BRAIN and BEHAVIOR INITIATIVE WEEKLY DIGEST

April 29, 2019


News

Two new studies are among the first to scan for mutations across the fetal exome—essentially, the collection of genes in a genome. In the studies, scientists sequenced fetal DNA only when ultrasounds revealed atypical development of limbs or other organs, and they gave families only the results that seemed to explain those problems.
Together, the studies imply that sequencing can identify a genetic cause for ultrasound abnormalities in roughly 10 percent of cases.
A new study confirms that a simple blood test can reveal whether there is accelerating nerve cell damage in the brain. The researchers analyzed neurofilament light protein (NFL) in blood samples from patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The study suggests that NFL concentration in the blood could be able to indicate if a drug actually affects the loss of nerve cells. Whereas standard methods for indicating nerve cell damage are complicated, time-consuming, and costly, measuring NFL in the blood can be cheaper and easier for the patient.
Researchers using MRI have found that higher levels of body fat are associated with differences in the brain’s form and structure, including smaller volumes of gray matter. MRI has shown to be an irreplaceable tool for understanding the link between neuroanatomical differences of the brain and behavior, and this study suggests that very large collection of MRI data can lead to improved insight into exactly which brain structures are involved in all sorts of health outcomes, such as obesity.
New research suggests that reading the brain waves that control a person's vocal tract might be the best way to help return a voice to people who have lost their ability to speak. In the study, a brain-machine interface creates natural-sounding synthetic speech by using brain activity to control a "virtual" vocal tract—an anatomically detailed computer simulation that reflects the movements of the lips, jaw, tongue and larynx that occur as a person talks. This interface created artificial speech that could be accurately understood up to 70% of the time.
Elaborate molecular networks inside living cells enable them to sense and process many signals from the environment to perform desired cellular functions, and synthetic biologists have been able to reconstruct and mimic simpler forms of this cellular signal processing. Now, a new toolset powered by self-assembling molecules and predictive modeling will allow researchers to construct the complex computation and signal processing found in eukaryotic organisms, including human cells. The work addresses a major question in how cells process information at the DNA level.
The BRAIN Initiative had a visionary mission: to fund the invention of new techniques for understanding brains. This mission reflects the realization that neuroscience cannot help but be profoundly tool-dependent. We would have no clue about neurons and their basic input-output functions without the engineers who drew upon background physics and chemistry and made the tools. Five years on, this somewhat risky investment looks, well, cautiously spectacular.

Calendar of Events

BBI-Kavli Distinguished Speaker Series
Speaker: Miguel Nicolelis (Duke)
Title: "Brain-machine interfaces: from basic science to neurological rehabilitation"
Date: Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Time: 2:00 p.m.
Location: 2204 Edward St. John Center
More info

BBI-Kavli Day Poster Session
Date: Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Location: Sculpture Lounge, Edward St. John Center (ground floor)
More info

Cognitive Science Colloquium

Speaker: Liane Young (Boston College)
Title: "How we think about friend vs foe"
Date: Thursday, May 2, 2019
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Location: 1103 Bioscience Research Building
More info

NACS Seminar
Speaker: Michael Dickinson (Cal Tech)
Title: "Straighten up and fly right: Insect flight control from neurons to ecosystems"
Date: Friday, May 3, 2019
Time: 10:15 a.m.
Location: 1103 Bioscience Research Building
More info

Recent resources from NIH

Reviewers will judge the Leadership Plan of an application with multiple principal investigators for its scientific merit and whether it promotes enough coordination and communication among PIs.
When drafting a grant application, you may puzzle over how to approach a certain section or address particular requirements. You might think, “If only I could see what other investigators have done.”

Funding Announcements

Wildlife Acoustics invites applications for Bioacoustic Research Projects focused on using bioacoustics for data collection and/or analysis, advancing scientific knowledge, and contributing to long-term conservation efforts. One or more awards of up to $5,000 each may be made. Application due: May 15, 2019.

Broadening the Representation of Academic Investigators in NeuroSciences (BRAINS) is a national program funded by NIH NINDS that aims to increase the engagement and retention of early-career academic neuroscientists from underrepresented groups through cohort-based community development and access to tips, tools, and skills development. BRAINS is now accepting applications for the 2019 cohort. Application due: May 20, 2019.

Predoctoral Training in Advanced Data Analytics for Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (BSSR) - Institutional Research Training Program [T32] (RFA-OD-19-011). Application due: May 25, 2019.

Alcohol and Other Substance Use Research Education Programs for Health Professionals (R25 Clinical Trial Not Allowed) (PAR-19-207). Application due: May 25, 2019.

Soliciting Applications for the BRAIN Advanced Postdoctoral Career Transition Award to Promote Diversity (K99/R00). Application due: June 12, 2019.

Next Generation Networks for Neuroscience (NeuroNex) (NSF 19-563). Preliminary proposal due: June 14, 2019; Full proposal due: December 13, 2019.

The Eppendorf & Science Prize for Neurobiology is an international research prize of $25,000. Since 2002, it has been awarded annually to one young scientist who is not older than 35 years for the most outstanding neurobiological research based on methods of molecular and cell biology. Application due: June 15, 2019.

Limited Competitions for Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study:
Linked Research Project Sites (Collaborative U01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed) (RFA-DA-20-002). Application due: July 24, 2019.
Data Analysis, Informatics and Resource Center (U24 Clinical Trial Not Allowed) (RFA-DA-20-003). Application due: July 24, 2019.
Coordinating Center (U24 Clinical Trial Not Allowed) (RFA-DA-20-004). Application due: July 24, 2019.

The Office of Strategic Coordination invites DP5 applications for NIH Director’s Early Independence Awards (RFA-RM-19-008) to support investigators who wish to pursue independent research essentially after completion of their terminal doctoral/research degree or end of post-graduate clinical training, thereby forgoing the traditional post-doctoral training period and accelerating their entry into an independent research career. Letter of intent due: August 13, 2019; applications due: September 13, 2019.

The American Psychological Foundation invites applications of its David H. And Beverly A. Barlow Grant to fund Research on Anxiety and Anxiety-Related Disorders conducted by a graduate student or early-career researcher. Application due: September 18, 2019.

NIH invites R01 applications for NIH Director’s Transformative Research Awards (RFA-RM-19-007) to fund individual scientists or groups of scientists proposing groundbreaking, exceptionally innovative, original, and/or unconventional research with the potential to create new scientific paradigms, establish entirely new and improved clinical approaches, or develop transformative technologies. Application due September 20, 2019.

The Maryland Catalyst Fund program – formerly known as the Faculty Incentive Program – is the University of Maryland’s internal faculty research support program and a key resource in the university’s overall effort to expand its research activity, visibility and impact. The program aims to enable innovative research, to incentivize the pursuit of large, complex, and high-impact research initiatives, and to increase our competitiveness for extramural research awards.

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