We had great fun putting together the clues for the immunopuzzle crossword and many of you have let us know you enjoyed solving them – even without the hints!
We selected winners from around the world and asked recipients to share a little bit about their research. It’s been great fun learning about the winners’ work and sharing a little chocolate joy 🙂
I hope you enjoy this article as much as we have in putting it together.
The JIR team
Meet the Winners!
My research with the InPsych Research Group at the University of Cambridge is primarily focused on investigating the role of inflammation in psychiatric disorders. As a research assistant for the Insight study, I am particularly interested in the relationship between the immune system and depression. This research is currently examining the effect of immune-modulating drugs on mood and cognition in patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge
I am a PhD student at the Bio-imaging Lab at the university of Antwerp in Belgium. During my PhD I investigated the role of hormones such as testosterone and thyroid hormones on the neuroplasticity in songbird brain. I did this using MRI, which is a non-invasive technique that can visualize the different brain tracts within the brain. This chocolate brain was very appropriate. I love the chocolate brain, it is a very appropriate prize.
University of Antwerp, Belgium.
The activity of higher-order thalamic inputs to the primary somatosensory cortex during sensory learning in rodents. Read full article here.
PhD student, Holtmaat Lab
Centre Medical Universitaire, Université de Genève
Shazia Bano is a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at Wellman center for Photomedicine, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital. Her broad background is in diagnostic radiology, nanotechnology, oncology and biomedical applications of multifunctional photoactivatable nanosystems. Shazia’s research in Prof. Tayyaba Hasan’s Laboratory, focuses in establishing pre-clinical translational nanoplatforms with the goal of improving the efficacy of molecular targeted photodynamic therapy-based combination treatments for cancers.
Shazia Bano (PhD)
Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts, US
I am interested in chronic pain and specifically, my research focuses on the plastic changes on the subcellular, cellular and network-level occur in an area of the brain that is consistently activated by noxious stimuli. In fact, by performing whole-cell patch-clamp recordings from neurons in brain slices from mice in chronic pain we found that a subset of cells have an increased intrinsic excitability as compared to cells from the control animal. I will need further retrograde labeling and immunohistochemistry to reveal targets influence and are influenced by our region of interest.
PhD student at the University of Bern
Department of Physiology
My research focuses on synaptic plasticity of neurons. Specifically spike-timing-dependent plasticity, which is a cellular mechanism in the brain for learning and memory formation. I am interested in how the plasticity signals in neurons can be modulated by neuromodulators, like dopamine and serotonin, in a neuronal network.
University of Bern
I am investigating the sensory properties of the primary motor cortex in the mouse. To coordinate muscle activity and adjust movement to the environment, the motor system integrates sensory information with motor commands. The primary motor cortex has been the subject of intense research and was identified as a major site for neuronal plasticity. Significant progress has been made in characterizing changes in motor signals during motor learning. Less, however, is known about the representation and plasticity of sensory information in the primary motor cortex. We address these questions by examining its neuronal responses to sensory stimuli before and after mice learn a sensory-triggered reaching task. Our findings will contribute to an improved understanding of sensorimotor integration. Dysfunctional sensorimotor integration can manifest itself as dystonia, a complex movement disorder with involuntary muscle contractions.
Diana Hoffmann, PhD Student
Max Delbrück Center in Berlin – Buch, Germany
Poulet lab (Neural Circuits and Behaviour)
(Left to right) Dr. Vivian Tang, MD (resident), Dr. Jeffrey Hofmann, MD PhD (fellow), Dr. Eric Huang, MD PhD (PI), Dr. YuHsin Huang, PhD (Postdoc)
A major part of my PI’s research focuses is on the pathogenesis of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) caused by mutations in the Progranulin (GRN) gene. Our lab has a recent publication for the related project in Nature. View Article.
Another focus of my PI’s lab research is how transcriptional and trophic factor-dependent regulations of neuronal migration, differentiation and neural circuit formation during embryonic and postnatal brain development.
My current project is to create a mouse model to help us better understand the cause and mechanism of coffin siris syndrome, a rare genetic condition in humans where patients usually have mild to severe intellectual disability.
Eric J. Huang Laboratory
Department of Pathology
University of California, San Francisco
Dr. Chiara Villa is an Assistant Professor who started her research activity in 2006 at the Dept. of Neurological Sciences, University of Milan, Fondazione Cà Granda IRCCS Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico. In 2009 she obtained her PhD in Molecular Medicine. Her research activity was mainly focused on the study of novel biomarkers (e.g., microRNAs, pro-inflammatory cytokines) and genetic risk factors in key genes for early detection and/or progression of two neurodegenerative diseases: Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal lobar degeneration. Moreover, she also developed an established expertise in evaluating the standard biomarkers, Aβ42, tau, and phosphorylated tau in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients affected by dementia as well as a good knowledge of all procedures for sample collection and storage of biological fluids. In 2014, she moved to the University of Milano-Bicocca and joined a research group working in the study of molecular bases of autism and sleep disorders, including restless legs syndrome and nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy. Her work has been now carried out applying her previous research experience in this field through a molecular approach which allows the study of a large cohort of families searching for new genes/mutations involved in the pathogenesis of such diseases. All studies have been have been completed with functional in vitro analyses. Actually, she is author of 56 research articles published in peer-reviewed journals with a personal H-index of 19.
Assistant Professor of Pathology presso Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca
Director of the Center for Advanced Light Microscopy at University of California, San Francisco, which manages multiple microscopy facilities including the Nikon Imaging Center, the Center for Advanced Multiphoton Microscopy, and the Cardiovascular Research Institute Microscopy Core. I utilize my experience in microscopy, histology, and neuroscience to provide technical support to a broad spectrum of research projects.
Director of the Center for Advanced Light Microscopy
University of California, San Francisco, USA
I’m an MRC funded PhD student in the NCND group (led by Dr. Deepak Srivastava) in the Basic and Clinical Neuroscience Institute at King’s College London.
For my PhD project, I use human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) to look at the cellular and molecular underpinnings of psychosis. More specifically, by employing a CRISPR/Cas9 approach, I investigate if and how a genetic psychosis risk factor regulates synapse formation, maintenance and plasticity throughout development by mediating activity-dependent local protein synthesis.
Basic and Clinical Neuroscience Institute
King’s College London
I am a PhD student at the department of applied physiology at the University of Ulm. My project is about determining the effect of GPCR-pathways in excitatory cells in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) on waiting impulsivity. In order to do this I use DREADDs (designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs), and express those in the pyramidal cells of the mPFC. We train the mice on a visual operant task called the 5-choice serial reaction time task (5CSRTT), which has an equivalent task in humans (aiding in the translatabity of our research). This task requires the mice to observe a wall with 5 apertures and withhold a poking response untill one of the 5 apertures lights up. When the mice poke in this lit-up aperture they receive a food-reward, premature responses are taken as a measure of impulsivity. Using DREADDs that correspond to Gi, Gs, and Gq receptors we want to determine if it is possible to reduce impulsivity by activating one of the pathways in a subtype of pyramidal cells, and then validate this effect using drugs that activate receptors which are coupled to the same GPCR pathways. This we do in the hope of finding a drug that could aid in reducing maladaptive impulsive behaviour, as this has been linked to many psychiatric disorders, from ADHD to substance abuse and gambling.
Bastiaan van der Veen
Insitute for applied physiology, Ulm University, Germany
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