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Seminars in Neuroscience

All neuroscience seminars are held on Mondays, at 12:00 PM, via Zoom, unless otherwise noted. Check the calendar for the most updated information.

Spring 2021 Schedule

Dr. Marie-Christine Miquel

Associate Professor, Center for Integrative Biology
Université Toulouse III Paul Sabatie
Host: Dr. Vincent Setola

*Monday, January 25, 2021

“InCogMito: mitochondria, cognition and adult-born neurons”

Synopsis: In the mammalian brain, considerable evidence shows that mitochondrial dysfunctions occur early and contribute to the loss of synaptic function and plasticity. In this context, our research group recently demonstrated that mitochondrial disorders play a primordial role in hippocampal function and memory performances during Alzheimer's disease. However, it remains unclear how aging per se affects mitochondrial dynamics and functions in the hippocampus and whether mitochondrial defects are causal in neuronal dysfunction.
Our ongoing projects aim to understand the importance of mitochondria in cognition during healthy and pathological aging, focusing on adult-born neurons. Through manipulation of mitochondrial dynamics within hippocampal neural cell populations in mice, we seek for new crucial information linking mitochondria to brain plasticity and cognitive functions throughout aging. We expect that our work will shed light on an unexplored aspect of cognitive diseases, possibly leading to novel diagnostic approaches.

*Seminar will be held on Monday at 10:00 AM

Dr. Robert C. Froemke

Professor, Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery; Neuroscience & Physiology
New York University Langone Health
Host: Dr. Aric Agmon

Monday, February 8, 2021

“Social transmission of maternal behavior via oxytocin and synaptic plasticity”

Synopsis: I will discuss recent results and unpublished data from our lab on how the neurohormone oxytocin enables maternal behavior in new mother mice. I will focus on experience-dependent plasticity in auditory cortex related to recognizing the significance of pup distress calls, which are important for mother mice retrieving lost pups back to the nest. Surprisingly, this behavior, neural responses, and oxytocin receptor expression were lateralized to the left side of the auditory cortex, perhaps similar to the lateralization of language abilities in humans. I will also describe a new system we have built to combine neural recordings from the auditory cortex and oxytocin neurons of the hypothalamus in vivo, synchronized with days-to-weeks long continuous video monitoring of homecage behavior to identify when oxytocin release and cortical plasticity might occur during natural social and maternal experience.

Dr. Huda Akil

Co-Director and Research Professor, MBNI
Gardner C. Quarton Distinguished University Professor of Neurosciences, Department of Psychiatry
University of Michigan
Host: Jennifer Liu

Monday, February 15, 2021

“The neurobiology of stress vulnerability and resilience: animal models and human studies of depression”

Synopsis: An overview of convergent strategies in the study of stress reactivity, including genetic, molecular and clinical approaches. The talk will highlight the interplay of genetics and environment in stress responsiveness and in vulnerability to mood disorders.

Dr. Leslie Sombers

*Seminar co-hosted with the C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry

Professor, Chemistry, Comparative Medicine Institute
North Carolina State University
Host: Dr. Gregory Dudley

Monday, February 22, 2021

“Neurochemical characterization of striatal function: from new electroanalytical tools to new insight”

Synopsis: The brain is a dynamic environment in which neurochemicals rapidly fluctuate over time and space. Neuroscientists endeavor to understand exactly how specific chemical signals integrate into complex brain function (or dysfunction). To date, progress has been limited by a paucity of tools available for monitoring real-time neurochemical signaling in active subjects. One of the available tools is fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV), an electroanalytical approach that combines selectivity with sensitivity to report on dopamine (DA) dynamics in the brain. FSCV has profoundly advanced our understanding of goal-directed behavior, but this powerful voltammetric approach has primarily been used to study DA. Countless classes of molecules in the brain remain entirely uncharacterized.
The Sombers Lab is working to expand real-time electroanalytical measurements to additional neurochemical targets and reveal how different neurochemicals contribute to striatal function and dysfunction. This talk will describe breakthrough voltammetric strategies for monitoring (1) hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), a reactive oxygen species; and (2) met-enkephalin (M-ENK), an endogenous opioid neuropeptide.  These two ‘difficult-to-detect’ neurochemicals work with DA in the striatum, a central hub of the basal ganglia that is involved in motor control and motivated behavior.
These investigations reveal critical mechanistic details by which neurochemical encoding of information in the striatum relates to specific aspects of action initiation and reward-related decision making. Perhaps more importantly, this work provides the broader scientific community with well characterized research tools that can be used to investigate how the brain uses neurochemical signaling to encode information in a variety of contexts, to quantify the modulatory effects of relevant pharmacology, and to directly evaluate neurochemical dysregulation in a range of disease states.

