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Rochester faculty garner recognition for professional accomplishments

December 1, 2022

Join us in celebrating the scholarly and service contributions of our faculty to their fields.

Krystel Huxlin, the James V. Aquavella, MD Professor and director of research for the department of ophthalmology, was selected as a fellow for her innovative approaches to visual restoration, encompassing optics, ocular biology, laser tissue-interaction, and visual behavior. Optica (formerly OSA) is dedicated to promoting the generation, application, and dissemination of knowledge in optics and photonics worldwide. Huxlin is among 109 members from 24 countries elected to the society’s 2023 fellow class.

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Krystel Huxlin announced as 2023 Optica Fellow

November 8, 2022

From Optica

The Board of Directors of Optica (formerly OSA), Advancing Optics and Photonics Worldwide, recently elected 109 members from 24 countries to the Society’s 2023 Fellow Class. Optica Fellows are selected based on several factors, including outstanding contributions to business, education, research, engineering, and service to Optica and our community.

Krystel R. Huxlin, Ph.D., University of Rochester, Flaum Eye Institute, USA was cited for "innovative approaches to visual restoration, encompassing optics, ocular biology, laser tissue-interaction, and visual behavior."

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New CVS Director Susana Marcos, PhD, keeps the world’s spotlight for optics and vision research shining on the University of Rochester

November 7, 2022

From Flaum Eye Institute Newsletter

On July 1, 2021, acclaimed optics and vision researcher Susana Marcos, PhD, became the inaugural David R. Williams Director of the Center for Visual Sciences (CVS) as well as the Nicholas George Professor of Optics at the University of Rochester. She also holds a joint appointment as professor of ophthalmology at the Flaum Eye Institute.

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A serendipitous discovery and the choreographed dance of fragile X research

October 18, 2022

The choreography of development is a delicate dance. Beginning in utero, chromosomes, DNA, genes and RNA twirl, tap, and sashay their way in a precise pattern. A misstep or a missing step that changes the routine causes body and brain functions to go awry – as is the case with many intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Fragile X syndrome is the most common known single-gene cause of inherited IDDs, including autism. Scientists know the misstep in this syndrome is in the gene FMR1. FMR1 is responsible for making the protein FMRP, which is necessary for typical brain development.

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Student Spotlight: MaKenna Cealie

October 18, 2022

MaKenna Cealie is a fourth year in the Neuroscience Graduate Program at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry (SMD). Cealie graduated from Colgate University with a B.A. in Neuroscience and a minor in Anthropology. Cealie is currently working in the lab of Ania Majewska, Ph.D., where her research takes a cellular approach to understanding the affected mechanisms of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).

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Seed funding reflects how data science, AR/VR transform research at Rochester

October 17, 2022

Ten projects supported with seed funding from the Goergen Institute for Data Science this year demonstrate how machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) are transforming the way University of Rochester researchers—across all disciplines—address challenging problems.

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The prose of Dr. Seuss shines a light on how the brain processes speech

September 21, 2022

Researchers at the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience have expanded the understanding of how the brain is engaged during complex audiovisual speech perception.

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CAREER awards recognize role models in research, education

August 31, 2022

Six Rochester researchers, including CVS members Ralf Haefner and Ross Maddox, have received prestigious NSF awards for early-career faculty members.

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How do we hear one voice among many?

August 29, 2022

The ability of humans to listen and converse in noisy places like bustling city streets or crowded bars is remarkable but also mysterious. It is known, for example, that when sound waves are converted in the inner ear into electrical signals, those signals are conveyed and processed along an auditory brainstem that leads to the brain’s cortex, where auditory perception occurs.

But scientists are still trying to understand how the signal processing along this intermediate “beautiful, but complicated network of connections” helps us focus our listening, says Ross Maddox, a University of Rochester biomedical engineer and neuroscientist.

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Postdoctoral Spotlight: Aaron Nidiffer, Ph.D.

July 20, 2022

Aaron Nidiffer, Ph.D., a postdoctoral associate in the lab of Edmund Lalor, Ph.D., received his doctoral degree in Hearing and Speech Sciences from Vanderbilt University. His research focuses on how the brain interprets visual speech and simultaneously processes two different types of information conveyed by the lips – timing and shape.

