Tag Archive for Neuroscience

Neuroscience Major Russell ’15 an A Cappella Singer, Organic Chemistry TA

Colin Russell '15 sings with two a cappella groups on campus and works as a Senior Interviewer in the Office of Admission. "My goal is to personalize a student’s application as much as possible, and it has been a joy to meet so many accomplished high school seniors," he said. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Colin Russell ’15 sings with two a cappella groups on campus and works as a Senior Interviewer in the Office of Admission. “My goal is to personalize a student’s application as much as possible, and it has been a joy to meet so many accomplished high school seniors,” he said. Colin plans on applying to medical school next spring. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

#THISISWHY
In this Q&A meet Colin Russell from the Class of 2015.

Q: Colin, what are you majoring in? What have been your most instrumental courses so far?

A: I am majoring in neuroscience and behavior while also on the pre-medical path. Two of the most instrumental courses in my journey through Wes have been Organic Chemistry and the Organic Chemistry Lab that is paired with the lecture course. The reputation of Organic Chemistry was extremely intimidating prior to taking the course, and I was nervous that I would not like this subject that is the basis for so much of the biological world. However, I soon learned that I enjoyed the structure of subject, not just in the way it was taught, but in the way that my brain began to process information. The concurrent lab course, while extremely difficult, also allowed for hands-on application of the processes and reactions that we were learning in the lecture class. I enjoyed the course so much that I became a Teacher’s Assistant for the lab, and I will be starting my fourth semester as a TA for the lab in the spring. Not only has the information from these two courses been crucial for my studies, but the process of meeting the challenges of these two classes has also been extremely important in my academic journey.

Q: You’re currently a Senior Interviewer in the Office of Admission. Please describe that role.

A: Joining the Office of Admission team has critically shaped my senior year and outlook on Wesleyan. I have learned much not only about the admissions process, but also a ton about Wesleyan and her students. As Senior Interviewers, we are expected to know about the various corners of campus life, and so I found myself seeking out ways to soak up random tidbits,

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.

 

Goodstein ’14 to Deliver WESeminar on Mental Illness and Stigma

Taylor Goodstein '14 wrote her senior thesis on the human experience of mental illness. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Taylor Goodstein ’14 wrote her senior thesis on the human experience of mental illness. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we speak with Taylor Goodstein from the Class of 2014. She is delivering a WESeminar at Reunion & Commencement on the topic of her capstone project: “Looking Inward: Examining the Broken Brain and Reducing Stigma.”

Q: Taylor, what is your major, and how did you settle on this topic for your thesis?

A: I am a neuroscience and behavior and biology double major, and I am also obtaining a certificate in creative writing. I was never planning on writing a thesis because I don’t conduct research in a neuroscience or biology laboratory, but then one day the idea just sort of came to me. I realized how neuroscience classes at Wesleyan focus so much on the hard science, and it becomes easy to forget that the illnesses and disorders that are discussed at a physiological level have real-world social and personal implications. I wanted to explore the human side of neuroscience, and I was inspired by writers who have done the same thing, such as Oliver Sacks. Combining narrative and current neuroscience research is an excellent tool for increasing understanding and reducing the stigma of mental illness, and I wanted to try it out.

Q: Please tell us about the people you interviewed for your project.

A: I interviewed six people, including one Wesleyan student with multiple sclerosis—whose story illustrates how living with an invisible, inconsistent disability can be hard to explain and thus causes lots of misunderstanding—as well as another Wes student who talked about living with an anxiety disorder that perpetuated an eating disorder. Her story was very valuable to me because she has since made a full recovery, and I really went in to detail discussing the aspects of her environment that made it easy for her to seek help and get treatment. Hopefully, such environments can be replicated more and more so people don’t remain silent about mental illness.

After Studying Abroad, Mummini ’14 Hired as Health Programs Assistant in Denmark

Swetha Mummini ’14

Swetha Mummini ’14 is a biology and neuroscience and behavior double major.

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we speak with Swetha Mummini ’14 who studied abroad last spring through the Danish Institute for Study Abroad Program. Her study abroad program hires two graduating past participants to be paid interns for the year after graduation and Mummini received the internship for the science and health programs assistant. 

Q: What prompted you to study abroad in Copenhagen?

A: Macaroni and cheese. I know that sounds a bit ridiculous, but the first time I seriously considered going abroad was at the very beginning of junior year when my friend Catherine invited her friends over for baked macaroni and cheese. Over the course of the meal, her friends talked about their plans to go abroad during spring semester of junior year, and that moment served as my personal eureka moment. I realized what a unique opportunity studying abroad was and how I should take the opportunity to pursue it. That night, I was up until 4 a.m. researching programs and trying to find the perfect fit. Denmark has always fascinated me, especially because of its status as the happiest country in the world and its welfare state. The program that I chose, the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS), also offered a wide variety of health science and public health classes that appealed to me.

