Latest News

In an effort to inform the community about Neuroscience activities across the University of Chicago, we will highlight news articles and research accomplishments. Please email info@grossmaninstitute.org to recommend articles and submit content for this page.

Brain plasticity and phantom limbs: Does amputation rewire the sense of touch?

In October 2015, 28-year-old Nathan Copeland used a robotic prosthetic arm to give President Obama a fist bump at a scientific conference in Pittsburgh. Copeland, who was paralyzed from the chest down in a car accident in 2004, also showed the President how he could “feel” with the hand, which sent realistic sensory feedback through electrodes implanted in his brain.

It was a feat of engineering and neuroscience by a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Sliman Bensmaia, associate professor of organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago—and a feat that was made possible by the resilience of the sensory parts of the brain.(Read More)

New deep brain stimulation device gives doctors precise controls for treating movement disorders

Movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor affect more than 11 million people in the United States. Caused by communications breakdowns throughout the central nervous system, these conditions can lead to debilitating loss of muscle control, involuntary movements and loss of coordination.

While there are no cures for these movement disorders, there are several treatment options to help control symptoms and improve quality of life. One, deep brain stimulation (DBS), is a surgical procedure often used when medications fail to control symptoms or produce unpleasant side effects. DBS is like a “pacemaker for the brain.”

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This Beyond the Gut: Unlocking the Secrets of the Microbiome

Alzheimer’s disease researcher Myles Minter, PhD, still sounds a little surprised while describing the improbable group of researchers he is collaborating with these days — not just neuroscientists but also colleagues from fields as disparate as gastroenterology and marine biology.

Minter and his advisor, Sangram Sisodia, PhD, the Thomas Reynolds Sr. Family Professor of Neurosciences, wanted to take their Alzheimer’s research in an unexpected direction, exploring the link between bacteria in the digestive system and brain health.

(Read More)

This Scientist Created Art Out of Living Brain Neurons (LOOK)

What happens when you mix neuroscience with Andy Warhol’s “Marilyn Diptych” and “Eight Elvis’s”?

Dana Simmons, an art-loving neuroscientist at the University of Chicago, had an opportunity to answer that very question.

With $500,000 worth of sophisticated lab equipment, and Mr. Warhol as a source of inspiration, Dana injected living neurons with special dyes using an incredibly difficult procedure to create artworks that encourages other scientists to explore their creative side.

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How the brain spots a friendly face in the crowd

When you’re looking for a friend in a crowd, think about the kind of clues he might give you over the phone to help spot him. “I’m wearing a red shirt,” he might say. “I’m in the back by the railing,” or “I’m standing up waving my hand.” It helps to focus on these details to narrow down the search. You can’t process everything you see all at once, and it would take forever to scan a large crowd one face at a time. Neuroscientists call this attention—attending to specific features or positions in your field of vision primes the brain to notice them more quickly. (Read More)

Antibiotics weaken Alzheimer’s disease progression through changes in the gut microbiome

Long-term treatment with broad spectrum antibiotics decreased levels of amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, and activated inflammatory microglial cells in the brains of mice in a new study by neuroscientists from the University of Chicago.

The study, published July 21, 2016, in Scientific Reports, also showed significant changes in the gut microbiome after antibiotic treatment, suggesting the composition and diversity of bacteria in the gut play an important role in regulating immune system activity that impacts progression of Alzheimer’s disease. (Read More)

New technique targets gene that causes neurodegenerative disease

 

Scientists selectively turn off the disease-causing portion of a gene that causes a severe form of ataxia

Neuroscientists at the University of Chicago studying a unique gene that expresses two proteins, one that is necessary for life and another, that when mutated causes a neurodegenerative disease called spinocerebellar ataxia type 6 (SCA6), have developed a technique to selectively block the disease-causing protein without affecting the other. (Read More)

People with anger disorder have decreased connectivity between regions of the brain

 

Less integrity and density in the “information superhighway” of the brain can lead to impaired social cognition

People with intermittent explosive disorder (IED), or impulsive aggression, have a weakened connection between regions of the brain associated with sensory input, language processing and social interaction. (Read More)

Anti-anxiety medication limits empathetic behavior in rats

 

Rats given midazolam, an anti-anxiety medication, were less likely to free trapped companions because the drug lessened their empathy, according to a new study by University of Chicago neuroscientists.

The research, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, validates studies that show rats are emotionally motivated to help other rats in distress. (Read More)

Fine-tuning multiple sclerosis drugs to make good treatments better

 

“When I was a resident, we had three people in the hospital at all times with multiple sclerosis complications,” said Anthony Reder, MD. “Now, it’s maybe one or two a month. There’s been a huge change in how we are able to treat it and how active the disease is.”  (Read More)

Window to the brain

 

 

When isolated from the eye, the retina looks like any other tiny piece of nondescript tissue. What it does not look like is a fully functional biological computer. But you know what they say about appearances. (Read More)

UChicago creates undergraduate major in neuroscience

Undergraduates drawn to developing artificial intelligence, finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease or understanding human memory will have a new academic path at the University of Chicago.