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The brains of children with autism may not always ‘see’ body language

July 18, 2022

Noticing and understanding what it means when a person leans into a conversation or takes a step back and crosses their arms is a vital part of human communication. Researchers at the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester have found that children with autism spectrum disorder may not always process body movements effectively, especially if they are distracted by something else.

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Sensory processing—in a virtual Kodak Hall

June 21, 2022

A cross-disciplinary team of researchers from the University of Rochester is collaborating on a project to use virtual reality (VR) to study how humans combine and process light and sound. The first project will be a study of multisensory integration in autism, motivated by prior work showing that children with autism have atypical multisensory processing.

The project was initially conceived by Shui’er Han, a postdoctoral research associate, and Victoire Alleluia Shenge ’19, ’20 (T5), a lab manager, in the lab of Duje Tadin, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences.

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Majewska honored by NINDS for exceptional mentorship

June 21, 2022

Ania Majewska, Ph.D., has been named a 2022 Landis Award for Outstanding Mentorship awardee by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) for her dedication to superior mentorship and training in neuroscience research. Majewska is a professor of Neuroscience and principal investigator of the Majewska Lab at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

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Walking gives the brain a ‘step-up’ in function for some

June 17, 2022

It has long been thought that when walking is combined with a task – both suffer. Researchers at the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester found that this is not always the case. Some young and healthy people improve performance on cognitive tasks while walking by changing the use of neural resources. However, this does not necessarily mean you should work on a big assignment while walking off that cake from the night before.

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How the brain interprets motion while in motion

June 13, 2022

Imagine you’re sitting on a train. You look out the window and see another train on an adjacent track that appears to be moving. But, has your train stopped while the other train is moving, or are you moving while the other train is stopped?

The same sensory experience—viewing a train—can yield two very different perceptions, leading you to feel either a sensation of yourself in motion or a sensation of being stationary while an object moves around you.

Human brains are constantly faced with such ambiguous sensory inputs. In order to resolve the ambiguity and correctly perceive the world, our brains employ a process known as causal inference.

Causal inference is a key to learning, reasoning, and decision making, but researchers currently know little about the neurons involved in the process.

In a new paper published in the journal eLife, researchers at the University of Rochester, including Greg DeAngelis, the George Eastman Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and his colleagues at Sungkyunkwan University and New York University, describe a novel neural mechanism involved in causal inference that helps the brain detect object motion during self-motion.

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Knowing How the Brain Reacts to Smells May Help Fight Disease

May 11, 2022

From WebMD

You know that complicated equations can predict what story pops up in your news feed or which TikTok video you’ll watch next. But you might not know that math can help us understand what happens in the brain when we smell something.

Researchers at the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester are building complex mathematical models that do just that – and if they continue to make progress, their work may aid in the fight against diseases of the nervous system, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

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Diverse minds and determined hearts make change: Forging equitability in Neuroscience

April 25, 2022

A group, mostly consisting of neuroscientists, meets bi-weekly outside the lab with a simple but powerful common purpose – to fundamentally change the bench.

"This experience has been eye-opening,” said Manuel Gomez-Ramirez, Ph.D., assistant professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester and chair of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience Diversity Commission. “It is such a diverse group in every sense – cultural, gender, experience in both academics and nonacademics – we are all able to have input and listen to each other while considering different perspectives and focusing on one problem together."

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Student Spotlight: Victoria Popov

April 25, 2022

Victoria Popov is a second year in the Neuroscience Graduate Program at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Popov graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with an M.S. in professional studies with concentrations in biomedical sciences, psychology, and health systems administration. She graduated with a B.S. from RIT in biomedical sciences.

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CVS graduate student Emily Isenstein receives pre-doctoral fellowship from Autism Science Foundation

April 19, 2022

The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding innovative autism research and supporting families facing autism, today announced the recipients of its annual pre- and postdoctoral fellowship grants. BCS graduate student Emily Isenstein is among the recipients.

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The art of smell: Research suggests the brain processes smell both like a painting and a symphony

April 4, 2022

What happens when we smell a rose? How does our brain process the essence of its fragrance? Is it like a painting – a snapshot of the flickering activity of cells – captured in a moment in time? Or like a symphony, an evolving ensemble of different cells working together to capture the scent? New research suggests that our brain does both.