Q: What did you like about the DIS program in particular?

A: For premedical students, DIS has a unique program called Medical Practice and Policy. It’s a very hands-on program that exposes students to the fundamentals of clinical medicine and the European healthcare system. By participating in the program, I was able to get clinical exposure that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to experience in the U.S. I learned how to take a patient’s case history and formulate a diagnosis. I also learned how to perform basic medical procedures, such as taking an ultrasound and drawing blood. To give students a broader understanding of healthcare policy, our class also took a weeklong trip to Vienna and Budapest where we heard from physicians and other medical specialists about the challenges in their healthcare systems.

Oliphant ’13 on the Sense of Community at Wesleyan

Melody Oliphant ’13, who double majored in neuroscience and behavior and history at Wes, is now a research associate in a neurogenetics lab at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City.

“I’m often awestruck at the seemingly limitless answers to the question, ‘What makes Wesleyan special?’ or ‘What excited me about Wesleyan?’ Yet, in some form or fashion, the answer always remains the same: the people, the sense of community.

Throughout my Wesleyan experience, I participated in a disparate array of activities and academic pursuits ranging from environmental activism to my double major, from founding a sorority to participating in the Wesleyan Student Assembly, from playing Ultimate Frisbee to serving as a women’s center escort to help women pass center protesters. I worked as an archivist at the Middlesex County Historical Society, as a student manager for the Red and Black Calling Society, as a sustainability intern working to remove bottled water from campus, and as an intern for the Senior Gift.

Someone unfamiliar with Wesleyan might wonder what unites such supposedly divergent interests. But the answer is simple: community. Even in my academics, I learned not to take courses according to my own purported interests, but rather by following professors who ignite a sense of intellectual curiosity and foster a holistic understanding of the world, uniting the humanities with the technoscientific realm.”

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View this video and others at the Video @Wesleyan site.

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Loui Speaks on “the Musical Brain” at Symposium

Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, presented a talk at a symposium held March 6-8 at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Schmitt Program on Integrative Brain Research (SPIBR). Her talk, titled, “Action and Perception in the Musical Brain,” described current research from her lab and others that related to the structure and function of the brain to music perception and production, with examples from tone-deafness, absolute pitch, music learning and strong emotional responses to music.

Assistant Professor Loui Studies Music Perception, Cognition

Psyche Loui is teaching "Cognitive Neuroscience" this semester.

In Psyche Loui’s “Cognitive Neuroscience” course, students learn how the brain enables the mind. Pictured on the computer monitor are 2-D and 3-D views of diffusion tensor images, which are a type of Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain.

In this edition of The Wesleyan Connection, we speak to Psyche Loui, a new assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior.

Q: Professor Loui, welcome to Wesleyan! Please tell us about your life up to now. Where did you grow up and go to school?

A: I’m from Hong Kong, originally. When I was 13, I moved to Vancouver, Canada, so I’m Canadian. But I just got a Green Card, which is exciting. I went to Duke as an undergrad, where I was a psychology and music double major and earned a neuroscience certificate. Then I went to grad school in psychology at the University of California at Berkeley. I was jointly advised by faculty in psychology and neuroscience and in music. My main interest is music perception and cognition.

Before coming to Wesleyan, I was a post-doc and then an instructor at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, which is one of the teaching hospitals of Harvard Medical School. My post was in the Department of Neurology—which is a little bit different than my psychology/ neuroscience background—but my lab focused on music and the brain, so that fit really well with my interests.

Q: What brought you to Wesleyan?

A: After a few years of being at a big med school, it’s easy to be kind of jaded and feel like the science is dependent on grant funding, connections and politics. It’s been very nice coming here and feeling like there’s still the energy of being creative and asking good questions, and the integrity. That’s what struck me. And the people were really so nice.

I applied very selectively within the northeast area. I wasn’t really in a rush to leave the Harvard situation. Among the interviews I had, Wesleyan definitely stood out as the nicest place to be.

Q: What classes are you teaching this year?

A: I’m teaching “Cognitive Neuroscience” this semester, which is the study of how the brain enables the mind. We spent the first third of the class studying the physics behind it—How does fMRI work?

Loui’s Paper on Voice on Emotional Arousal

Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, recently had a paper, “Effects of Voice on Emotional Arousal,” published in Frontiers in Psychology. Loui is lead author, and co-wrote the paper with Justin Bachorik, Hui C. Li and Gottfried Schlaug of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/ Harvard Medical School, where Loui worked as an instructor before coming to Wesleyan this year. The study explores the effects of lyrics and the voice on the emotional processing of music and on listeners’ preferences. The researchers found robust effects of vocal content on participants’ perceived arousal, independent of the familiarity of the song. Females were more influenced by vocals than males, and these gender effects were enhanced among older participants.

The study, published online Sept. 7, can be read here.

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.

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.