Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Future Stem Cell-based Therapies for Treating Epilepsy Explored in 3 Biology Labs

Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, and her lab manager, Stephanie Tagliatela, review the brain activity of four mice that are currently being treated for epilepsy using therapies developed and tested in the lab. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

For the roughly one-third of temporal lobe epilepsy patients for whom drugs are not an option, researchers at Wesleyan are paving the way for alternative therapies using stem cells.

Biology Department faculty members Gloster Aaron, Janice Naegele and Laura Grabel work together to create novel cell replacement therapies for temporal lobe epilepsy.

Faculty members Janice Naegele, Gloster Aaron and Laura Grabel, together with Xu Maisano, Ph.D. ’11, Elizabeth Litvina, B.A. ’10/M.A. ’11, and Stephanie Tagliatela, the lab manager in the Naegele lab, recently published a landmark study in the Journal of Neuroscience on the use of embryonic stem cells to treat temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). The researchers derived neural “parent cells” in culture from mouse embryonic stem cells, and transplanted them into the brains of epileptic mice. There, the transplanted cells differentiated into mature inhibitory neurons and successfully integrated and formed connections in the host brain over the course of several months.

The paper, published Jan. 4, is available to read online.

“In these experiments, we are attempting to repair an important region called the dentate gyrus, located deep inside the temporal lobe in the hippocampus. The structures affected in temporal lobe epilepsy are important for forming memories and controlling the spread of seizures throughout the brain. When inhibitory neurons in the hippocampus are injured or die off, seizures are able to spread into other brain regions, causing more severe seizures,” explains Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior.

5 Questions With . . . Sociology’s Daniel Long on Education Reform

Daniel Long, assistant professor of sociology, studies education in the U.S. and abroad. In February, he was invited to testify before the Connecticut General Assembly’s Education Committee about education reform plans.

In this issue of  The Wesleyan Connection we ask 5 Questions of Daniel Long, assistant professor of sociology.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has made education reform a major priority this year. He has proposed a sweeping package of reforms, including overhauling teacher tenure, increasing Education Cost Sharing grants to struggling districts, funding more preschool slots for low-income children, and requiring districts to contribute additional money for students to attend charter schools.

Q: Connecticut suffers from the highest black/white and poor/non-poor achievement gap in the country. What can be done to address this?

A: In Connecticut—as well as nationwide—longitudinal studies have shown that the achievement gap is constant or decreases during the months that children are enrolled in school, meaning black and white and poor and non-poor students learn at the same rate while in school. But the gaps are quite large before students enter school, and expand during the summer. To address this, many have suggested increasing the time kids spend in school, and offering academic enrichment activities to poor and minority students during the summer. Experimental studies have also shown that really high-quality early childhood education—which includes small class sizes, great teachers, social workers who support parents, and adequate health services—can make a big difference. Unfortunately, many early childhood education programs, such as Head Start, don’t meet these standards. The Perry Preschool Project in Michigan and the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York are examples of really effective programs.

Q: Governor Malloy seeks to boost funding for charter schools, requiring municipalities to provide an additional $1,000 per student. Do you think this is a good use of taxpayer money?

A: No, I don’t. On average, students perform equal or worse in charter schools than in public schools. Connecticut’s charter schools do a little better than the national average—in part,

Khan ’12 to Present Research Poster at Psychological Convention

Tasmiha Khan ’12 will present the poster “Responses to Group Devaluation among American-Muslims” at the 2012 Association for Psychological Science Annual Convention, May 24 – 27 in Chicago, Ill. In this poster, Khan will present results with her ongoing research with Patricia Rodriguez Mosquera, assistant professor of psychology, on how American Muslims feel about negative societal images of their group. Khan has been working in Rodriguez Mosquera’s Culture and Emotion Lab since 2009 where she is also involved in another research project on the meaning of honor among South Asian women.

Aaron, 4 Students Publish New Epilepsy Research

Gloster Aaron, assistant professor of biology and assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, has published a new study in PLoS ONE, an international, peer-reviewed online publication. The study is co-authored by four Wesleyan students: Jeffrey Walker BA ’08/ MA ’09, Greg Storch BA ’10/MA ’11, Bonnie Quach-Wong ’12 and Julian Sonnenfeld ’11.
In this study, the researchers were able to produce a cortical slice preparation that allows activity to propagate from neurons in one cortical hemisphere to the other hemisphere through the corpus callosum. The corpus callosum is the largest structure that connects the right and left halves of our brain. By examining this activity in slices, the neurons can be studied and manipulated under a microscope while activity is ongoing. The slices will stay “alive” for many hours, if handled correctly. The researchers used this method to study seizure-like events, particularly their ability to propagate across the callosum in these slices.

Telfair’s “Imaginary Landscapes” Debuts in New York Gallery

Tula Telfair's oil on canvas, "Built Exclusively for Delight," (2011) was one of 15 paintings featured in Telfair's Imaginary Landscapes exhibit.

Tula Telfair's oil on canvas, "Built Exclusively for Delight," (2011) was one of 15 paintings featured in Telfair's Out of Sight: Imaginary Landscapes exhibit.

