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Tadin named interim dean of the School of Arts & Sciences

July 10, 2024

Duje Tadin, chair of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS), has been named interim dean of the School of Arts & Sciences. In this role—a position he also held in summer 2023, just before Nicole Sampson began as dean—Tadin will assume oversight of the school’s 19 departments and numerous centers, institutes, and programs in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

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Why can't we see colors well in the dark?

June 12, 2024

From LiveScience

If you've ever gotten dressed in the dark and later realized that the shirt you were wearing was not the color you thought it was, you're not alone. Identifying colors can be challenging in the dark, and even in low light, different colors can look remarkably similar.

But why is it harder to discern colors in the dark than it is in bright light?

Humans' ability to perceive color varies due to how we see under different lighting conditions. Human eyes contain two types of photoreceptors, or nerve cells that detect light: rods and cones. Each photoreceptor contains light-absorbing molecules, called photopigments, that undergo a chemical change when struck by light. This triggers a chain of events in the photoreceptor, prompting it to send signals to the brain.

Rods are responsible for enabling vision in the dark, known as scotopic vision. They're made of layers and layers of photopigments, said Sara Patterson, a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester in New York.

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Congratulations to the 2024 Makous Prize recipients

June 4, 2024

The Walt and Bobbi Makous Prize was established in 2012 by the Center for Visual Science, a research program of more than 40 faculty at the University dedicated to understanding how the human eye and brain allow us to see. The prize is named for Walt Makous, who was Director of the Center for Visual Science at the University of Rochester throughout the 1980s, and his wife Bobbi. The prize honors the graduating senior who has made the most outstanding contribution to vision research at Rochester.

The recipients of this year's prizes are Alan Abraham and Angelina Yang. Congratulations to the winners and read more about their research interests at the link below.

Alan Abraham

Alan Abraham

Angelina Yang

Angelina Yang

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2024 University Research Award (URA) Recipients

May 29, 2024

Congratulations to the CVS faculty members who received 2024 University Research Awards. The principal aim of the University Research Award program is to provide seed money to enable the development of new, innovative research projects with a high probability of attracting external support in the short term. Proposals that seek to establish or further develop new collaborations and multidisciplinary research teams will be favorably received.

The Neural Mechanisms of Everyday Speech Processing and Interpersonal Communication in Neurotypical and Autistic Individuals
Elise Piazza-School of Arts & Sciences-Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Edmund Lalor-Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences-Biomedical Engineering
Emily Knight-School of Medicine and Dentistry-Pediatrics

Towards Prevention of Accidental Trauma to Tissues By Surgical Tools
Mark Buckley-Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences-Biomedical Engineering

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Susana Marcos and team recognized by Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery

April 30, 2024

group of 5 researchers stand side by side as Susana Marcos holds award.

Susana Marcos (second from left) and fellow authors received the Mamalis Award from the Journal of Cataracts & Refractive Surgery.

Susana Marcos, the David R. Williams Director of the Center for Visual Science, the Nicholas George Professor in Optics, and a professor of ophthalmology at Rochester, was recognized for her work on a study in the Journal of Cataracts & Refractive Surgery (JCRS). Marcos and her fellow authors received the JCRS 2023 Mamalis Award.

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Jannick Rolland named to Augmented World Expo’s XR Hall of Fame

April 30, 2024

Jannick Rolland in a room with three graduate students wearing and using extended reality technology.

Optical engineering professor and XR Hall of Fame inductee Jannick Rolland (second from the right) discusses Hyperion, an augmented reality platform with PhD students Jeremy Goodsell, Daniel Nikolov, and Yiwen Fan. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Jannick Rolland, the Brian J. Thompson Professor of Optical Engineering and director of the Center for Freeform Optics, has been inducted to Augmented World Expo’s (AWE) inaugural class of the XR Hall of Fame. Featuring 101 inaugural inductees, the XR Hall of Fame honors the pioneers whose groundbreaking contributions have shaped and propelled the extended reality industry forward.

