skip to main content

Past NeuroLecture Speakers

Fall 2014

Optical deconstruction of fully-assembled biological systems
Karl Deisseroth (Stanford)
October 23, 2014 7 pm • Davidson Math and Science Rm 110 (Auditorium)

The journal Nature dubbed Karl Deisseroth "Method Man" for two groundbreaking techniques developed in his lab, Optogenetics and CLARITY. Both are game changers in the neuroscience world, revolutionizing the way scientists can study the brain. Optogenetics gives scientists the ability to turn neural activity on and off with light-driven switches. CLARITY turns a brain into a clear Jell-O like structure with all neurons intact, giving scientists an unprecedented view of the brain's molecules and cells. These tools allow neuroscientists to address fundamental questions about dynamic changes in brain structure and function. Deisseroth's group applies these strategies to better understand the biological basis for neurological and psychiatric diseases, and how the brain responds to learning, injury, and seizures.
Deisseroth serves on President Obama's BRAIN Initiative advisory committee. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the recipient of dozens of prestigious national and international science awards.

Cuttlefish Camouflage 
Charlie Chubb (UC Irvine)
August 29, 2014 3 pm • Ansari Business Bldg 106

Cephalopods (squid, octopus and cuttlefish) have exceptional neurophysiologically controlled skin that can rapid change color, enabling them to achieve dynamic crypsis in a wide range of habitats. Chubb shows the range of camouflage patterns that cuttlefish (Sepia Officinalis) produces and discusses some of the remarkably subtle strategies these patterns use to elude detection. The animals' patterning responses are controlled by the visual input they receive which are sensitive to the visual granularity of the stimulus substrate relative to their own body size.
A deep mystery remains unresolved: cuttlefish have skin that enables them to produce four dimensions of chromatic variation which they use to achieve masterful matches to the colors of substrates in their natural environment. However, cuttlefish have only a single retinal photopigment; in other words, they are colorblind.

Spring 2014

Shinobu Kitayama

Cultural Neuroscience: Current Evidence and Future Prospect  
Shinnobu Kitayama (University of Michigan) 
3:00 pm, Friday, April 18th - MIKC Wells Fargo Auditorium

Cultural neuroscience is an emerging field that examines the interdependencies among culture, mind, and the brain. By investigating brain plasticity in varying social and ecological contexts, it seeks to overcome the nature-nurture dichotomy. In the present talk, after a brief overview of the field, I will illustrate its potential by reviewing evidence for cultural variations in brain mechanisms underlying cognition (i.e., holistic attention), emotion (i.e., emotion regulation), and motivation (i.e., self-serving bias). Directions for future research will be discussed.

Mel Goodale and Brian Bushway

Human echolocation: How the blind use tongue-clicks to navigate the world
Mel Goodale, (The Brain and Mind Institute) and Brian Bushway  (World Access for the Blind)
7: 00 pm, March 13th, - DMS 110

NOTE: Continuing Medical Education credit available for this event.

"I can hear a building over there" Everybody has heard about echolocation in bats and dolphins.  These creatures emit bursts of sounds and listen to the echoes that bounce back to detect objects in their environment. What is less well known is that people can echolocate, too. In fact, there are blind people who have learned to make clicks with their mouth and tongue - and to use the returning echoes from those clicks to sense their surroundings.  Some of these people are so adept at echolocation that they can use this skill to go mountain biking, play basketball, or navigate through unfamiliar buildings.  In this talk, we will learn about several of these echolocators - some of whom train other blind people to use this amazing skill. Testing in our laboratory has revealed that, by listening to the echoes, blind echolocation experts can sense remarkably small differences in the location of potential obstacles.  They can also perceive the size and shape of objects, and even the material properties of those objects - just by listening to the reflected echoes from mouth clicks. It is clear that echolocation enables blind people to do things that are otherwise thought to be impossible without vision, providing them with a high degree of independence in their daily lives. Using neuroimaging (functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI), we have also shown that the echoes activate brain regions in the blind echolocators that would normally support vision in the sighted brain. In contrast, the brain areas that process auditory information are not particularly interested in these faint echoes.  This work is shedding new light on just how plastic the human brain really is.   

