INI Workshop Draws on Rich History of Cerebellar Research at UI

INI Workshop: Cerebellum in Bipolar Disorder

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

Two of the guests, Welsh and Marvel, were returning to Iowa for the first time since their postdoctoral training. In the 1980s Welsh worked with the late John Harvey, professor of psychology, who started the UI Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience. Marvel completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Clinical Neuroscience in 2005.

Welsh said he expects to see “major advances in cerebellar neuroscience and neuropsychiatric treatment coming from Iowa” in the near future.

“There seems to be a recognition in Iowa that to advance the field of cerebellar neuroscience, so as to better understand the brain and to help patients, we all will have to think beyond dogma and create new realities through innovative experimentation,” he said. “The new Iowa Neuroscience Institute will play a huge positive role in that, both within the University and internationally.”

The idea for this focused workshop emerged from the collaborative work of the Bipolar Disorder Research Program of Excellence, funded by the INI with the support of the Carver Trust. “We wanted to bring together different expertise to learn from each other about the role of the cerebellum not just in motor tasks, but how the cerebellum works with downstream brain structures to execute cognitive tasks,” said Krystal Parker, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and workshop co-director.

John Wemmie, MD, PhD, Roy J. Carver Chair  psychiatry and neuroscience, associate director of the INI, and co-director of the workshop said that the UI has a long history of cerebellar research, dating all the way back to the 1930s and 40s with Kenneth Spence, professor and chair in psychology. “He was a pioneer in eye-blink conditioning, which we now know is rooted in cerebellar function,” Wemmie said.

In more recent history, Nancy Andreasen, MD, PhD, UI professor of psychiatry, published a seminal paper in 1998 detailing cerebellar involvement in non-motor activity.  

The INI plans to hold a focused neuroscience workshop annually, with the next event, on neuromodulation, scheduled for Oct. 16-17, 2019.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018