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Hearing, balance & the brain

April 25, 2024

It is not much bigger than a dime. Made up of a meticulous maze of anatomic loops and tubes, hair cells and neurons, and other signaling mechanisms, the ear and vestibular system take in information about the world around us and deliver it to the brain quickly. It is a system that is full of mystery, leaving much for science to explore and explain. However, it is well understood that it does not age gracefully—for adults aged 75 and older, imbalance is the number one cause of doctor visits, and 40 percent experience hearing loss.

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Why do we blink so much?

April 19, 2024

Close up of a woman's eyes and mid-face looking off camera to illustrate why eye blinking is important in humans.

BLINK AND YOU MISS IT? Not so, according to new research conducted by University of Rochester scientists. (Unsplash photo)

The ordinary act of blinking takes up a surprising amount of our waking time. Humans, on average, spend a remarkable 3 to 8 percent of their awake time with their eyelids closed.

Given that blinks prevent an image of the external scene from forming on the retina, it’s a peculiar quirk of evolution that we spend so much time in this seemingly vulnerable state—especially considering that eye blinks occur more frequently than necessary just to keep our eyes well lubricated.

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Scientists Reveal Hidden Benefit of Blinking

April 16, 2024

From Newsweek: Blinking not only keeps our eyes moist, it also plays a key role in how we process visual information, a new study has found.

Researchers at the University of Rochester in New York set about understanding more about the ordinary act of blinking—something we spend 3 to 8 percent of our waking hours doing.

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Are these newly found rare cells a missing link in color perception?

April 15, 2024

Close-up of a Black person's eye with a multicolored light falling on it to illustrate how retinal ganglion cells function.

COLOR (PERCEPTION) THEORY: University of Rochester scientists have identified elusive retinal ganglion cells (RCGs) in the eye’s fovea that could explain how humans see red, green, blue, and yellow. (Getty Images photo)

Scientists have long wondered how the eye’s three cone photoreceptor types work together to allow humans to perceive color. In a new study in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers at the University of Rochester used adaptive optics to identify rare retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) that could help fill in the gaps in existing theories of color perception.

The retina has three types of cones to detect color that are sensitive to either short, medium, or long wavelengths of light. Retinal ganglion cells transmit input from these cones to the central nervous system.

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Richard Lange Joins CVS Faculty

April 15, 2024

Richard Lange

We welcome our newest adjunct faculty member of CVS: Richard Lange, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at RIT.

Richard’s primary research interest is to bridge the gap between computational models for perception that are theoretically well-founded but difficult to use in practice (e.g. probabilistic graphical models) and those that are heuristically designed but practically successful (e.g. deep neural networks). Solving the dual goals of understanding biological vision and designing effective artificial vision systems requires advances in representation learning, uncertainty quantification, redefining ‘optimal’ perception, better tools for representational alignment, and more.

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Recent Achievements of CVS Students & Postdocs

April 12, 2024

Matt Adusei

Matt Adusei, graduate student in the Briggs lab, is the 2024 Goodman Fellowship recipient. Messersmith/Goodman dissertation fellowships are awarded to the top 3 graduate students within their final year of their dissertation across the full campus following program-specific review and nomination then cross-campus review. Matt’s thesis explores the functional role of corticogeniculate feedback pathways originating in extrastriate visual cortex. Matt discovered this “new” feedback projection, characterized the morphology of extrastriate corticogeniculate neurons across multiple visual areas in two species, and is now in the process of exploring the function of these circuits in vision using a combination of virus-mediated gene delivery, optogenetics, and high-density multi-electrode array recordings.

Ibrahim Akkaya

Ibrahim Akkaya is a postdoctoral scholar at the Inst. of Optics & CVS supervised by Jannick Rolland. Ibrahim has been awarded the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions - Postdoctoral Fellowship (MSCA-PF).

Amy Bucklaew

Amy Bucklaew, graduate student in the Mitchell lab was elected to the VSS Student-Postdoc Advisory Committee (SPC). The SPC creates/organizes its own events and advises the VSS Board and membership about how events, workshops, meeting structure, and activities can best target the needs of trainee members and attendees.