"These findings reveal a core principle of the nervous system, flexibility in the kinds of calculations the brain makes to represent aspects of the sensory world," said Krishnan Padmanabhan, Ph.D., an associate professor of Neuroscience and senior author of the study recently published in Cell Reports. "Our work provides scientists with new tools to quantify and interpret the patterns of activity of the brain."

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Congratulations to the Poster Abstract Winners at the 2022 CVS Retreat

March 31, 2022

Thanks to generous donations from the Rochester chapter of Society for Neuroscience and two anonymous donors, CVS was able to award a total of $950 in prize money for the poster competition at the CVS Retreat on March 25, 2022.

Howard Li profile

1st place ($350): Howard Li (Rucci lab), Saccade-amplitude dependent enhancement of visual sensitivity

Boris Penaloza profile

2nd place ($250): Boris Penaloza (DeAngelis/Haefner labs), Divisive normalization as a mechanism for hierarchical causal inference in motion perception

Katherine Andersh profile

3rd place ($150): Katherine Andersh (Libby lab), The role of proinflammatory cytokines in retinal ganglion cell death

Honorary Mentions ($50 each):

Yongyi (Christie) Cai profile

Yongyi (Christie) Cai (Williams lab), Image scanning microscopy for in vivo ganglion cells classification

Samantha Jenks profile

Samantha Jenks (Poletti lab), Visual anisotropies within the foveola

Ben Moon profile

Ben Moon (Rolland lab), Alignment and validation of an AOSLO for imaging the human cone mosaic in the central fovea

Zoe Stearns profile

Zoe Stearns (Poletti lab), Temporal dynamics of peri-microsaccadic perceptual modulations in the foveola

A key to restoring sight may be held in a drug that treats alcoholism

March 18, 2022

Researchers may have found a way to revive some vision loss caused by age-related macular degeneration – the leading cause of blindness – and the inherited disease retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a rare genetic disorder that causes the breakdown and loss of cells in the retina. The drug disulfiram – marketed under the brand name Antabuse – used to treat alcoholism, may hold the key to restoring this vision loss.

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Researchers restore brain immune system function after prenatal exposure to environmental toxin

February 11, 2022

From Medical Xpress

New research shows that exposure to the industrial byproduct TCDD in utero could cause the brain's immune system to go array later in life, damaging important brain circuits, and potentially giving rise to neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism and ADHD. TCDD is primarily released into the environment by vehicle exhaust and burning wood and low levels of the toxin are found in air, soil, and food. The most common way people are exposed is through meat, dairy, and fish.

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International vision association honors Susana Marcos

February 4, 2022

Susana Marcos, the David R. Williams Director of the Center for Visual Science at the University of Rochester, has been elected to the 2022 class of Gold Fellows by the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO). The largest eye and vision research organization has a membership of nearly 11,000 researchers from more than 75 countries.

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Researchers provide insight into how the brain multitasks while walking

January 24, 2022

New research turns the old idiom about not being able to walk and chew gum on its head. Scientists with the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester have shown that the healthy brain is able to multitask while walking without sacrificing how either activity is accomplished.

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Student Spotlight: Bryan Redmond

January 24, 2022

Bryan Redmond is a second year in the Neuroscience Graduate Program, and fourth year in the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Redmond graduated from Xavier University of Louisiana with a B.S. in psychology.

Redmond’s research interest lies in the visual deficits experienced following optical lobe stroke. He is currently working in the lab of Krystel Huxlin, Ph.D., investigating whether neurons in undamaged areas of the visual circuit can be stimulated to restore vision following stroke. “There are no gold standard therapies for helping these patients recover their vision,” Redmond said. “If you have a motor stroke, you go to rehab, and keep training a muscle until you regain function. Patients with visual stroke are taught compensatory eye movements to make up for the blind field segment, or they are prescribed glasses with special lenses. These options teach patients to cope with their deficiency. We hope to develop a way to help them recover.”

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How we recognize one voice in a noisy crowd

January 11, 2022

From The Optimist Daily

Whether we’re at a busy restaurant, birthday party, or on public transport, sometimes our brain needs to focus on a single speaker amongst a multitude of background noise. A group of scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Center, wanted to see exactly how our incredible organ processes these stimuli.

The research team, led by Edmund Lalor, Ph.D., looked at exactly how our brains focus on the information from one speaker, whilst blocking out the background. Willing participants were asked to listen to two stories being told at once, and hold their attention on only one. EEG brainwave recordings were taken to try and unlock the neuronal activity occurring.

