the world of science. She instilled a sense of curiosity and spirit of inquiry within me that continues to grow to this day, and I'll always be thankful to her for that.

If science had not been your chosen field, what would you be doing today?
I think I would have chosen to be a teacher. Actually, I do teach undergraduate/graduate students and really enjoy it so perhaps I would have focused on a teaching career. Otherwise, given my interest in the human brain and how the mind functions, I may have considered being a psychologist. And, sometimes when I think "out of the box," I dream of being a writer, an author of fiction novels.

In the News

Bloomberg- April 22, 2014
Dr. Moses Chao
Celebration to honor the finalists for the Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Young Investigators. The prize targets an age group and a type of science that are often neglected by the National Institutes of Health, said Moses Chao, coordinator of the molecular neurobiology program at the NYU Langone Medical Center.

Upcoming Events


Jointly Sponsored by the Michael L. Freedman, MD Lecture Series and Center for Cognitive Neurology

May 7, 2014
3 pm, Skirball 4th Floor Seminar Room
"Is a National Alzheimer's Plan Worthwhile? A 2007-2013 French Experience"
Presented by: Joel Menard, MD
Professor Emeritus of Public Health, Dept of Medicine. Rene-Decartes, Paris
President of the Scientific Council of the French Plan Alzheimer
Hosted by: Mony de Leon, Ed.D. and Thomas Wisniewski, MD

Neuroscience Seminar Series

May 22nd, 2014
12-1pm, Nathan Kline Institute, Conference Room B
"Degradation of small amyloid fibrils by microglia"
Presented by Frederick Maxfield, PhD
Horowitz Professor & Chairman, Department of Biochemistry, Weill Cornell Medical College
Hosted by: Ralph Nixon, MD, PhD

May 29th, 2014
12-1pm, Nathan Kline Institute, Conference Room B
"Phosphorylation of neurofilaments and their role at the synapse"
Presented by Veeranna, PhD
Research Scientist, Center for Dementia Research, Nathan S. Kline Institute; Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, New York University Langone Medical School
Hosted by: Mala Rao, PhD


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