Graduate Student Yue Guzhang receives 2024 Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Teaching

March 12, 2024

The Edward Peck Curtis Awards for graduate student teaching are given to a small number of full-time graduate students who have a role in undergraduate education. Recipients have assisted in undergraduate instruction, and have had significant face-to-face interaction with undergraduates in the classroom or laboratory.

Yue Guzhang, graduate student in the Poletti lab, is recognized for both teaching and mentoring. Yue has been involved in two student-led graduate courses and in creating a new undergraduate course on MATLAB with Soma Mizobuchi. She is also an active research mentor for undergraduates, both in the APlab and in the Meliora Fellows program.

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Flaum Researchers Ranked #14 in the Nation for NIH Funding

February 8, 2024

The Flaum Eye Institute recently placed 14th on the latest Blue Ridge Rankings for NIH funding for ophthalmology departments conducting medical research. Funding for the institute in 2023 reached almost nine million dollars ($8,907,039). In the past four years, Flaum has climbed 11 spots, and increased NIH funding for research by 77%.

In the 2023 rankings, four Flaum scientists ranked in the top 100 for research funding. Juliette McGregor, PhD, placed 58th with $1,336,982, Richard Libby, PhD, placed 72nd with $1,221,341, Susana Marcos, PhD, placed 81st with $1,152,982, and Ruchira Singh, PhD, placed 85th with $1,113,415 in funding.

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How do we pay attention to one speaker when many people are talking?

February 6, 2024

Ed Lalor, PhD, associate professor of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Rochester aims to understand how the brain sense, perceives, and pays attention to things in the world.

Leading the way: the University of Rochester Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center is transforming the landscape of exploration

January 29, 2024

Batten disease is a devastating rare genetic disorder. While the genetic flaw that causes this disease is well known, scientists do not fully understand the connection between this mutation and the disease’s symptoms like behavioral changes, cognitive impairment, seizures, and vision loss. John Foxe, PhD, co-director of the University of Rochester Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (UR-IDDRC), recently described a potential neuro marker for the disease that could represent a way to better understand this complex disease and, ultimately, help researchers measure outcomes in clinical trials.

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Student Spotlight: John Gonzalez-Amoretti

January 29, 2024

John Gonzalez-Amoretti is a 4th year Neuroscience graduate student. Gonzalez-Amoretti received his degree in Chemistry from Universidad Ana G. Mendez in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. He is currently working in the lab of Adam Snyder, PhD, in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department at the University of Rochester where he is studying visual attention and how the brain uses information about an object to find its location.

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Researchers find possible neuromarker for ‘juvenile-onset’ Batten disease

January 8, 2024

Early symptoms can be subtle. A child’s personality and behavior may change, and clumsiness or stumbling develops between the ages of five and ten. Over time, cognitive impairment sets in, seizures emerge or worsen, vision loss begins, and motor skills decline. This is the course of Batten disease, a progressive inherited disorder of the nervous system that results from mutations to the CLN3 gene.

“It is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder of childhood,” said John Foxe, PhD, director of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience and co-director of the University of Rochester Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (UR-IDDRC), “and while it is very rare, it is important to study and understand because it could inform what we know and how we treat it and other related rare diseases.”

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SMD Announces 2023 Mentoring Awards Winners

January 3, 2024

The School of Medicine & Dentistry annually bestows mentoring awards to recognize the mentoring skills and dedication of our faculty. We are pleased to announce Krystel Huxlin as one of the recipients of the 2023 mentoring awards.

Huxlin’s mentoring efforts focus on past trainees’ observation on her mentoring style and results, depicting the Meliora spirit. One trainee states, “Krystel has been a singular force in my life, and the greatest mentor I could have hoped for when I launched my academic career. After over a decade working with Krystel as a trainee in her lab, I have found her mentoring skills, her capacity for empathy, and her selfless promotion of her trainees has only grown. Without question, my scientific career would not exist without her guidance”.

