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Students Share Summer Research at Poster Session

On July 30, Wesleyan’s Summer Research Poster Session took place at Exley Science Center. More than 110 undergraduate research fellows from Math and Computer Sciences, Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Biology, Earth and Environmental Sciences, the Quantitative Analysis Center, and Psychology presented research at the event. (Photos by Laurie Kenney)

Aidan Bardos ’17 presented her research titled "The Effects of Nutrition on the Immune Response of Wooly Bear Caterpillars Infected by Parasitoid Wasps." Bardos' faculty advisor is Michael Singer, associate professor of biology and environmental studies.

Aidan Bardos ’17 presented her research titled “The Effects of Nutrition on the Immune Response of Wooly Bear Caterpillars Infected by Parasitoid Wasps.” Bardos’ faculty advisor is Michael Singer, associate professor of biology and associate professor of environmental studies.

A poster titled "Immunohistochemical Analysis of Status Epilepticus Mice Treated with Striatal-Enriched Tyrosine Phosphatase Inhibitor" was presented by Matt Pelton ’17. His advisor is Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior.

A poster titled “Immunohistochemical Analysis of Status Epilepticus Mice Treated with Striatal-Enriched Tyrosine Phosphatase Inhibitor” was presented by Matt Pelton ’17. His advisor is Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior.

Wesleyan Faculty Organize, Speak at StemCONN 2015

Gloster Aaron, associate professor of biology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, spoke at StemCONN 2015 in April.

Gloster Aaron, associate professor of biology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, spoke at StemCONN 2015 in April.

Wesleyan faculty members played key roles in StemCONN 2015, Connecticut’s stem cell and regenerative medicine conference, held April 27 in Hartford, Conn.

Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, director of the Center for Faculty Career Development, served on the conference’s organizing committee for the second time this year.

Gloster Aaron, associate professor of biology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, spoke at the conference on “Investigating how transplants reduce seizures: brain slice electrophysiology and ontogenetic stimulation of transplanted cells.” He discussed the collaborative work being done by his lab and those of Naegele and Laura Grabel, the Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, professor of biology, which aims to heal damaged areas of the brain that are the source of seizures in temporal lobe epilepsy by providing newborn neurons to those areas. The goal is for the newborn neurons to replace dead neurons and repair broken neuronal circuits that are thought to be a cause of temporal lobe epilepsy.

Nearly 500 scientists, business leaders and students attended the event, which is held every two years. The event was also attended by many Connecticut officials, including Gov. Dannel Malloy, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut State Rep. Lonnie Reed, and Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra. The conference was sponsored by Wesleyan, as well as Yale University, the University of Connecticut, the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering, Yale-New Haven Hospital, the City of Hartford, and other companies and non-profit organizations.

GRAMMY Foundation Grant Supports Loui’s Research on Epilepsy Intervention

Psyche Loui uses equipment like EEG to run experiments on music perception and cognition.

Psyche Loui uses equipment like EEG to run experiments on music perception and cognition. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, was awarded a grant of $20,000 in March from the GRAMMY Foundation Grant Program to study a musical biofeedback-based intervention for epilepsy.

The grant will fund three different studies that combine EEG sonification, translational research and basic neuroscience for this type of intervention. Loui anticipates that the results will apply music technology as a possible solution to a neurological disorder affecting 65 million people worldwide.

Loui noted that for the approximately one-third of patients with epilepsy who don’t respond well to seizure medication,

Faculty, Students Invited to Workshops on Contemplative Pedagogy Feb. 19

How do faculty help students, and themselves, thread a path through an ever-growing body of information? What practices can faculty and students find that enable them to bring a clear and sustained focus to their work in the classroom and the laboratory?

Through two workshops and discussions, held Feb. 19, participants can consider how one might approach teaching from a contemplative perspective, in both the long and short term. Faculty and students will experiment with the adaptation of several traditional contemplative practices to classroom situations including “stilling” (breath and body awareness), contemplative writing, “beholding,” and explore how these might be instantiated in a classroom, laboratory or personal practice.

Michelle Francl

Michelle Francl

Michelle Francl, professor of chemistry on the Clowes Fund for Science and Public Policy at Bryn Mawr College, will lead the workshops along with Wesleyan faculty and staff. Francl is a quantum chemist who has published in areas ranging from the development of methods for computational chemistry to the structures of topologically intriguing molecules. She takes a contemplative approach to both, introducing students to practices to help them find stillness and focus, including contemplative writing, and feels strongly that a pedagogical stance that recognizes the role contemplation plays in research and writing — scientific or otherwise — has the potential to deepen students engagement in their work.

“Studies show that contemplative pedagogy – a teaching method to integrate secular meditation and mindfulness into the classroom – can help improve cognitive and academic performance,”

Students, Alumni Attend Neuroscience Meeting, Reunion Dinner

A Wesleyan group gathered for a neuroscience/biology reunion dinner Nov. 19 in Washington, D.C.

