BRAIN and BEHAVIOR INITIATIVE WEEKLY DIGEST

July 22, 2019


News

The way the brain identifies and interprets external stimuli and then executes appropriate behaviors remains largely a black box. For example, it is known that following certain visual stimuli, distinct ensembles of neurons in the visual cortex are activated, but whether this activity is an initial neurological process driving behavior has been difficult to test. Now, advanced single-cell optogenetic tools have enabled researchers to induce a learned behavior in mice without the associated visual cue.
This high-profile foray into connecting brains to computers, a 2-year-old company called Neuralink, detailed its ambitions and unveiled some initial results last week. According to Musk, the firm’s goal is to use tiny electrodes implanted in the brain to cure important diseases and to “achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence.” Details about planned applications remain sparse, but at least one of Neuralink's stated aims is to implant electrodes into a person paralyzed by spinal cord injury by the end of 2020.
The Swiss EPFL’s Blue Brain Project is a vast effort with the goal of digitally reconstructing and simulating the mouse brain and ultimately, the human brain. Exploring their multicolored Atlas, one initially sees an ethereal 3D representation of a mouse brain floating in a black void. Selecting different brain regions in the Atlas’s controls can bring up color-coded representations of different brain regions, with neurons represented by tiny dots within each structure.
Today, the hypothesis that an individual's experience might alter the cells and behavior of their children and grandchildren has become widely accepted. In animals, exposure to stress, cold, or high-fat diets has been shown to trigger metabolic changes in later generations. And small studies in humans exposed to traumatic conditions—among them the children of Holocaust survivors—suggest subtle biological and health changes in their children.
There might be a hidden link between seasonal sniffles and mood disorders. A 2016 study found that among 7-year-olds, allergies were associated with depression, anxiety, and symptoms such as being withdrawn, while kids with hay fever had a threefold risk of depression and anxiety. Recently, more evidence has supported this link—and not just in children. A study of German adults that came out in April also found that generalized anxiety was associated with seasonal allergies. Further research could provide a glimpse into how our bodies might influence our minds, and possibly vice versa.
Existing VR gloves mostly allow the users to feel the texture of an object using vibrations. They do not sense shape, or they require heavy motors or air compressors to put pressure on the users’ hands to do so. In the new study, researchers wanted to make a light, nonrestrictive glove with an open palm that felt natural to wear while also providing realistic feedback when the user touched a virtual object. Researchers say that the technology could be used in virtual training simulations.

Noteworthy Workshop & Webinar

Improving Accessibility by Connecting Engineers to End Users Webinar
Date: Thursday, July 25, 2019
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Description: Engineers and graduate students from the University of Washington Center for Neurotechnology will engage with Jon, an individual who has received spinal stimulation in an effort to improve movement many years after a spinal cord injury, and Jon will share his experiences. The group will also take questions from the audience and discuss the importance of creating technology and devices that are accessible and usable by everyone.
 
Neurotech Entrepreneurs Workshop
Location: Arizona State University (Phoenix, Arizona)
Date: December 13-15, 2019
Application deadline: September 1, 2019
Description: Graduate trainees (Masters, PhDs, Post-Doctorate, Medical) are invited to apply to the Neurotechnology Entrepreneurship Workshop. This workshop will provide intensive and rigorous training in the areas of ideation, market analysis, customer and stakeholder analysis, intellectual property, regulatory affairs, reimbursement, valuation, and fundraising. As part of this workshop, students will be given challenges prevalent in the neurotechnology industry and will present their startup solutions to industry leaders. Registration is free, and students admitted into the program will be provided with 2 nights lodging at the conference hotel.

Calendar of Events

No events this week

Funding Announcements

New FOA are listed below. Please visit bbi.umd.edu/news/FOA for the complete list of open Funding Announcements.

The William T. Grant Foundation invites applications for its Research Grants on Reducing Inequality program. The foundation seeks research that builds, tests, and increases understanding of approaches to reducing inequality in youth outcomes, especially on the basis of race, ethnicity, economic standing, language minority status, and/or immigrant origins, and is also interested in research dedicated to programs, policies, and practices designed to reduce inequality in academic, social, behavioral, and economic outcomes. Letters of Inquiry due: August 1, 2019

Proof of Concept Development of Early Stage Next Generation Human Brain Imaging (R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed) aims to support early stage development of entirely new and novel noninvasive human brain imaging technologies and methods that will lead to transformative advances in our understanding of the human brain. Application due: September 3, 2019.

Non-Invasive Neuromodulation: New Tools and Techniques for Spatiotemporal Precision (R01 Clinical Trial Optional) seeks to encourage is the optimization of novel tools and methods of neuromodulation that go beyond the existing forms of neural stimulation. Application due: September, 3, 2019.

NIH invites R01 applications for the Computational Methods for Integrating Tissue and Single Cell Genomic Data from the Brain project to support the development or application of advanced computational and statistical tools to advance our understanding of the gene regulatory networks and biological pathways involved in the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of mental disorders. Application due: September 3, 2019.

NIH invites R61/R33 applications for the Implementation Research on Hypertension Control to Prevent Dementia and Cognitive Decline to conduct research involving pragmatic clinical trials on dissemination and implementation of practical approaches to hypertension treatment and control strategies among older adults with multimorbidity in order to prevent sequelae, including mild cognitive impairment and dementia. Application due: October 22, 2019.

The National Institutes of Health invites R21 applications for the Regulation of Brain Regional and Cell Type Specific Proteome Dynamics in Alzheimer’s Disease project. This FOA invites early stage innovative and exploratory research focusing on understanding the regulation of brain regional and cell type-specific protein dynamics in Alzheimer's disease. Application due: October 23, 2019.

The National Institutes of Health invites R03 applications for its Behavioral Science Track Award for Rapid Transition (B/Start) program to support studies that apply cognitive and behavioral science approaches to research questions relevant to substance use disorders (SUD). Application due: January 7, 2022.

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