Logo for University of Iowa Health Care This logo represents the University of Iowa Health Care

Fall 2019 Director's Report

Fall 2019 Director's Report

Welcome New Institute Faculty


Georgina Aldridge, MD, PhD
assistant professor of neurology
MD/PhD, U of Illinois
Residency, U of Iowa

Jiefeng Jiang, PhD
assistant professor of psychological & brain sciences (arriving January 2020)
PhD, Duke U
Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford U

Merry Mani, PhD
assistant professor of radiology
PhD, U of Rochester
Postdoctoral Fellow, U of Iowa


Georgina Aldridge, MD, PhD 

Dr. Georgina Aldridge is a neurologist and neuroscientist who specializes in treating and diagnosing patients with cognitive disorders, including those with Lewy Body dementia and Parkinson's disease dementia. In these patients, the protein alpha-synuclein aggregates, leading to severe multi-system symptoms, including hallucinations, loss of smell, dementia, imbalance, fluctuating confusion, and anxiety/depression. The main goal of the Aldridge laboratory is to understand the role that pathology and protein misfolding in the cortex plays in the development of these symptoms. Aldridge and her team use 2-photon microscopy to image neuronal structure (dendritic spines, dendrites, and axons) and function (calcium imaging) over time in living mice to evaluate how alpha-synuclein and other proteins involved in neurodegenerative conditions lead to changes in cortical function.

Jiefang Jiang, PhD

 The Jiang lab seeks to understand the cognitive and neural mechanisms that enable goal-directed behavior using a combination of lab- and web-based behavioral studies, functional neuroimaging, computational modeling and virtual reality technology. Specifically, the lab focuses on the fundamental questions about how task-set –– the collection of cognitive control demands required to perform a task –– is learned, stored, retrieved and generalized to new tasks, contexts and experiences in both young and aging populations, with work consisting of three primary research themes: (1) the interaction between task-set mnemonic representation and task-set execution; (2) how age-related changes in goal-directed behavioral relate to altered neural representation of task-sets; and (3) how the changes in task-set representation and execution are related to mental disorders.

Merry Mani, PhD

Research in the Mani lab is aimed at the development of new MRI-based neuroimaging technology that enables the detection of neurological disorders at early stages of disease progression. Changes in the tissue microstructure using diffusion MRI is being explored as an early biomarker. Novel MRI pulse sequences, combined with advanced reconstruction and analysis methods are used to synergistically improve the sensitivity of neuroimaging methods. Currently, these techniques are being applied for the studies of bipolar disorder, Huntington’s disease and major depressive disorder.



Undergraduate education

The neuroscience major now enrolls 240 students. Our first substantial cohort of majors will graduate with their B.S. degrees in May.

Nu Rho Psi, a national honors society for Neuroscience students, has given the go ahead to open a UI chapter, delta chapter of Iowa. We have sent invitations to the first cohort of students and hope to initiate them into the society early next semester. Students must hold a 3.5 GPA in major courses and a 3.2 overall to qualify.



Neuroscience & Society: Save the Date

Renowned concert pianist AND neuroscience professor Dr. Fredrik Ullén, of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, will visit the INI on Monday and Tuesday, May 4 and 5, 2020. On Monday, Dr. Ullén will give a public talk about the relationship of his research on the neuroscience of musical expertise to his own music-making, coupled with a recital. On Tuesday, he will present the Neuroscience Graduate Program seminar, focusing in detail on his lab's latest findings.


External Grants

  • Virginia Willour, PhD (psychiatry) $1,488,788 from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
  • Michael Shy, MD, (neurology) $7.2 million renewal from the NIH for The Inherited Neuropathy Consortium
  • Peg Nopoulos, MD, (psychiatry) $3.4 million NIH U01 renewal
  • Marco Hefti, MD (pathology) $190,000 NIH K23
  • George Richerson, MD, PhD, (neurology) with Brian Gehlbach (internal medicine) $634,674 NIH R01
  • Kathleen Sluka, PhD (physical therapy and rehabilitation science) two grants totaling almost $13 million through The Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative, (NIH HEAL Initiative) designed to improve prevention and treatment strategies for opioid misuse and addiction and enhance pain management.
  • Chris Ahern, PhD, (molecular physiology & biophysics) and co-PI Aislinn Williams, MD, PhD (psychiatry) Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) Pilot Award
  • Kyle Flippo, PhD, Rainbo Hultman, PhD, Merri Mani, PhD, $70,000 each,  NARSAD Young Investigator grants from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation

INI Grants

The INI has awarded funding under two programs:

Junior Research Programs of Excellence provide $300,000 over two years:

Brian Dlouhy, MD, PhD (neurosurgery), Aislinn Williams, MD, PhD (psychiatry)



Accelerator Grants provide $75,000, up to 2 years:

Kamal Rahmouni, Ph.D. and Songhai Chen, Ph.D. (neuroscience and pharmacology)
Jordan Schultz, PharmD, (psychiatry & neurology); With co-investigators Vincent Magnotta, PhD, (radiology), Michael Welsh, MD, (internal medicine), Nandakumar Narayanan, MD, PhD, (neurology), and Peggy Nopoulos, MD (psychiatry)



  • Ted Abel, PhD, INI Director, professor and chair, neuroscience and pharmacology, elected to the National Academy of Medicine.
  • Jeremy Greenlee, MD, PhD, professor of neurosurgery, received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE)
  • Jacob Michaelson, PhD, professor of psychiatry, named the Roy J. Carver Associate Professor in Psychiatry and Neuroscience,
  • Colin Derdeyn, MD, professor and chair, radiology, 2019 Distinguished Investigator Award from the Academy for Radiology & Biomedical Imaging Research.


It was great to see so many friends at SfN this fall. More than 300 people joined us at the Adler Planetarium!

See you in D.C. in 2020.





Tuesday, December 3, 2019