Dr. Carol A. Colton

Professor, Neurology
Duke University School of Medicine
Host: Dr. Candice Brown

Monday, March 8, 2021

“Immunity and re-programming of the brain’s metabolism in neurodegenerative diseases”

Synopsis: Finding a way to stop, or even slow, the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is one of the most difficult challenges facing medicine today. Many research studies and clinical trials have led to “promising results” over the past 20 years, while others have produced significant disappointment. Regardless of the outcomes of these trials, the impact of AD on individuals, families and society, in general, has not been significantly altered. In this seminar we will discuss a novel, integrated approach to the study of AD which is directly applicable to humans with AD, can be used to validate models of AD and can investigate the effectiveness of therapies within an integrated target.  We hypothesize that Alzheimer’s is not a single cell disease. Rather, it is a tissue-based immune disorder that impacts the brain by altering the complex metabolic balance within and between cells. Unlike other tissues, this is accentuated by the brain’s enclosed environment and the restrictions initiated by the blood brain barrier. Our overarching hypothesis is that immune-based metabolic reprogramming in the brain progressively leads to neuronal dysfunction and loss, learning and memory deficits, neurofibrillary tangle pathology and amyloid plaque pathology in AD.

Dr. Ruifeng “Ray” Cao

Assistant Professor, Biomedical Sciences
University of Minnesota Medical School
Host: Dr. Randy Nelson

Monday, March 15, 2021

“Translational control of circadian physiology and dysfunction in neurodevelopmental disorders”

Synopsis: Circadian rhythms are the approximately 24 hour rhythms that are found in a variety of physiological processes in almost all living organisms on the planet. Although it is well recognized that circadian rhythms are driven by transcriptional-translational feedback loops, mechanisms regulating mRNA translation remain poorly understood. In the seminar I will discuss our work on translational control mechanisms underlying circadian clock timing, resetting and synchrony in mammals. I will also discuss a role for circadian dysfunction in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.

Dr. Hal S. Greenwald

Program Ofcer, Cognitive & Computational Neuroscience
Air Force Ofce of Scientic Research (AFOSR/RTA)
Host: Dr. Shuo Wang

Monday, March 22, 2021

“Cognitive & computational neuroscience at the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR)”

Synopsis: AFOSR’s Cognitive & Computational Neuroscience program funds high-risk, high-impact basic experimental and theoretical research on the mechanisms of perception, cognition, and behavior and at the intersection of neuroscience and artificial intelligence to ultimately benefit Air Force, Space Force, and Department of Defense missions. This presentation will introduce the program, provide examples of currently funded research, and describe how to engage with AFOSR.

Dr. Ulrich Ettinger

Professor, Psychology
University of Bonn, Germany
Host: Dr. Mariya Cherkasova

*Monday, March 29, 2021

“Effects of ketamine on oculomotor and neuroimaging biomarkers of schizophrenia”

Synopsis: In this talk I will present findings from recent investigations into the psychotomimetic effects of ketamine. Ketamine has been proposed to model symptoms of psychosis, with support for this hypothesis coming from reports of ketamine-induced alterations in cognition and brain function that resemble the deficits observed in schizophrenia. Here, I will focus on well-established oculomotor and neuroimaging biomarkers of psychosis. Overall, the presented findings will provide partial support for the use of ketamine as a pharmacological model of psychosis.

*Seminar will be held on Monday at 10:00 AM

Dr. Alfonso Apicella

Associate Professor, Biology
The University of Texas at San Antonio
Host: Dr. Charles Anderson

Monday, April 12, 2021

“Cortical circuits organization of GABAergic neurons: local vs. long-range”

Synopsis: The cortical function is characterized by the dynamic interplay of two major forces: excitation and inhibition. A well-established principle of the cortical circuit organization is that inhibition is local while excitation is both local and long-range. However, for the first time, my laboratory has characterized the functional importance of neocortical long-range GABAergic projections in contralateral, cortico-striatal, and cortico-amygdala processing.

Dr. Martin Hruska

Assistant Professor, Neuroscience
West Virginia University

Monday, April 19, 2021

“Nanoscale rules of synaptic organization and spine structural plasticity: insights from super-resolution imaging”

Synopsis: Dendritic spines are important sites of plasticity and are disrupted in disease. Yet, how spines organize their synaptic components and how this organization changes with plasticity is not well understood. Using three-color STED super-resolution imaging of individual spines, I will highlight how precisely aligned pre and postsynaptic protein nanomodules form the building blocks of excitatory synapses. Moreover, this work has begun to reveal subunit-specific glutamate receptor organization rules in spines that provide the flexibility necessary for diverse synaptic events.

Dr. Corey Harwell

Assistant Professor, Neurobiology
Harvard University Medical School
Host: Dr. Eric Tucker

Monday, April 26, 2021

Title to be announced