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Changes in the brain hinder addiction recovery in people who are HIV-positive

December 20, 2021

Researchers with the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester are studying how the brain puts the 'brakes' on behavior. That may be different in individuals recovering from cocaine addiction and who are also HIV-positive.

“Scientists have long known that drug abuse can cause damage to the brain. We also know HIV infection can cause brain changes,” said John Foxe, Ph.D., director of the Del Monte Institute for Neurosciences and senior author of the study published in Neuropharmacology. “Since drug use is common in individuals with HIV, an important question is how brain deficits associated with both conditions might add up.”

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Why some misremembering might show your memory is functioning properly

December 18, 2021

From The Washington Post

When asked the other day about a bakery near my home, I responded that I’d recently eaten its mouthwatering chocolate chip cookies. My wife corrected me, noting that the cookies I ate were actually oatmeal raisin.

Why did I make this memory error? Is this an early sign of impending dementia? Should I call my doctor?

Or is forgetting the details of a dessert a good thing, given that everyday life is filled with an enormous number of details, too many for a finite human brain to remember accurately?

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URMC researchers reveal how the brain understands one voice in a noisy crowd

December 15, 2021

In a crowded room where many people are talking, such as a family birthday party or busy restaurant, our brains have the ability to focus our attention on a single speaker. Understanding this scenario and how the brain processes stimuli like speech, language, and music has been the research focus of Edmund Lalor, Ph.D., associate professor of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

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New Eye Drops Offer an Alternative to Reading Glasses

December 14, 2021

From The New York Times

An eye drop that improves close-range vision could make misplaced reading glasses less of an inconvenience for many of the 128 million Americans who suffer from age-related deficits in near vision. Vuity, which became available by prescription on Thursday, is a once-a-day treatment that can help users see up close without affecting their long-range vision.

“For anybody who doesn’t want to fiddle with reading glasses, this might be a really helpful alternative,” said Dr. Scott M. MacRae, an ophthalmologist at the University of Rochester’s Center for Visual Science. Dr. MacRae was not involved in the clinical trials for the drug, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in late October.

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A cure for blindness? A next-generation solar concentrator?

December 7, 2021

The most efficient photovoltaic cells used for solar power cost up to $50,000 per square meter. What if these cells could be replaced with a plastic solar concentrator less than 3 mm thick that concentrates sunlight 500 times at only $100 per square meter?

Diseases that cause blindness destroy the rods and cones in the retina. Ganglion cells rely on rods and cones to detect light as it comes into the eye. Could blindness be cured if ganglion cells could be coaxed by genetically engineered viruses to take on this function?

These tantalizing prospects are being pursued by two celebrated University of Rochester scientists whose work has already proven transformative, resulting in their election as 2021 fellows of the National Academy of Inventors.

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Brief period of ‘blindness’ is essential for vision

November 19, 2021

Eye viewed through a telescope

We need to constantly shift our gaze to allow the foveola, a small region at the center of the retina, to get a full view of the world, similar to rotating a telescope to get a full view of a scene. Unlike when we might rotate a telescope, however, our eyes make most of these gaze shifts, especially the smallest ones, on their own, often beneath our awareness. By studying how a type of fixational eye movement called a microsaccade affects the foveola, Rochester researchers provide important foundational information that can lead to improved treatments and therapies for vision impairments. (Getty Images photo)

Fixational eye movements are tiny movements of the eye—so small we humans aren’t even aware of them. Yet they play a large role in our ability to see letters, numbers, and objects at a distance.

In a new paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the University of Rochester, including Michele Rucci, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences, and Janis Intoy, a postdoctoral research associate in Rucci’s lab, further cement the evidence for the important role of these tiny movements. By studying how a type of fixational eye movement called a microsaccade affects the foveola, a small region at the center of the retina, the researchers provide important foundational information that can lead to improved treatments and therapies for vision impairments.

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All eyes on vision restoration with latest NEI Audacious Goals Initiative Grant

November 11, 2021

Juliette McGregor, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of Ophthalmology, leads one of three new projects funded by the National Eye Institute's Audacious Goals Initiative (AGI) aimed at testing regenerative therapies for blindness due to retinal degeneration and monitoring transplanted cells as they integrate with host tissues.

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