Professor of Art Tula Telfair’s latest exhibition, Out of Sight: Imaginary Landscapes, opened at the Forum Gallery in New York, N.Y. on Jan. 5 to a packed crowd. The 15 large panoptic paintings shown in the exhibition, which ran through Feb. 11, depict majestic mountainous landscapes dominated by dramatic skies that reflect a broad range of locations and weather patterns.

As with Telfair’s past work, her landscapes are derived from memory and imagination. Telfair, director of Wesleyan’s Arts Studio Program, finds it fascinating when people tell her they can identify a particular location, since none actually exist.

“Since I have no idea when I begin what the final image will be, it feels like I’m exploring new territory when I start a painting, and that’s very exciting. Because I can easily copy images, I tended to lose interest in the process when I worked from observation,” she explains. But by painting from her imagination and memory, she is challenged intellectually, technically and emotionally. “Successfully painting an image that was not observed, but that viewers are convinced exists, is gratifying.”

Telfair works on many canvases simultaneously. She begins by mixing colors for the skies and starts painting each one intuitively.

Stemler Authors Article on University Admission Test Prediction

An article by Steven Stemler, assistant professor of psychology, is published in Vol. 47, Issue 1 of Educational Psychologist.

What Should University Admissions Tests Predict?In the article, “What Should University Admissions Tests Predict?” Stemler argues that because colleges and universities emphasize the development of a broad range of capabilities in their students—beyond just mastery of specific academic content—admissions tests should also capture a range of essential student qualities. The article includes a review of these common capabilities, such as cultural competence and ethical reasoning, which colleges and universities purport to seek and develop in their students. It then presents a conceptual model outlining what outcomes admissions tests ought to predict, and considers whether testing should be based on an applicant’s aptitude, ability or achievement in these essential skill areas.

 

Rodriguez Mosquera’s Article on Honor, Emotions in Diverse Cultures

Patricia Rodriguez Mosquera, assistant professor of psychology, is the co-author of “Honor and Emotion,” published in the February issue of The Inquisitive Mind: Social Psychology for You (InMind). InMind is a peer-reviewed quarterly publication on social psychology geared toward a lay audience.

The article, co-authored with alumnae Martha Liskow ’11 and Katie DiBona ’11, answers the question, “What is honor?” It describes several different types of honor, including morality-based honor, family-based honor, and gender-related honor. The writers then explore the ways in which honor influences emotional experience and expressions. Findings described in the paper come from research into honor and emotion in Mediterranean, North American, Northern European and Middle-Eastern cultures. The full article is online here.

Birds Seek Caterpillars on Nutritious Trees, Says Biology Researchers

Christian Skorik photographed this black-capped chickadee munching on a caterpillar during his group's study.

A word of caution to the caterpillar munching on that delicious, nutritious black cherry tree: watch out for hungry birds.

Michael Singer, associate professor of biology, is the lead author of a new study published in The American Naturalist on the effect of a caterpillar’s choice of feeding spot on its chances of becoming bird food. The article found that on balance, nutritious trees, like black cherry, can increase by 90 percent a caterpillar’s risk of being taken by foraging birds. According to the article, this effect is seen because the most nutritious tree species harbor the greatest number of caterpillars, offering up the easiest pickings for birds. Unfortunately for caterpillars, feeding on less crowded, nutritionally poor trees, like American beech, also carries risk by slowing down a caterpillar’s growth and prolonging its exposure to bird predation.

The article was co-authored by two former Wesleyan students—Tim Farkas ’08, MA ’10 and Christian Skorik ’09, MA ’10—and researchers at the University of California at Irvine. Numerous undergraduates in the Hughes summer research program assisted with the field experiment in Connecticut forests over a period of two years.

Tour Wesleyan’s Campus on Google Maps

Take a stroll through Wesleyan's Center for the Arts on Google Maps' "Street View."

Prospective students from around the globe who are eager to explore Wesleyan’s 340-acre campus can now do so from the comfort of their homes, thanks to a new partnership with Google.

Foss Hill, as seen on Google Maps.

Over the past few months, Google Maps has released new imagery of university campuses, including Wesleyan’s, in its “Street View” collections. Google describes its expanding collection as an “ongoing effort to create a virtual mirror of the world.”

According to a Jan. 11 Los Angeles Times story featuring Google’s virtual campus tours, “Google announced it has more than tripled the number of university partners that participate in its Street View Program, allowing parents and students to imagine strolling along the Charles River at Boston University or enjoying the sunshine at Wesleyan University’s Foss Hill, right on the computer.” Google’s updated list includes 27 universities in the U.S., 40 in Japan, two in Canada, two in Denmark, 10 in Great Britain and 11 in Taiwan, according to the Times story.

Grossman Discussant at Economic Policy Meeting

Richard Grossman, professor of economics.

Richard Grossman, professor of economics, was a discussant at the Research Group on Political Institutions and Economic Policy at Harvard University on Dec. 3.

Grossman commented on a paper, “Trade shocks, mass movements and decolonization: Evidence from India’s independence struggle,” written by Assistant Professor of Political Economy Saumitra Jha of the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

David Stasavage, professor of politics at New York University, served as co-discussant on the paper along with Professor Grossman.