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David Williams and former Rochester colleagues to receive Rank Prize for Optoelectronics

December 20, 2023

The 2024 Rank Prize for Optoelectronics is being awarded to four internationally leading scientists for the development of instruments that use adaptive optics technologies to capture high-resolution images of the living human retina. The winners are David R. Williams, the William G. Allyn Professor of Medical Optics, as well as three of his former doctoral and postdoctoral researchers at Rochester: Junzhong Liang, Austin Roorda, and Donald T. Miller ’96 (PhD). The prize will be presented at an event in London on July 1, 2024.

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CVS welcomes 3 new faculty members

November 29, 2023

Alex Levin

Alex Levin

Rachel Wozniak

Rachel Wozniak

Len Zheleznyak

Len Zheleznyak

We are excited to introduce three new faculty members to CVS.

Alex Levin, MD, MHSc, provides expert medical and surgical care to infants, children and adolescents suffering from pediatric anterior segment eye conditions (cataract, glaucoma, uveitis) as well as adults and children with genetic eye disease. As Chief of the Eye Institute’s Pediatric Ophthalmology and Ocular Genetics team, and Chief of Clinical Genetics at URMC, he integrates his clinical expertise in treating eye disease with his scientific curiosity in understanding their genesis.

Rachel Wozniak's research focuses on understanding how and why bacterial infections cause ocular tissue damage, as well as the development of novel ophthalmic antimicrobial therapeutics to treat this blinding disease.

Len Zheleznyak joins us as an industrial adjunct faculty member. As EVP of Vision Science at Clerio Vision, Len oversees the Myopia Control program, which involves researching the fundamental mechanisms leading to myopia progression, and developing therapeutic contact lenses for slowing the rate of childhood eye growth. As a vision scientist, Len has focused on a wide array of topics, such as myopia control, presbyopia correction, wavefront science, femtosecond lasers, contact and intraocular lens design, as well as corneal refractive surgery.

Researchers find neurons work as a team to process social interactions

November 27, 2023

Researchers have discovered that a part of the brain associated with working memory and multisensory integration may also play an important role in how the brain processes social cues. Previous research has shown that neurons in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) integrate faces and voices—but new research, in the Journal of Neuroscience, shows that neurons in the VLPFC play a role in processing both the identity of the “speaker” and the expression conveyed by facial gestures and vocalizations.

"We still don’t fully understand how facial and vocal information is combined and what information is processed by different brain regions," said Lizabeth Romanski, PhD, associate professor of Neuroscience at the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester and senior author of the study. “However, these findings confirm VLPFC as a critical node in the social communication network that processes facial expressions, vocalizations, and social cues.”

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Flaum researchers publish a paper highlighting the need for better vision care for stroke survivors

November 15, 2023

With the global incidence of stroke on the rise and survival rates growing, there is an increase of survivors with neurological deficits related to their injury. These can include movement, speech, and, in up to 60 percent, chronic visual defects.

Recently appointed Research Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, Matthew Cavanaugh, Ph.D., and his collaborator Dr. Hanna Willis, at the University of Oxford, published a policy paper advocating for better screening and clinical care for patients who have suffered visual loss from a stroke.

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Human brain’s ‘temporal scaffolding’ inspires new AI approaches

October 24, 2023

Scientists believe a recent hypothesis about how the human brain uses sleep and awake periods to learn over time could be the key to overcoming artificial intelligence’s limitations with lifelong learning. Christopher Kanan, an associate professor at University of Rochester’s Department of Computer Science, is part of a transdisciplinary team that received $2 million in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to use the “temporal scaffolding” hypothesis to produce AI that rapidly learns, adapts, and operates in uncertain conditions.

