January 13, 2020

UMD News

A new study in mice reveals that complete visual deprivation can reactivate a powerful synaptic plasticity pathway in adults, which can promote the recovery of brain function. The discovery holds promise of future therapies for adults with visual deficits.

Seed Grant Program RFP

Over the last four years, BBI has awarded seed funding to 27 teams of innovative interdisciplinary researchers from nearly 30 departments, centers, and institutes across campus. These have been extremely successful: BBI's $1.75M investment has yielded $12.5M in funding from NIH, NSF, and AFSOR.
Brief Statement of Intent: March 2, 2020
Full Proposal Deadline: March 30, 2020
Please see this year's Frequently Asked Questions, or direct queries to


A suicide gene is one that causes a cell to kill itself through the normal and controlled part of an organism's development. Researchers using suicide genes to contain cancer face a tricky problem: they need to ensure that the gene bypasses healthy cells on its way to harmful ones. Moreover, they must make sure that the suicide gene is sent via a delivery system that treads lightly, especially if the gene is meant to treat pediatric patients, who have relatively fragile immune systems. Now, researchers have built a targetable and relatively innocuous delivery system: a library of biodegradable, cationic polymers that self-assemble with nucleic acids.
The cuttlefish hovers in the aquarium, its fins rippling and large, limpid eyes glistening. When a scientist drops a shrimp in, this cousin of the squid and octopus pauses, aims, and shoots its tentacles around the prize. There’s just one unusual detail: the diminutive cephalopod is wearing snazzy 3-D glasses. The whimsical eyewear was part of an attempt to tell whether cuttlefish see in 3-D by using the distance between their two eyes to generate depth perception like humans do. The team’s results suggest that, contrary to what scientists believed in the past, cuttlefish really can see in three dimensions.
Scientists have known for decades that aerobic exercise strengthens the brain and contributes to the growth of new neurons, but few studies have examined how yoga affects the brain. Now, a recent review of the science focuses on 11 studies about the relationship between yoga practice and brain health. The review finds evidence that yoga enhances many of the same brain structures and functions that benefit from aerobic exercise. The 11 studies also show that the brain changes seen in individuals practicing yoga are associated with better performance on cognitive tests or measures of emotional regulation.
Nearly 40 million people in the U.S. have an anxiety disorder. While treatment options exist, their success varies, and many people do not respond to treatment until weeks or months after they begin anti-depressants. Now, a new computational approach has uncovered more than 209 genes whose activity change across anxiety categories. After categorizing developmentally normal mice as having low, medium, or high anxiety, the researchers were able to note a large degree of molecular variation in the amygdala of the mice.
Studies have shown that having a living grandmother increases a human child’s chance of survival. New research provides evidence that the same may be true for killer whales. By providing young animals with freshly caught salmon now and then—or perhaps with knowledge on where to find it—grannies increase their grand-offspring’s chance of survival. The study is the first direct evidence in nonhuman animals of the “grandmother hypothesis,” which argues that females of some species live long after they stop reproducing to provide extra care for their grandchildren.
A migraine is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent attacks of severe, often incapacitating headache and dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, which controls the body’s myriad automatic activities like digestion and breathing. Now, if you are a migraine sufferer, there is something potentially life-changing that you should know: a number of medications available can either prevent or alleviate many attacks, and newly marketed wearable nerve-stimulating device may be activated from a smartphone to relieve some of the pain of migraines.
A preliminary study has found that when young, healthy men were deprived of just one night of sleep, they had higher levels of tau, a biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease, in their blood than when they had a full, uninterrupted night of rest. Researchers noted that the men had an average 17-percent increase in tau levels in their blood after a night of sleep deprivation compared to an average 2-percent increase in tau levels after a good night of sleep. The study paves the way for future research that might adopt a larger sample size and widen its focus to include women and older people.
Scientists already knew that African gray parrots are particularly clever, with large brains and exceptional problem-solving skills. However, they wondered whether these birds—separated from great apes by some 300 million years of evolution—also possess complex social abilities, like helping one another. Corvids, another group of so-called “intelligent” birds that includes crows and ravens, have so far failed to demonstrate this ability, but a new study shows that African grays will help other members of their species in need, linking them to other altruistic species of bats, rats, and whales.
Scientists have discovered a set of drug-like compounds, including an ingredient found in sore throat lozenges, that may protect brain cells from dangerous stresses found in Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. The screening platform allows researchers for the first time to rapidly test “libraries” of thousands of molecules to find those that provide broad protection to mitochondria in neurons. Mitochondrial damage is increasingly recognized as a major factor for, and in some cases a cause of, neurodegenerative diseases.

