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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 Postdoctoral Fellow Wins Society for Neuroscience Early Career Award

Manuel Valero, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of György Buzsáki, MD, PhD, was a 2022 recipient of the Peter and Patricia Gruber International Research Award from the Society for Neuroscience. This award recognizes neuroscientists at the cusp of independence for outstanding research in an international setting. As a member of the Buzsáki Lab, Dr. Valero has published a number of impactful studies, including a seminal investigation of sub-threshold dynamics in the hippocampus in Science. Dr. Valero will continue this bold and innovative work in his own lab at the Cajal Institute in Madrid.

Parekh Center for Interdisciplinary Neurology Holds First Annual Symposium

The Parekh Center for Interdisciplinary Neurology was founded in 2020 with the support of a generous gift from Deven and Monika Parekh through the Psquared Charitable Foundation. Neuroscience Institute faculty members Shane A. Liddelow, PhD, and Un J. Kang, MD, were tapped as its co-directors to lead efforts to 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.

On December 14, 2022, the Parekh Center held its first annual symposium to highlight progress made by funded investigators as well as work by invited speakers whose work aligns with the Center’s mission. The Parekh Center supports four main research projects and two pilot projects, each focused on different neurological disorders. Leaders of each of these investigations shared their progress, their goals, and how collaborations from across NYU Langone and with outside partners have facilitated each project. Invited speakers included Khalil Ramadi, PhD, of NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Tandon School of Engineering; NYU Langone’s Biyu He, PhD and Eric Oermann, MD; and Itai Yanai, PhD, who shared perspective on critical features of creativity in the scientific method from his popular podcast Night Science.

Biyu He Receives 2023 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science

Biyu Jade He, PhD, an assistant professor at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and investigator in the Neuroscience Institute, was named a 2023 recipient of the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science. Dr. He is a leader in cognitive neuroscience for her work unraveling the complex mechanisms by which the brain constructs visual perception from past experiences and sensation of the world around us. Her discoveries hold great promise for unlocking the mechanisms leading to consciousness and provide insight into a range of neurological and psychiatric disorders, especially those which present with visual hallucinations.

The Vilcek Foundation raises awareness of immigrant contributions in the United States and fosters appreciation of the arts and sciences and was founded in 2000 by Jan and Marica Vilcek, immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia. Jan T. Vilcek, MD, PhD, completed his medical and scientific training at NYU School of Medicine and remains a professor in the Department of Microbiology today.

Neuroscience Institute Investigators Make Highly Cited Researchers List

Neuroscience Institute Investigators Shane Liddelow, PhD, György Buzsáki, MD, PhD, Francisco Xavier Castellanos, MD, and Orrin Devinsky, MD, were among the most highly cited researchers in the world in 2022. The annual Highly Cited Researchers list, compiled by an analytical team at the Institute for Scientific Information at Clarivate, identifies researchers who have demonstrated significant influence in their fields and whose papers rank in the top one percent by citation in the past decade.

For each of these four researchers, 2022 is the third year running that their work has been impactful and cited frequently enough for inclusion on Clarivate’s list.

Liddelow Lab Describes a Gene with Translational Relevance for Alzheimer’s disease

The laboratory of Shane Liddelow, PhD, in collaboration with a team at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, linked a gene known as inositol polyphosphate-5-phosphatase (INPP5D) to inflammation implicated in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. INPP5D is exclusively expressed in microglia, non-neuronal cell types in the brain that mediate a variety of functions in the central nervous system including immunity and removal of amyloid plaques.

The Liddelow Lab is renowned for their expertise in spatial transcriptomics, which allowed them to simultaneously map and quantify gene expression in the brain after knockdown of INPP5D. Their analyses revealed that INPP5D knockdown replicated increases in genes typically elevated in microglia with physical proximity to plaques, and identified both INPP5D as a new therapeutic target.

Read the study published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia and the coverage in News Medical.

Neuroscience Outreach Group at NYU to partner with MindHive, a Citizen Science Platform for Real-World Brain and Behavior Research

The Neuroscience Outreach Group (NOGN) at NYU began an exciting new collaboration in January 2023 with MindHive, a web-based citizen science platform that provides teachers and students with access to real experiments for investigating human brain and behavior while learning how to navigate the scientific method. The MindHive curriculum is designed by cognitive neuroscientists and is taught with direct support and mentorship from scientists. NOGN volunteers have joined the mentorship team for spring 2023 to guide students through the curriculum and expand MindHive as a platform for bringing real-world neuroscience research to classrooms everywhere.

Rice Lab Links Nerve-Growth Protein with Benefits of Exercise on Brain Health

The laboratory of Margaret E. Rice, PhD, studies factors that regulate the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter key to movement, reward, and learning. There are longstanding and numerous links between exercise and brain health, but the mechanisms for how exercise influences brain health are unclear. In light of the benefits of exercise for patients with movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease, the Rice Lab set out to better understand possible links between wheel running in mice and the striatum, a dopaminergic brain region which coordinates movement.

The team found that wheel running for a month resulted in a 40 percent increase in striatal dopamine release over mice who did not exercise. Further, running mice had 60 percent more striatal brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein critical for neuronal health, and artificially reducing BDNF levels in the striatum prevented the observed increase in exercise-induced dopamine release. Altogether, the Rice Lab has described a previously unknown mechanism linking exercise with positive outcomes for brain health.

Read the study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, in a Neuroscience Institute journal club article, and in coverage in SciTechDaily, Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News, and Science Daily.

Froemke and Svirsky Labs Advance Understanding of Challenges and Opportunities for Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implants are prosthetics that can restore hearing in deaf patients, but their efficacy varies widely across individuals. How quickly cochlear implants lead to the return of hearing, and how accurately, is thought to depend on neuroplasticity within the central auditory system. While it is known how cochlear implants activate the auditory cortex, mechanisms mediating neuroplasticity after cochlear implant surgery remain largely uncharacterized.

In order to understand how neuroplasticity in the auditory system helps or hinders the success of cochlear implants, the labs of Robert C. Froemke, MD, PhD, and Mario A. Svirsky, PhD, teamed up to investigate plasticity in the locus coeruleus in rats. The locus coeruleus is a brainstem structure that produces the neuromodulator norepinephrine and modulates attention and perception throughout the brain, including hearing. The team trained rats to perform a task in which the animal’s behavior was dependent on perception of a sound. After learning the task, some of rats were surgically deafened and given cochlear implants. As rats learned to hear with cochlear implants, activity in the locus coeruleus changed dramatically.

“Our results suggest that improving neuroplasticity in the locus coeruleus may speed up and bolster the effectiveness of cochlear implants,” said Dr. Froemke, co-senior study author. “Since our goal is to activate the locus coeruleus, we need to determine what noninvasive mechanisms may be used to trigger the brain region,” added Dr. Svirsky, also study co-senior author.

Read the study published in Nature and coverage in The New Scientist and ScienceDaily.