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CVS welcomes new faculty member Yuhao Zhu

October 4, 2023

Yuhao Zhu

We welcome Dr. Yuhao Zhu as our newest CVS faculty member! His research interests include leveraging human visual perception to design more efficient AR/VR systems and building AR/VR technologies to augment human visual perception. We are thrilled to have Yuhao contributing to the mission of CVS as a hub for multidisciplinary collaboration and look forward for the dynamic exchange of ideas and methodologies he will take part in with many of you. Check out his website and follow him on Twitter.

Does what we see impact our brain function?

October 2, 2023

Duje Tadin, PhD, chair of the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department at the University of Rochester studies this to understand how visual perception differs in conditions like autism, stroke, and schizophrenia.

AI helps bring clarity to LASIK patients facing cataract surgery

September 20, 2023

While millions of people have undergone LASIK eye surgery since it became commercially available in 1989, patients sometimes develop cataracts later in life and require new corrective lenses to be implanted in their eyes. With an increasing number of intraocular lens options becoming available, scientists have developed computational simulations to help patients and surgeons see the best options.

In a study in the Journal of Cataracts & Refractive Surgery, researchers from the University of Rochester created computational eye models that included the corneas of post-LASIK surgery patients and studied how standard intraocular lenses and lenses designed to increase depth of focus performed in operated eyes. Susana Marcos, the David R. Williams Director of the Center for Visual Science and the Nicholas George Professor of Optics and of Ophthalmology at Rochester, says the computational models that use anatomical information of the patient’s eye provide surgeons with important guidance on the expected optical quality post-operatively.

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Pathway program proves access can cultivate scientists

September 11, 2023

In the summer of 2021, the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience Diversity Commission and the City College of New York launched the partnership program NEUROCITY. Using the Summer Scholars Program at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry as a model, organizers created a program that has, to date, put nearly 30 undergraduate students from historically marginalized backgrounds in research labs across the University of Rochester and University of Rochester Medical Center campuses.

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Wired for research

August 16, 2023

In a laboratory at the University of Rochester’s Center for Advanced Brain Imaging & Neurophysiology, Sophea Urbi Biswas ’24 pores over brain wave signals recorded from a person listening to an audiobook next door. Biswas, a senior biomedical engineering student from Bangladesh, is attempting to see if the syntactic features of the words and phrases the participant listens to are reflected in the waves picked up by the electroencephalography (EEG) cap they wear.

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Susana Marcos recognized at Spain’s Smart Woman Forum & Awards

August 8, 2023

Susana Marcos, the David R. Williams Director of the Center for Visual Science and the Nicholas George Professor of Optics and of Ophthalmology, was recognized with an award for best investigator by Spain’s Federation of Health Innovation Industry. She was recognized at the Smart Woman Forum & Awards in Madrid on July 19.

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Pathway program scholars’ complete final poster presentations

August 4, 2023

Students from the NEUROCITY and NEUROEAST programs presented their projects during the 2023 Summer Undergraduate Research Programs Poster Session at the School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Rochester Medical Center on Thursday, August 3. NEUROCITY is a partnership program with the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience Diversity Commission and City College of New York (CCNY) that gives historically marginalized undergraduate students an opportunity to work in neuroscience-related research labs at the University of Rochester during the summer. NEUROEAST is a partnership program with the Neuroscience Diversity Commission and East High School in the Rochester City School District. Selected high school students work in neuroscience-related labs, learning to conduct research and navigate the education and training necessary to pursue a research career.

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Announcing the 2023 Makous Prize Winners

August 1, 2023

The Walt and Bobbi Makous Prize was established in 2012 by the Center for Visual Science, a research program of more than 40 faculty at the University dedicated to understanding how the human eye and brain allow us to see. The prize is named for Walt Makous, who was Director of the Center for Visual Science at the University of Rochester throughout the 1980s, and his wife Bobbi. The prize honors the graduating senior who has made the most outstanding contribution to vision research at Rochester.

The three recipients of this year's prizes are Kallam Danial Kara-Pabani, Kendall Kohout, and Glory Linebach. Congratulations to the winners and read more about their research interests at the link below.

