August 26, 2019

UMD News

Fritz’s interdisciplinary study brings together the fields of entomology, neurobiology and epidemiology to determine how the flow of genes between two mosquito varieties impacts mosquito behavior and the transmission of West Nile virus. Pilot data for the project was gathered with support from BBI's Seed Grant Program.


Can knowledge acquired during a lifetime be passed on to future generations? A recent study in Cell shows how cells in the nervous system pass on information to future generations in worms. Using such technologies as CRISPR gene editing, optogenetics, and small RNA-sequencing analysis, scientists have discovered an RNA-based mechanism that enables neuronal responses to environment to be translated into heritable information that affects the behavior of progeny in a specific type of worm.
Recently, the BRAIN Initiative held a “Show Us Your Brain Contest!”, which invited researchers involved in the effort to submit their coolest images. The image above is taken from a video in which the viewer travels through several portions of the brain’s white matter—the bundles of fiber that carry nerve signals between the brain and the body, as well as within the brain itself. This dynamic map is created using a 3D imaging technique called diffusion MRI tractography, which tracks subtle pathways of water movement in the brain and allows researchers to model the connectional anatomy that underlies the brain’s neuronal signaling.
New research reveals how increasing brain stiffness as we age causes brain stem cell dysfunction, and it demonstrates new ways to reverse older stem cells to a younger, healthier state. The results, published in Nature, have far-reaching implications for how we understand the ageing process and how we might develop much-needed treatments for age-related brain diseases. The findings give scientists a new target to address issues associated with aging and MS, including how to potentially regain lost function in the brain.
In mice, scientists have used a variety of drugs to treat brain disorders including murine versions of Alzheimer's disease, depression and schizophrenia. But in people, these same treatments usually fail. Researchers are now beginning to understand why: a detailed comparison of the cell types in mouse and human brain tissue found subtle but important differences that could affect the response to many drugs, particularly the genes that cause a cell to respond to serotonin.
Researchers believe that stuttering—a potentially lifelong and debilitating speech disorder—stems from problems with the circuits in the brain that control speech, but precisely how and where these problems occur is unknown. Using a mouse model of stuttering, scientists report that a loss of cells in the brain called astrocytes are associated with stuttering. The study offers insights into the neurological deficits associated with stuttering and could lead to targets for new therapies.
Adolescence is a critical time of behavioral and neurological change. Now, studies in rats suggest how a drug that is used to slow cognitive decline in adults with Alzheimer’s disease may also reverse brain inflammation and damage to neurons in adolescent binge drinkers. The research showed that drinking in adolescence reduced the formation of neurons in the hippocampus, a region of the brain that is known to be critical for learning and memory. However, treatment during early adulthood can partially reverse alcohol-related detrimental changes to the hippocampus.
Results from a new study suggest mindfulness-oriented recovery enhancement (MORE)—an integrative behavioral group therapy that involves training in mindfulness, reappraisal, and savoring skills—may be a useful nondrug complementary treatment for people with opioid use disorder and chronic pain in methadone maintenance therapy. MORE sessions provide instruction to foster nonreactivity to emotional and physical pain; promote emotion regulation to restructure motivations for opioid use; and encourage savoring pleasant events to remediate deficits in natural reward processing and boost positive affectivity.
Researchers have noted that excessive daytime napping can develop long before the memory problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease begin to unfold. Prior studies have considered this excessive daytime napping to be compensation for poor nighttime sleep caused by Alzheimer’s-related disruptions in sleep-promoting brain regions, while others have argued that the sleep problems themselves contribute to the progression of the disease. But now scientists have provided a striking new biological explanation for this phenomenon, showing that Alzheimer’s disease directly attacks brain regions responsible for wakefulness during the day.
Four years ago, a local clinic partnered with the Austin Independent School District to create on-campus mental health centers at three area high schools. Within a matter of months, kids who had been exposed to abuse, sexual assault and other scarring experiences saw striking improvements in their grades, behavior and overall happiness, according to evaluations by the clinic and by the school district. The district targeted schools in some of Austin's highest-crime zip codes, with the thinking being that that because children living in high-risk areas are more likely to be exposed to traumatic events, their schools need to be more dynamic in meeting their mental health needs.

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Funding Announcements

New FOA are listed below. Please visit for the complete list of open Funding Announcements.
*New!* As NIH continues towards its goals of reducing administrative burden, business practices are being updated to improve efficiency and service to the applicant community. The purpose of this Notice is to inform the NIH extramural community of a new centralized, streamlined process for official notification of unfunded applications (NOT-OD-19-133). NIH will begin sending centralized, automated correspondence to applicant organizations to notify of NIH’s intent not to fund the indicated applications. Funding decisions indicated in the correspondence are specific to the applications included in the email and have no impact on subsequent submissions, including resubmissions.
The National Endowment for the Arts Research Grants in the Arts program supports projects that seek to investigate the value and impact of the arts for individuals and communities. Proposed projects may use quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-methods approaches. Research Grants in the Arts offers support for projects in two areas: (1) Value & Impact and (2) Experimental & Quasi-experimental Designs. Application due October 3, 2019.
The NIH Research Education Program (R25) will support creative educational activities with a primary focus on Short Courses on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias for the Behavioral and Social Sciences (RFA-AG-20-031). Letter of Intent due December 21, 2019. Application due January 21, 2020.
*New!* Informational Webinar on the NIH Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC) Program Funding Opportunity Announcements (NOT-GM-19-058). Participation in the webinar, although encouraged, is optional and is not required for application submission. Webinar takes place September 24, 2019, 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. EST. 
The purpose of the Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC) Postdoctoral Career Transition Award to Promote Diversity (K99/R00) (PAR-19-343) program is to support a cohort of early career, independent investigators from diverse backgrounds conducting research in NIH mission areas. The long-term goal of this program is to enhance diversity in the biomedical research workforce. Application due February 12, 2020.
NIH solicits applications in the area of Explainable Artificial Intelligence (R01) (PAR-19-344) applied to neuroscientific questions of encoding, decoding, and modulation of neural circuits linked to behavior. This FOA encourages collaborations between computationally and experimentally-focused investigators. Application due March 10, 2020, March 10, 2021, and March 10, 2022.

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