A Wesleyan group gathered for a neuroscience/biology reunion dinner Nov. 15 in Washington, D.C.

Eighteen Wesleyan students, research assistants, alumni and one professor attended the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting, held Nov. 15-19 in Washington D.C.

The student group included Wesleyan lab technicians/research assistants Felicia Harrsch and Adam Lombroso and biology graduate students Kemal Asik, Jyoti Gupta, Swechhya Shrestha, Chris Chen, Nickesha Anderson, Meghan van Zandt, Chelsea Lassiter, Samantha Maisel, Julian Gal and Chris Suriano.

The alumni group included XiaoTing Zheng ’14, Eniola Yeates ’10, Efrain Ribiero ’10, Michaela Tolman ’13 and lab tech/research assistant Katharine Henderson. Most of these alumni are enrolled in Ph.D. or MD/Ph.D neuroscience programs at other universities.

Jan Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, director of the Center for Faculty Career Development, organized a reunion dinner that included 14 students and alumni.

The Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting is the premier venue for neuroscientists to present emerging science, learn from experts, forge collaborations with peers, explore new tools and technologies and advance careers. More than 31,000 people attended the SfN meeting.

Naegele, Aaron, Student Researchers Published in Journal of Neuroscience

Jan Naegele, Gloster Aaron and several Wesleyan researchers are the co-authors of an article titled “Long-Term Seizure Suppression and Optogenetic Analyses of Synaptic Connectivity in Epileptic Mice with Hippocampal Grafts of GABAergic Interneurons,” published in the October 2014 edition of The Journal of Neuroscience, Issue 34(40): 13492-13504.

Naegele is professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, and director of the Center for Faculty Career Development. Aaron is associate professor of biology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior. The article is co-authored by Diana Lin ’15; graduate students Jyoti Gupta and Meghan Van Zandt; recent alumni Elizabeth Litvina BA/MA ’11, XiaoTing Zheng ’14, Nicholas Woods ’13 and Ethan Grund ’13; and former research assistants/lab managers Sara Royston, Katharine Henderson and Stephanie Tagliatela.

Studies in rodent epilepsy models suggest that GABAergic interneuron progenitor grafts can reduce hyperexcitability and seizures in temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). Although integration of the transplanted cells has been proposed as the underlying mechanism for these disease-modifying effects, prior studies have not explicitly examined cell types and synaptic mechanisms for long-term seizure suppression. To address this gap, the researchers transplanted medial ganglionic eminence (MGE) cells from embryos into adult mice two weeks after induction of TLE.

The researchers found that TLE mice with bilateral MGE cell grafts had significantly fewer and milder electrographic seizures. These findings suggest that fetal GABAergic interneuron grafts may suppress pharmacoresistant seizures.

 

Psychology/Neuroscience’s Robinson Studies Desires of Gambling, Diet-Induced Obesity

Mike Robinson studies the role of uncertainty in gambling, and how in a certain environment, the lack of predictability can spur more malicious, compulsive, gambling

Mike Robinson studies the brain mechanisms underlying motivation and reward and how they come together to produce desire. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we speak with Mike Robinson, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, who joined the faculty in January.

Q: Welcome to Wesleyan, Professor Robinson! Please fill us in on your life up to now.

A: I was born and grew up in France, in the west suburbs of Paris, but my parents are both British, so that makes me bi-national and bilingual. I went to high school in France and decided to go to university to study neuroscience at the University of Sussex in the U.K. Then I went to McGill University in Montreal, Canada to do a master’s and a Ph.D. in experimental psychology. From there, I went to the University of Michigan for a post-doc before coming to Wesleyan. So I’ve almost jumped a country per position.

Q: What brought you to Wesleyan?

A: I was attracted by the balance Wesleyan offers—both the work-life balance, and the work balance between the amount of research and the amount of teaching. I really enjoy both teaching and research, but I always felt like I’d have to compromise one or the other if I went to a research institution or a more teaching-intensive small liberal arts school. I feel like Wesleyan has the perfect balance. Plus the opportunity to be with really high-quality students, which I thought would be really stimulating and almost like working with grad students. I currently have four students in my lab, and so far I’ve been very impressed by them.

Q: What classes are you teaching this semester?

A: I’m teaching one course called “Motivation and Reward.” In the fall, I’ll be co-teaching “Intro to Neurobiology” with Jan Naegele (professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, director of the Center for Faculty Development), and a research methods course on research in animal behavior. Next spring, I’ll be teaching “Motivation and Reward” again, and an advanced research course looking at where a lot of my research is focused, which is gambling, diet-induced obesity and drug addiction.

Q: Please tell us more about your research interests.

A: I’m interested in understanding how the brain works. I’ve always wanted to do something that helps people in as direct a way as possible, considering I’m not doing human research. I started out doing research on drug addiction. My Ph.D. work looked at the ability that we may have to affect memory after it’s been created and consolidated, either strengthening or weakening it.

