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Neuroscience Institute News

Faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and affiliated investigators at NYU Langone’s Neuroscience Institute consistently garner national awards and coverage in major media outlets for their work and accomplishments.

Neuroscience Institute Welcomes Second Cohort of Six Undergraduate Student Researchers

Launched in 2021, the Neuroscience Institute’s immersive 10-week summer research training program for undergraduates focuses on recruiting students from diverse backgrounds. Once admitted, students are matched with participating faculty mentors based on their interests, and spend 10 weeks performing hypothesis-driven experiments, learning to use state-of-the-art-equipment, interpreting data, and practicing science communication skills. For the summer of 2022, participating faculty are György Buzsáki, MD, PhD; Robert C. Froemke, PhD; Biyu J. He, PhD; Dayu Lin, PhD; Dimitris G. Placantonakis, MD, PhD; and Margaret E. Rice, PhD.

Neuroscience Institute Postdoctoral Scholars Named to 2022 Class of Simons Society Junior Fellows

Megan Kirchgessner, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Robert C. Froemke, PhD, and Beatrice Barra, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Dmitry Rinberg, PhD, were both named to the 2022 class of Junior Fellows in the Simons Society of Fellows in recognition and support of their work. Dr. Kirchgessner is investigating the role of oxytocin in postnatal development while Dr. Barra is interested in the neural dynamics of how the mouse olfactory system encodes sensory information. Founded in 2014, the Simons Society of Fellows encourages intellectual interactions across disciplines and research centers around New York City.

He Lab Identifies Neural Patterns Contributing to Visual Perception and Secures Funding from the Feldstein Medical Foundation

Visual perception of the world around us is a key, ongoing process in conscious perception. When viewing images characterized by change and ambiguity, such as differences in shading, clutter, inherent complexity, and obstructions, our brains may undergo continuous perceptual alterations between possible interpretations of what we see. The laboratory of Biyu J. He, PhD, used this type of dynamic visual input to disentangle the neural activity underlying that perceptual switching process, wherein complex sensory intake ultimately gives rise to a single stream of perceptual awareness. In the study published in Scientific Reports, the He Lab found that stimulation of the right inferior frontal gyrus had no effect on perception, as they had suspected, but instead fluctuations in oscillatory power of different types of brain waves predicted how long perception of visual input would be stable. This study from Dr. He’s group is one of one of several that have come out in the past year in high-impact journals such as Nature Communications, eLife, and PNAS.

To build on the work in her lab, Dr. He was recently awarded funding from the Feldstein Medical Foundation. The award will allow her to gain an understanding of the neural underpinnings of hallucinations, which are aberrant visual perceptions prevalent across neurologic and psychiatric disorders.

Tritsch Lab Reveals Dynamics of Inhibitory Co-Transmission in Midbrain

In a study published in Cell Reports, Nicolas Tritsch, PhD, and postdoctoral researcher Riccardo Melani, PhD, demonstrated that co-transmission of dopamine and GABA from projection neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta inhibits target cells in the striatum through unconventional mechanisms. Because striatal projection neurons do not express GABA synthetic enzymes or the vesicular GABA transporter, inhibitory co-transmission from these cells has been proposed to take place not via GABA but instead via a ligand that acts as a GABA receptor agonist. In an elegant set of experiments, Dr. Melani and Dr. Tritsch showed that the presynaptic cell imports GABA for synaptic transmission from the extracellular space by the membrane-bound GABA transporter Gat1 and loads it into synaptic vesicles via the vesicular monoamine transporter Vmat2. In clarifying exactly how a previously poorly understood phenomenon occurs, the Tritsch Lab has fundamentally advanced our understanding of neurotransmission in a brain circuit key for behavior, cognition, and emotion.

Long Lab Reveals Brain Networks Enabling Human Conversation

The laboratory of Michael A. Long, PhD, published an article in Nature describing the brain’s neural circuitry that enables planning of spoken replies during conversation. Conversation is made up of perception of what is heard, planning of a reply, and production of sounds. That middle stage—planning of a reply—was previously elusive to neuroscientists due to it being too fast for detection by many technologies. The Long Lab used electrocorticography (ECoG), which involves placing electrodes directly on the surface of the brain, to achieve the necessary signal-to-noise resolution. But because speech planning doesn’t have a physical correlate in the same way as talking or listening do, it was their experimental paradigm in concert with ECoG that was finally able to capture brain activity during speech planning. By recording neural activity during a question-based behavioral task designed to isolate the planning of replies, this work laid the groundwork for new therapies for millions of people who have difficulty using their voices, including those with apraxia, aphasia, and other disorders.

Shane A. Liddelow, PhD, and Un Jung Kang, MD, Named Co-Directors of New Parekh Center for Interdisciplinary Neurology

Neuroscience Institute faculty members Shane A. Liddelow, PhD, and Un Jung Kang, MD, were tapped to lead a new center for interdisciplinary neurology founded with the support of a generous gift from Deven and Monika Parekh through the Psquared Charitable Foundation. The Parekh Center for Interdisciplinary Neurology will fund early-stage research focusing on cross-disease drivers of pathology—in particular, mechanisms by which immune cells, glial cells, and the microbiome influence central nervous system function.

Neuroscience Institute Scientists Receive Prestigious Society for Neuroscience Awards

In 2021, the Society for Neuroscience presented Shane A. Liddelow, PhD, with the Janett Rosenberg Trubatch Career Development Award, the society’s recognition of originality and creativity in research designed to promote success during academic transitions before tenure. Dr. Liddelow’s lab investigated the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which glial cells contribute to neurodegeneration and diseases of the central nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease and glaucoma. David Tingley, PhD, a former graduate student in the laboratory of György Buzsáki, MD, PhD, was presented with the Nemko Prize in Cellular or Molecular Neuroscience, awarded annually to recognize a young neuroscientist’s outstanding PhD thesis for advancing our understanding of molecular, genetic, or cellular mechanisms underlying higher brain function and cognition. Dr. Tingley is now a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School. As a trainee in the Buzsáki Lab, he studied how the hippocampus regulates both cognition and metabolic function. His findings were published in Nature.

Neuroscience Outreach Group at NYU Receives Brain Awareness Week Grant

The laboratory of Shane A. Liddelow, PhD, has partnered with three Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) middle schools to create KIPP Neural Connect, a monthly after-school program focusing on exposing students from diverse backgrounds to neuroscience and research early on. During its pilot year, KIPP Neural Connect reached 3 middle schools and around 50 students. In an effort to demystify science and create spaces where the students can see themselves in a STEM setting, Uriel Rufen-Blanchette, a research associate in the Liddelow Lab, in partnership with the Neuroscience Outreach Group at NYU (NOGN), was awarded a grant from the Dana Foundation to bring KIPP students to the Neuroscience Institute in honor of Brain Awareness Week.