BRAIN and BEHAVIOR INITIATIVE WEEKLY DIGEST

November 18, 2019


Tomorrow! BBI Seed Grant Symposium

If you haven't yet, please take a moment to tell us your plans for attending the 3rd Annual Seed Grant Symposium tomorrow at 4 p.m. in the Stamp Colony BallroomAgenda and abstracts are available here.

We can't wait to see you there!


News

Using the Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality platform, a team of researchers has created what is believed to be the first interactive holographic mapping system of the axonal pathways in the human brain. The project is a blending of advanced visualization hardware, software development, and neuroanatomy data, and it is expected to have a wide range of scientific, clinical, and educational applications and further a collaborative interaction between neuroanatomists and brain-imaging scientists.   
By electrically stimulating nerves, neuromodulation therapies can reduce epileptic seizures, soothe chronic pain, and treat depression and a host of other health conditions without the use of conventional drugs like opioids. Now biomedical engineers and their collaborators have made a significant advance that could dramatically reduce the cost of neuromodulation therapy, increase its reliability, and make it much less invasive. With a type of electrode that can be injected as a liquid and then cure in the body, the researchers have laid the groundwork for a new kind of neural interface system.
During the last 10 years, the field of neuroscience research has been revolutionized by new genetic techniques, allowing neuroscientists to express artificial proteins in neurons that can then be modified to study diseases and disorders. One of the most commonly used genetic-based approaches is called chemogenetics, which uses artificial receptor proteins that only become active in the presence of a specific drug. Now researchers have recently developed new chemogenetic tools that have the potential to be used in clinical applications to develop novel therapies for Parkinson's disease.
Throughout the animal kingdom, there are numerous examples of neurons that respond to multiple stimuli and faithfully transmit information about those various inputs. In the fruit fly, for example, there are neurons that sense light, temperature, pain, and proprioceptive stimuli—those arising as a result of body position and movement. Scientists have now figured out how a single PVD neuron can relay two different stimuli: while harsh touch results in typical firing of the neuron—an impulse that travels the length of the cell—proprioception causes a localized response in one part of the cell with no apparent involvement of the rest. 
New preclinical research reported in animal models shows that exposure to compounds found in marijuana called cannabinoids (CBs), which includes cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), during early pregnancy can cause malformations in the developing embryo. The research also demonstrated that co-exposure to CBs and alcohol increased the likelihood of birth defects involving the face and brain. Researchers found that alcohol and CBs converge on the so-called Sonic Hedgehog pathway to inhibit signaling between molecules in cells that control growth and development in the embryo.
For the first time, ultra-fine particles produced by burning fuel have been linked to the development of malignant brain tumors. Previous research showed that these combustion-related nanoparticles can reach the human brain when inhaled. Scientists analyzed the medical records and air pollution exposure of 1.9 million adults in Toronto and Montreal and found that an air pollution increase of 10,000 nanoparticles per cubic centimeter may lead to one extra case of brain cancer for every 100,000 people exposed. The increase is comparable to moving from a quiet city street to a busy one.
For a heavy drinker whose liver has been destroyed by alcohol, an organ transplant is often the only realistic option. But because of donor liver shortages and rules that withhold them from people who have not shed their alcohol addiction, many go without. Tens of thousands die from alcoholic liver disease each year in the United States—and some go downhill much faster than others. Now, scientists have found a reason for this disparity: a toxin produced by some strains of a common gut bacterium. Working in mice, they have also tested a potential therapy, based on bacteria-destroying viruses found lurking in the sewer.
Genetically editing a cancer patient’s immune cells using CRISPR/Cas9 technology and then infusing those cells back into the patient appears to be both safe and feasible based on early data from the first-ever clinical trial to test the approach in humans in the United States. Researchers have infused three participants in the trial thus far—two with multiple myeloma and one with sarcoma—and have observed the edited T cells expand and bind to their tumor target with no serious side effects related to the investigational approach.
Listen to a high-pitched note like the sound of a whistle and you’re likely to imagine something high off the ground. Dogs, it turns out, may have the same reaction. The findings might point to a shared, evolutionarily older mechanism for why we associate certain sounds with specific physical traits: an innate knowledge shared by several kinds of mammals, and possibly passed on through animal family trees, the authors say. On the other hand, some researchers argue that the study might simply be registering unconscious cues issued by owners to their dogs during the study.

Calendar of Events

BBI Seed Grant Symposium
Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2019
Time: 4:00 p.m.
Location: STAMP Colony Ballroom
More info
 
Science Webinar
Title: "The Brain Atlas: a road map through the complex protein signature of the brain"
Date: Wednesday, November 20, 2019
Time: 12 noon
 
Cognitive Science Colloquium
Speaker: Rick Lewis (University of Michigan)
Title: "Boundedly Rational Language, Choice and Action, and the Prospects for Theoretical Cognitive Science in the Age of Deep Learning"
Date: Thursday, November 21, 2019
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Location: 1103 Bioscience Research Building
More info
 
Business Fundamentals for Scientists
Speaker: Stan Smith (University of Maryland)
Title: "How Equity Investments Work"
Date: Thursday, November 21, 2019
Time: 1:00 p.m.
Location: Diamondback Garage, Suite B
More info  |  contact: Alla McCoy
 
Maryland Innovation and Technology Series: Neurotechnology
Date: Tuesday, December 17, 2019
Time: 8:00 a.m. 
Location: NIH Building 45

Funding Announcements

Please visit bbi.umd.edu/news/FOA for the complete list of open Funding Announcements.
 
*New!* The NSF Science of Learning and Augmented Intelligence Program supports research that looks at how human cognitive function can be augmented through interactions with others, contextual variations, and technologists advance. Applications due January 15, 2020.
 
QSR-IIQM Research Grant for Early Career Researchers will allow for $25,000 in funding over two years to an Early Career Researcher with a project that shows promise and contribution to knowledge for the next generation of qualitative research innovation.

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