Department News and Events

May 18, 2015 - Yang Xiang, Ph.D., awarded NIH grant: Molecular Mechanisms of nociceptor sensitization

Grant number: 1R01NS089787-01A1; Effective July 1, 2015

Inflammatory pain, characterized by enhanced pain sensation after tissue injury, is one of the major types of pain hypersensitivity, and may cause chronic pain when not treated properly.  However, the cellular and molecular mechanisms of inflammatory pain is not well understood.  It was recently found that tissue injury induces inflammatory pain in fruit fly Drosophila, a classical genetically tractable model organism.  Importantly, mechanisms of inflammatory pain is highly conserved between fruit flies and humans, arguing that studies in fruit flies can offer novel insights into pain hypersensitivity in humans.  In the current proposal, we propose to study pain hypersensitivity at single cell resolution in Drosophila larvae, focusing on how tissue injury enhances excitability of nociceptive sensory neurons.

May 8, 2015 - Michael Francis, Ph.D., awarded NIH grant: Neuromodulator signaling and context dependent behavior

Grant number: 1R21NS093492-01; Effective June 1, 2015

This proposal aims to understand how medically relevant neuromodulatory signaling, initiated by the conserved NLP-12/cholecystokinin (CCK) neuropeptide, shapes neural circuit activity and context-dependent behavior.  Alterations in neuropeptide signaling, and in particular CCK signaling, are linked with a wide variety of neuropsychiatric conditions, including panic and anxiety disorders as well as schizophrenia; yet it is too difficult to understand the pathophysiology of these diseases because our understanding of how neuromodulatory systems shape neural activity remains inadequate.  By studying a conserved neuromodulatory system in the simple model organism C. elegans, we expect to obtain a new level of understanding of how neuromodulators shape circuit activity, ultimately leading to the development of new therapies for brain disorders. 

October 6, 2014 - Carlos Lois, M.D., Ph.D., awarded a collaborative BRAIN Initiative grant with Stanford University, Brandeis University and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory: Combining genetics, genomics, and anatomy to classify cell types across mammals

Grant number: 5U01MH105949-02; Effective October 1, 2014

Most of what is known about how neurons work is based on experiments that have been done in mice or rats.  We know that human brains are more complex that mice or rat brains, but we really do not understand exactly how evolution has progressed from the rodent to the human brain.  We will compare the properties and function of identical neurons genetically identified in in transgenic mice and rats to find out in which properties they differ.  We will also examine which genes are different (in those genetically identified neurons) between mice and rats so that we could explain how the differences in gene expression  account for the differences in function.  This kind of information will allow us to understand the logic of evolution by which neurons become more complex from lower animals to higher animals, and eventually, to understand why the human brain can do things that no other animal brain can do. 



The Department of Neurobiology would like to welcome our newest faculty member, Assistant Professor, Dorothy "Dori" Schafer, PhD!  Dr. Schafer will join us on January 1, 2015



Budnik named fellow of the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM)

Vivian Budnik, PhD, has been named fellow of the ELAM Program for Women at the Drexel University College for Medicine in Philadelphia.

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Congratulations on our 2014 Faculty Promotions:

June 19, 2014 - Marc Freeman, Ph.D., promoted to Professor

May 16, 2014 - Patrick Emery, Ph.D., promoted to Professor and Mark Alkema, Ph.D. promoted to Associate Professor

March 21, 2014 - Michael Francis, Ph.D., promoted to Associate Professor

Budnik receives prestigious MERIT award from NIH

Guaranteed long-term funding allows for ‘more incisive and risky approaches’

Vivian Budnik, PhD, has received a Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) award from the National Institute of Mental Health for her grant The wingless transduction pathway in synapse development. MERIT awards are given to a very small number of researchers who “have demonstrated superior competence and productivity during their previous endeavors and who are likely to continue to perform in an outstanding manner in the future,” according to NIH. 

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Report on monarch butterfly dropoff cites work by Steve Reppert at UMMS

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Budnik gets EUREKA grant to study communication between nucleus and cytoplasm

High-risk, high-impact research may lead to new understanding of tissue dystrophies and aging disorders

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Marc R. Freeman, PhD, named Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator

Neurobiologist joins five other HHMI investigators at UMMS

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