The Biological Sciences Division recently won approval for a new major in neuroscience, giving students in the College an opportunity to focus on the brain and nervous system. Neurobiology Professor Peggy Mason will serve as director of the major. (Read More)

The Art of Science (and worms!) 

Click to watch Adam Brown describe the art behind his science (And worms. Lots of worms)

Adam Brown is no stranger to a microscope. As a computational neuroscience graduate student in the lab of David Biron, PhD, assistant professor of biophysics, Brown spends his days studying the neurobiology of the nematode worm C. elegans. But these tiny worms don’t just serve as model organisms for Brown’s research. They also happen to do double duty as models for his art. (Read More)

 DNA devices perform bio-analytical chemistry inside live cells 

Some biochemistry laboratories fashion proteins into complex shapes, constructing the DNA nanotechnological equivalent of Baroque or Rococo architecture. Yamuna Krishnan, however, prefers structurally minimalist devices. “Our lab’s philosophy is one of minimalist design,” said Krishnan, professor of chemistry. “It borders on brutalist. Functional with zero bells and whistles…” (Read More)

 Learning how the brain learns

Whether it’s an infant figuring out why a dog isn’t a cat, or a retiree picking up the rules of baseball for the first time, humans have an unparalleled capacity for learning. The vast majority of our behaviors, both conscious and unconscious, are guided by our ability to store meaningful experiences in memory and recall them when needed. As complex as it may seem, scientists are steadily making progress in unraveling how the brain accomplishes this feat. (Read More)

 Neuroscientists open doors to collaboration

In the Biopsychological Research Building basement, Prof. Ed Vogel swings open a metal door, revealing a metal-lined, closet-sized compartment. Vogel and fellow neuroscientist Ed Awh, collaborators since 2001 who share a lab, will use these electromagnetically shielded booths that block external noise and electronic interference to measure neural activity—signals as small as a millionth of a volt. (Read More)

UChicago researchers receive $3.5 million from NIMH to transform diagnosis pf psychotic disorders

With support from the NIMH, the second phase of the Bipolar-Schizophrenia Network on Intermediate Phenotypes (B-SNIP2) is now recruiting 3,000 study participants to identify biomarkers and establish biologically meaningful definitions of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. [Read More]

Sequencing of octopus genome shows basis for intelligence, camouflage

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The first whole genome analysis of an octopus reveals unique features that likely played a role in the evolution of traits such as large complex nervous systems and adaptive camouflage. Clifton Ragsdale and an international team of scientists sequenced the genome of the California two-spot octopus—the first cephalopod ever to be fully sequenced—and mapped gene expression profiles in 12 different tissues. Click here to read the full article or visit NPR to listen to the story.

 Possible trigger of multiple sclerosis discovered

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Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of mistaken identity that affects some 2.5 million people worldwide. In patients with MS, the body’s own immune system attacks myelin, an essential layer of insulation around nerve fibers. Without myelin, nerve cells misfire, leading to the progressive deterioration of a wide range of body functions. There is no cure for MS, and little is known about what triggers the erroneous self-attack, also known as an autoimmune response. (Read More)

The brain perceives motion the same way through both vision and touch

New research by UChicago’s Sliman Bensmaia shows how the brain uses similar computations to calculate the direction and speed of objects in motion whether they are perceived visually or through the sense of touch. [Read More]

New mouse model provides key insights into Parkinson’s disease

A new mouse model of Parkinson’s, developed by UChicago professor of neurobiology, Xiaoxi Zhuang, PhD, is described in a recent study. It has already produced surprising results, including insights into how damaged mitochondria contribute to Parkinson’s, and serves as a powerful system to test new therapeutics for the disease. (Read More)

 Leading Neuroscientists to join UChicago faculty

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Two key neuroscientists from the University of Oregon (UO) will join the growing neuroscience and cellular science faculty at the University of Chicago. Professors Ed Awh and Ed Vogel, internationally known scholars in the cognitive neuroscience of attention and memory, have announced that they will leave UO in July 2015 to continue their work on human memory and attention here at UChicago. (Read More)

Decoding the brain: spotlight on Hatsopoulos Laboratory

Nicholas Hatsopoulos, PhD, professor in the department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, in his Culver Hall lab Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015, on the University of Chicago campus. (Photo by Jean Lachat)
Across the University of Chicago neuroscientists are taking advantage of powerful tools to research virtually every aspect of the brain. In the first of a four-part series, Science Life looks at the efforts of Nicho Hatsopoulos, PhD, professor of organismal biology and anatomy and chair of the Committee on Computational Neuroscience, as he works to decode the brain. (Read More)