Faculty, Staff Participate in College Readiness Summit

Pictured, from left, are College Readiness Summit participants James Donady, Anna Shusterman, Rob Rosenthal, Barbara Juhasz, Antonio Farias, Cathy Lechowicz, Beverly Hunter-Daniel, Ishita Mukerji, Jen Curran, Karen Anderson, Jan Naegele, Ruth Weissman and Manolis Kaparakis.

Pictured, from left, are College Readiness Summit participants James Donady, Anna Shusterman, Rob Rosenthal, Barbara Juhasz, Antonio Farias, Cathy Lechowicz, Beverly Hunter-Daniel, Ishita Mukerji, Jen Curran, Karen Anderson, Jan Naegele, Ruth Weissman and Manolis Kaparakis.

Wesleyan faculty and staff participated in a College Readiness Summit March 19 in Usdan. Throughout the day, the participants developed a detailed inventory of all on-going initiatives that improve college readiness of Wesleyan students, youth in Middletown or Middlesex County, or youth in the United States.

Several participants who are involved in college readiness-related programs at Wesleyan made short presentations. They discussed their program’s mission, goals, target population, program approach and content and staffing.

The event was coordinated by Ruth Weissman, vice president for academic affairs and provost; and Cathy Lechowicz, director of the Center for Community Partnerships.

 

Naegele Awarded Grant from CURE Epilepsy.org

Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, director of the Center for Faculty Career Development, was awarded a $250,000 grant in September from CURE Epilepsy.org. The grant, which will be given over a period of three years, will fund research examining synaptic function in GABAergic stem cell transplants using optogenics. This technique provides a way to modulate and control the activity of individual neurons in living tissue using discrete delivery of light into the brain or tissue slice. It will be used to investigate how GABAergic stem cell transplants suppress seizures in mice with temporal lobe epilepsy.

The new research effort is a collaboration with Laura Grabel, Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, professor of biology; Gloster Aaron, associate professor of biology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior; as well as neuroscientists at Yale and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Grant Will Support Epilepsy Therapy Study at Wesleyan

Gloster Aaron, Jan Naegele and Laura Grabel.

Gloster Aaron, Jan Naegele and Laura Grabel.

Three Wesleyan professors have been awarded a four-year, $1.49 million grant by the state of Connecticut’s Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee. The grant will help fund research on using human embryonic stem cell-derived GABAergic neurons for epilepsy therapy, which is being conducted by Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, Laura Grabel, Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, Professor of Biology, and Gloster Aaron, associate professor of biology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior.

This grant was the largest single award to researchers in this year’s competition. Only 23 projects were selected to receive funds from a pool of 109 applicants.

“The potential to treat neurological disorders with human embryonic stem cell-derived neurons is enormous and relatively untested,” Naegele said. “The long-term goal of our research is to develop human stem cell-based cures for treating neurodegeneration, seizures and cognitive impairments in temporal lobe epilepsy.”

In patients who have an initial precipitating event, such as a head trauma, a severe seizure can cause a loss in inhibitory GABAergic interneurons. This, in turn, can dispose an otherwise normal brain to generate spontaneous seizures, a condition known as temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). These spontaneous seizures can further damage the hippocampus and lead to memory loss and other cognitive and emotional disturbances. Because nearly one-third of TLE patients are unable to control their seizures with drugs, Naegele, Grabel and Aaron are seeking novel, stem cell-based treatments for the disease.

They have developed methods for producing GABAergic progenitors from mouse and human embryonic stem cells. In their proposal for their grant, they proposed three projects to thoroughly evaluate grafts of these neurons in mice with temporal lobe epilepsy. In addition to the collaboration between the three Wesleyan labs, the researchers have established collaborations with colleagues at the University of Connecticut Health Center and the Yale University School of Medicine to provide additional expertise for this project.

Wesleyan Granted Stem Cell Research Funds

According to the New Haven Register, Wesleyan researchers were awarded $1.48 million, the single largest grant in a new pool of state funding for stem cell research. The labs of Janice Naegele, Laura Grabel and Gloster Aaron are working together to studying stem cell therapies to treat temporal lobe epilepsy.

Naegele Speaks on “Promises and Pitfalls on Stem Cell Therapy for Brain Disorders”

Jan Naegele

Jan Naegele

Jan Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, made two presentations in 2013. On March 12, she spoke on “Promises and Pitfalls of Stem Cell Therapy for Brain Disorders” at the 17th Annual Meeting for the Israeli Society for Biological Psychiatry in Kibbutz Hagoshrim, Israel.

On March 26, she spoke to the Middlesex Elderly Service Providers on “Stem Cell Therapy for Brain Disorders” in Middletown.

On June 11, Naegele will speak on “GABAergic interneuron replacement for temporal lobe epilepsy” at the University of California-Irvine.