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Funding Announcements

Please visit for the complete list of open Funding Announcements.
*New!* The NSF invites applications to its Division of Integrative Organismal Systems Core Programs supporting research aimed at understanding why organisms are structured the way they are and function as they do. Multiple awards with a combined total of up to $60 million may be made. Applications are accepted anytime.
*New!* The NSF invites applications to its Enabling Discovery through Genomic Tools program supporting genomic research that addresses the mechanistic basis of complex traits in diverse organisms within the context (environmental, developmental, social, and/or genomic) in which they function. Up to 15 awards with a combined total of up to $10 million may be made. Applications are accepted anytime.
The Sleep Research Center at Walter Reed is seeking applicants for an NRC postdoctoral fellowship focusing on multimodal imaging methods to characterize typical and atypical sleep and its relation to cognition.
The NIH issues a Revised Policy for Managing Conflict of Interest in the Initial Peer Review of NIH Grant and Cooperative Agreement Applications (NOT-OD-13-010) to replace the 2011 policy and articulate policies governing the management of COI, appearance of COI, prejudice, bias, or predisposition.
*New!* The American Psychological Foundation invites applications to its Early Career Award supporting talented young psychologists making contributions towards informing, advocating for and improving the mental health and well-being of children and families, particularly through policy. Applications due January 31, 2020.
*New!* The NIH invites R01 and R21 applications to its Engineering Next-Generation Human Nervous System Microphysiological Systems (PAR-20-055 and PAR-20-082) program to develop next-generation human cell-derived microphysiological systems and related assays that replicate complex nervous system architectures and physiology with improved fidelity over current capabilities. Standard application due dates apply—e.g. February 5, 2020 for non-AIDS related R01 applications.
*New!* The Klingenstein Fund and the Simons Foundation invite applications for the Klingensten-Simons Fellowship Awards in Neuroscience. Areas of particular interest include cellular and molecular neuroscience, neural systems, and translational research. Applications due February 15, 2020.
*New!* The Trailblazer Award is an opportunity for NIH-defined New and Early Stage Investigators to pursue research programs of high interest to the NIBIB that integrate engineering and the physical sciences with the life and/or biomedical sciences. A Trailblazer project may be exploratory, developmental, proof of concept, or high risk-high impact, and may be technology design-directed, discovery-driven, or hypothesis-driven. Importantly, applicants must propose research approaches for which there are minimal or no preliminary data. Standard application due dates apply—e.g. February 16, 2020 for non-AIDS related R21 applications.
*New!* The American Psychological Foundation invites applications to its F. J. McGuigan Early Career Investigator Research Grant on Understanding the Human Mind to support research that aims to address any aspect of mental function (e.g., cognition, affect, motivation) and seeks to understand the mind from both a behavioral and neural perspective. Applications due March 1, 2020.
*New!* The NIH invites R21 applications to its Methods and Measurement in Research with Sexual and Gender Minority (SGM) Populations (RFA-MD-20-005) program to advance the measurement of constructs relevant to health research with SGM populations. Applications due March 13, 2020
The NIH seeks grant applications in two related but distinct areas for the BRAIN Initiative: Biology and Biophysics of Neural Stimulation and Recording Technologies (R01 Clinical Trials Optional) (RFA-NS-20-006). The first is to systematically characterize, model, and validate the membrane, cellular, circuit, and adaptive-biological responses of neuronal and non-neuronal cells to various types of stimulation technologies. The second is to understand the biological and bioinformatic content of signals recorded from neuronal and non-neuronal cells and circuits. Applications due March 24, 2020, June 2, 2020, October 1, 2020, etc.
*New!* The National Institute on Aging invites R01 applications to conduct research on the Glial Plasticity in the Aging Brain (RFA-AG-21-010) to support research addressing critical knowledge gaps in our understanding of how these glial subpopulations could contribute to vulnerability and resilience to brain aging. Applications due June 17, 2020.
*New!* The NIDA is issuing this Notice of Special Interest (NOT-DA-20-012) is to inform potential applicants of its interest in research project applications focusing on discovery, development and validation of drug addiction biomarkers, biosignatures and elucidation of substance use disorder biotypes, with an emphasis on machine learning and artificial intelligence based analytical approaches. Expires May 7, 2023.
*New!* The NIDA is issuing this Notice of Special Interest (NOT-DA-20-007) to highlight its interest in preclinical and clinical research to advance the understanding of the effects of concomitant use of opioids and stimulants. Research objectives are to support mechanism-based approaches that will 1) elucidate factors and mechanisms mediating the toxic effects of concomitant opioid and stimulant use and 2) point to new therapeutic targets and prevention strategies. Expires June 5, 2023.

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