About Melvyn Goodale: World's leading visual neuroscientist, Melvyn Goodale, is best known for his research on the human brain as it performs different kinds of visual tasks. Goodale has lead much neuroimaging and psychosocial research that has had an enormous influence in the life sciences and medicine. His "two-visual-systems proposal" is now part of almost every textbook in vision, cognitive neuroscience, and psychology. He is a member of the Royal Society, joining the likes of Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

About Brian Bushway: Brian is the program manager for World Access for the Blind, a non-profit organization which teaches mobility and sensory awareness orientation. He acts as a mobility coach for the blind and a teacher of sighted mobility instructors on the use of echolocation. He designs and implements perception development plans for each client. When not teaching, Brian offers technical and emotional advice to families. He lost his sight at 14.

  Peter Tse

Chunking of visual features in space and time: Behavioral and neuronal mechanisms 
Peter Tse (Dartmouth)
4 pm, Monday, March 10, 2014 - DMS 104
We can learn arbitrary feature conjunctions when the to-be-combined features are present at the same time (Wang et al., 1994). This learning is underpinned by increased activity in visual cortex (Frank et al., 2013). I will discuss data that suggest that this kind of feature-conjunction perceptual learning requires attention, is not strongly retinotopic, and can even link features that do not appear at the same time.

Ioulia Kovelman

Building a Vision: Shared Multimodal Pediatric fNIRS Brain Imaging Facility at the University of Michigan 
Ioulia Kovelmam (University of Michigan)
4:00 pm,  Tues, February 18 - MIKC 124 Wells Fargo Auditorium

Kovelman's research interests are in language and reading development in monolingual and bilingual infants, children, and adults. It includes both typical and atypical language and reading development using a variety of behavioral and brain imaging methods (fMRI, fNIRS).

David Raizen

Using the worm to catch Z's: somnogen discovery in C. elegans 
David Raizen (University of Pennsylvania)
11 am, Fri. February 7, 2014 - DMS 104 

Quiescent behavioral states are universal to the animal world with the most famous and mysterious of these being sleep. Despite the fact that we spend one third of our life sleeping, and despite the fact that all animals appear to sleep, the core function of sleep remains a mystery. In addition, the molecular basis underlying sleep/wake regulation is poorly understood. Raizen uses C. elegans as a model system to address these questions. C. elegans offers many experimental advantages including powerful genetic tools as well as a simple neuroanatomy. Growth of C. elegans from an embryo to an adult is punctuated by four molts, during which the animal secretes a new cuticle and sheds its old one. Prior to each molt the worm has a quiescent behavioral state called lethargus. Lethargus has several similarities to sleep including rapid reversibility to strong stimulation, increased sensory arousal threshold, and homeostasis, which is manifested by an increased depth of sleep following a period of deprivation. Similarity to sleep at the molecular genetic level is demonstrated by the identification of signaling pathways that regulate C. elegans lethargus in the similar fashion to their regulation of sleep in mammals and arthropods. For examples, cAMP signaling promotes wakefulness and epidermal growth factor signaling promotes sleep in C. elegans and other organisms. The Raizen lab has identified new regulators of sleep like behavior in C. elegans and is currently studying how these regulators function to regulate sleep. By studying the purpose and genetic regulation of nematode lethargus, they hope to identify additional novel sleep regulators, and to gain insight into why sleep and sleep-like states had evolved, a central biological mystery.