Kallam Danial Kara-Pabani

Kallam Danial Kara-Pabani

Kendall Kohout

Kendall Kohout

Glory Linebach

Glory Linebach

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Protecting the vulnerable, informing the future

July 24, 2023

This is not another story about COVID. This is a story about how a group of scientists—including a neuroscientist, virologist, and nephrologist—and school leadership rolled up their sleeves, stepped outside of their comfort zones, and formed an unlikely team that relentlessly navigated a pandemic in real-time to keep some of the most vulnerable students to the virus safe, staff healthy, schools open, and how at times, they were able to stop COVID in its tracks.

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Postdoctoral Spotlight: Allison Murphy, PhD

July 24, 2023

Allison Murphy, PhD (’23), a postdoctoral associate in the lab of Farran Briggs, PhD, received a doctoral degree in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Her research focuses on the structure and function of a feedback connection between two brain areas: the primary visual cortex and the visual part of the thalamus (LGN). Examining how this connection is organized, and how the neurons in the primary visual cortex influence the activity in the LGN could aid in understanding how this pathway contributes to visual processing.

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Inaugural Awardees of the CVS Pilot Funds for Vision Research

July 10, 2023

It is our great pleasure to announce the awardees of the inaugural CVS Pilot Funds for Vision Research:

Farran BriggsMichael Telias

PIs: Farran Briggs & Michael Telias. Grant Title: Modeling retinoic acid-driven maladaptive plasticity in the visual pathway of retinal degeneration mice

Adam SnyderEd Lalor

PIs: Adam Snyder & Ed Lalor. Grant Title: Multi-scale mechanisms of feature-based attention in humans and non-human primates

Michael TeliasSusana Marcos

PIs: Michael Telias & Susana Marcos. Grant Title: Studying the role of retinoic acid signaling in refractive error and myopia

Grants represent collaborative efforts between PIs with primary affiliations in different departments and are expected to yield pilot data for NEI applications, preferably through an R01. All three grants will be funded at the maximum funding level of $50K, for one year. The Brain and Cognitive Science Department has provided matching funds to the grant with a PI from BCS. The Institute of Optics provides in addition funding for a graduate student in Optics to support the program.

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Research finds prediction may be key to eye-and-hand coordination

June 5, 2023

Have you ever made a great catch—like saving a phone from dropping into a toilet or catching an indoor cat from running outside? Those skills—the ability to grab a moving object—takes precise interactions within and between our visual and motor systems. Researchers at the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester have found that the ability to visually predict movement may be an important part of the ability to make a great catch—or grab a moving object.

"We were able to develop a method that allowed us to analyze behaviors in a natural environment with high precision, which is important because, as we showed, behavioral patterns differ in a controlled setting," said Kuan Hong Wang, PhD, a Dean’s Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Wang led the study out today in Current Biology in collaboration with Jude Mitchell, PhD, assistant professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester, and Luke Shaw, a graduate student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program at the School of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Rochester. "Understanding how natural behaviors work will give us better insight into what is going awry in an array of neurological disorders."

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2023 University Research Award recipients announced

May 15, 2023

Two CVS faculty members were awarded University Research Awards for 2023, Duje Tadin and Krishnan Padmanabhan.

The University Research Awards (URA) provide seed money on a competitive basis for innovative research projects that, when sufficiently developed, are likely to attract external support.

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Research continues to rule out brain’s immune system as key to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

May 8, 2023

(UPDATE) A new study out in Frontiers in Neuroscience found early alcohol exposure does not change the connection between the brain's immune system and neurons that send information related to functions like balance and memory.

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Research shows how a common form of trauma can seriously alter your brain chemistry: ‘[The findings] are striking’

May 2, 2023

From The Cool Down (

Trauma from experiencing extreme weather events and other climate disasters can change the way your brain works, making it harder to process information, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of California and California State University analyzed existing electroencephalography (EEG) scans taken from survivors of California’s 2018 Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in state history.

They then compared the group to a control population that had never been exposed to the fire, finding that those who had survived the fire showed significant differences in brain activity and cognitive function.

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