INI Director's Report, Fall 2018

Director’s Report, Fall 2018

Welcome new faculty

Deniz Atasoy, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology
PhD, Neuroscience, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Postdoctoral Fellow, Janelia Research Campus, HHMI

The Atasoy Lab is focued on neural circuits that regulate feeding behavior and metabolism with a special emphasis on disease models of obesity and eating disorders. Using a variety of cutting edge circuit dissection approaches including optogenetic and pharmacogenetic tools, electrophysiology, imaging as well as behavioural analysis, we map and manipulate neuronal networks to understand synaptic and circuit mechanisms of body weight regulation in health and disease. A major focus of the lab is to understand cellular and circuit level maladaptations to disease-state feeding behavior. They use cell type specific transcriptomics in combination with circuit dissection approaches to identify molecular and cellular basis of maladaptations. The lab is using transgenic mouse models to gain access to various neuromodulator-expressing neuron populations and to map out their interactions with key appetite regulating neurons.

Kai Hwang, Assistant Professor, Psychological and Brain Sciences and Psychiatry
PhD, Cognitive Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Berkeley

The Hwang lab seeks to understand the neural mechanisms of executive functions and its developmental process during childhood and adolescence. Specifically, we are interested in discovering the neural architecture, processes, dynamics, and developmental trajectory that allow brain networks to select, inhibit, transfer, and integrate information. Together, these mechanisms support many important mental functions during typical and atypical development, such as attention, working memory, response selection and inhibition. We address our research questions with a comprehensive human neuroscience approach, combining multimodal research methodologies, including fMRI, EEG, TMS, lesion studies, eye tracking and behavioral testing.

Catherine Marcinkiewcz, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology
PhD, Neuroscience, University of Florida
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Dr. Marcinkiewcz's laboratory is focused on delineating the role of serotonin in complex brain disorders such as alcohol dependence, depression, and Alzheimer's disease. Serotonin neurons are mainly localized to the raphe nuclei of the brainstem, but their axons are widely distributed throughout the nervous system and have a ubiquitous role in physiological processes and behavior. Adding to this complexity is the diverse array of high-affinity receptors that bind serotonin, each having distinct effects on behavior. The lab is using a variety of intersectional tools for targeting, manipulating and monitoring the activity of discrete serotonin circuits in order to gain insight into how these circuits are disrupted in psychiatric disorders. We are also investigating the role of enteric serotonin in brain disorders such as autism and generalized anxiety disorder. The ultimate goal of this work is to identify new therapeutic targets for these often intractable conditions.

Marc Niciu, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
MD, University of Connecticut Health Center
PhD, Biomedical Science (Neuroscience), University of Connecticut Health Center
Resident/Chief Resident, Psychiatry, Yale University
Fellow, Neuroscience Research Training Program (NRTP)/McNeil Fellowship in Translational Neuropsychopharmacology Research, Yale University
Fellow, Experimental Therapeutics and Pathophysiology Branch (ETPB), National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

The Niciu Lab is broadly interested in the pathophysiology and experimental therapeutics of major mood disorders, particularly glutamate and subanesthetic-dose ketamine in treatment-resistant major depression. Another major aim is the identification, replication and dissemination of antidepressant response biomarkers. As an example, our group and others have observed that treatment-resistant depressed subjects with a family history of an alcohol use disorder in a first-degree relative have a greater and more sustained antidepressant response to ketamine. We are currently studying potential alcohol-sensitive multimodal, e.g. psychological, neurophysiological and neuroimaging, biomarkers to predict antidepressant response with greater sensitivity and specificity than family history alone. On the translational front, we use human-induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)-based models, i.e. cortical-like spheroids, to study genetic, molecular and cellular mechanisms of disease and pharmacological response to racemic ketamine, bioactive ketamine metabolites and other compounds in the future.

INI Workshop Draws on Rich History of Cerebellar Research

The inaugural Iowa Neuroscience Institute Workshop, held Sept. 20-22 at the University of Iowa, brought together more than 60 scientists, all with research interest in the cerebellum. “Cerebellum in Bipolar Disorder & Other Neuropsychiatric Diseases” included two days of workshop presentations covering a range of research, including cerebellar connectivity, anatomy of the cerebellum, genetics, neuropsychiatric conditions, treatment and imaging.

In addition to a large contingent of UI faculty, research staff and trainees whose work is focused on the cerebellum, invited guests included:

  • Sascha du Lac, Ph.D., associate professor of otolaryngology—head and neck surgery, Johns Hopkins University;
  • Cherie Marvel, PhD, associate professor of neurology, Johns Hopkins University;
  • Francis J. McMahon, MD, senior investigator, National Institute of Mental Health;
  • Harry Orr, PhD, professor of laboratory medicine and pathology and director, Institute for Translational Neuroscience, University of Minnesota;
  • Catherine Stoodley, Dphil, associate professor of psychology, American University;
  • Steve Strakowski, MD, professor and chair of psychiatry, Dell Medical School, University of Texas;
  • John Welsh, PhD, professor of pediatrics, University of Washington

Krystal Parker, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry, and John Wemmie, MD, PhD, Roy J. Carver Chair in Psychiatry and Neuroscience, co-directed the workshop.

A special issue of Neurobiology of Learning & Memory, edited by Parker and John Freeman, PhD, professor of psychological and brain sciences, and focused on the cerebellum, is forthcoming in 2019.

Faculty and Postdoc recruitment

INI goes to SfN

Connect with us at the Society for Neuroscience meeting Nov. 3-7 in San Diego. We are booth #4515 in the exhibit hall. We welcome all Friends of Iowa Neuroscience to our social gathering, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 6:30 p.m. 

DiamondView East Village
350 10th Avenue
(Corner of 10th and J Street)
San Diego, CA 92101


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Tuesday, October 30, 2018