Fall Semester 2013

Dragana Rogulja

Cell cycle genes repurposed as sleep factors
Dragana Rogulja (Harvard Medical School)
October 18, 2013, 11:00 am, Davidson Math and Science, Room 104

A remarkable change occurs in our brains each night, making us lose the essence of who we are for hours at a time: we fall asleep. A process so familiar to us, sleep nevertheless remains among the most mysterious phenomena in biology. The goal of our work is to understand how the brain reversibly switches between waking and sleep states, and why we need to sleep in the first place. To address these questions, Rogulja uses Drosophila melanogaster as a model system, because sleep in the fly is remarkably similar to mammalian sleep. Flies have consolidated periods of activity and sleep; arousal threshold is elevated in sleeping flies; the brain's electrical activity differs between sleeping and awake flies. As in people, both circadian and homeostatic mechanisms provide input into the regulation of fly sleep: flies are normally active during the day and quiescent at night, but if deprived of sleep will show a consequent increase in "rebound" sleep, regardless of the time of day.

Alison Harris

HD-EEG Analysis Workshop
Alison Harris (Claremont McKenna College)
October 18, 2013, 10 am, Neuroimaging Core, Mack Social Science 412
Event-related brain dynamics of value and decision-making
October 18, 2013, 3:30 pm, Ansari 101
From selecting a snack in the supermarket to allocating financial resources, our lives are filled with choices. Emerging research from human neuroimaging suggests that a common neural circuitry underlies such disparate decisions: in particular, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) has been associated with subjective value across a wide variety of tasks and goods. However, due to the inherent limitations of hemodynamic measures, comparatively little is known about when and how the vmPFC computes value signals across the time course of decision. Harris will discuss research exploiting the high temporal resolution and whole-brain coverage of event-related potentials (ERP) in order to examine the dynamic construction of value signals. Combined with advanced statistical and source reconstruction techniques, this novel approach reveals that neural activity correlated with subjective preference emerges approximately 400 ms after stimulus onset, localized to regions including vmPFC. Reflecting the integration of sensory attribute information, activity in this time window is also modulated by top-down goals (e.g., weight loss) through connections with dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Together these results highlight the utility of ERP in understanding the cortical dynamics of decision-making, providing a fuller picture of how neural signals of subjective value emerge in the time leading up to choice.

John Rothrock

Understanding Migraine: Genetics, Epigenetics and Receptor Sensitivity
John Rothrock (Renown Institute Neurosciences)
November 5, 2013, 2:30 pm, Center for Molecular Medicine, Room 111
Despite its high prevalence, migraine remains poorly understood by the lay public and health care providers (HCPs) alike. Many migraine patients who seek medical attention are disappointed by the experience, and many HCPs feel at a loss when confronted by treatment-refractory patients. That migraine can be difficult to treat is hardly surprising. This common, easily recognized and clinically stereotyped disorder is polygenetic in origin, and the familiar symptoms of migraine consequently may be generated by a variety of biologic pathways. To complicate matters further, the clinical expression of migraine's genetic predisposition may be influenced by a number of factors, epigenetic and otherwise. Finally, migraine is comorbid with conditions and diseases that may complicate management of the headache disorder; these comorbidities include depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, sleep disorders and epilepsy. Despite this, a better understanding of migraine's biogenesis has led to the development of new therapies relatively specific to the disorder and unprecedented in their efficacy.

Theodore Huppert

Introduction to Function Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS)
Theodore Huppert (University of Pittsburgh)
2:30 pm, Tues. December 10th - Ansari 107
In this talk, Dr. Huppert will present the background theory behind fNIRS brain imaging. He will also introduce the basic concepts of data collection, analysis and interpretation of fNIRS.

Illuminating the Mind: Applications and Challenges for fNIRS
2:30 pm, Wed. December 11th - Ansari 107
Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a non-invasive brain imaging technique that uses light to record changes in cerebral blood flow. This technology has several unique advantages including low cost, portability, and versatility which have opened several new areas of brain imaging research. In this talk, Dr. Huppert will present an overview of some of these novel applications for fNIRS technology that are being conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, including brain imaging of balance and mobility disorders, child and infant psychology, and multimodal neuroimaging. He will also discuss some of the unique challenges of using fNIRS in "real-world" brain imaging experiments.

Take the next step...