The Academic Minute for 2017.3.27-3.31

Academic Minute from 3.27 – 3.31

Monday, March 27th
Alexei Morozov – Virginia Tech University
Fear in Others
The Morozov Laboratory researchers are interested in neuronal substrates of social behaviors. Empathy is an evolutional hallmark that has shaped human civilization by influencing social behaviors. Animals can also express empathy, so the goal of the research program is, by using rodent models, to identify neuronal circuits that underlie empathy and determine how these circuits become altered in pathological conditions relevant to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, psychopathy, autism, and schizophrenia. Morozov and his team address this by 1) developing genetic and behavioral mouse models that involve empathy; 2) identifying changes in neuronal circuits during transition to pathological states; and 3) establishing a causal link between the circuit and behavior through optogenetic manipulation of circuit elements in behaving animals. The scientists focus on communications between the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), the primary hub of empathy in humans, and the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain, and on their modulation by the rest of the limbic system. Currently Morozov and his team employ two mouse models in which empathy is involved: a model of emotional trauma, induced by observation of suffering in a cage-mate and a genetically induced model of psychopathy, in which empathy-like behaviors are attenuated. A unique feature of the emotional trauma model is lack of physical pain or distress, which is similar to emotional trauma in humans undergoing psychological rather than physical suffering. By using channelrhodopsin-mediated selective stimulation of amygdala afferents, the scientists found that emotional distress selectively increases NMDA-receptor function in the amygdala input from the ACC. Currently the researchers are testing a hypothesis that the increased NMDA receptor function is causally linked to behavioral symptoms of emotional trauma. The genetic model of antisocial behaviors is mice with hippocampal CA3-restricted knockout of BDNF. These animals are highly aggressive, dominant, and lacking empathy-like behavior, but have normal cognition, which are the traits of psychopathy. Morozov and his team found that oscillatory activity in the hippocampus is altered in the model, and the cause is a decreased activity of 5-HT3 receptor positive interneurons. Currently the scientists are testing a hypothesis that the suppression of 5-HT3 interneurons in the hippocampus is causally linked to the traits of psychopathy. By investigating how brain circuits and molecules control normal and pathological behavior in mice, researchers in the Morozov Laboratory generate knowledge that will help relieve the burden of mental disease on human society.

Tuesday, March 28th
Kimberly Bigelow – University of Dayton
Research Description: Biomechanical analysis of balance, gait, and mobility, with focus on translational research to impact clinical care. Measurement of postural stability using force platforms for detecting differences between healthy individuals and those with balance deficits. Study of human movement variability to understand underlying control mechanisms and provide insight into frailty and disease. Utilization of kinematic sensors for real-world, long-duration monitoring of gait and physical activity. Emphasis on fall prevention in older adults and neurological/musculoskeletal disease detection, as well as effectiveness of therapeutic intervention.

Wednesday, March 29th
Wayne Campbell – Purdue University
Eating Red Meat
Our research interests include human nutrition and exercise studies on protein, carbohydrate and energy metabolism, dietary protein and energy requirements, body composition, obesity, weight loss, muscle strength, and muscle function with special emphasis on aging. We are also interested in how nutrition, exercise, and aging impact appetite and ingestive behaviors. Our recent research suggests that older people who habitually consume the Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein experience subtle declines in skeletel muscle size. Thus we seek to find the optimal protein intake for older and elderly people to consume. Our research also focuses on how protein metabolism, body composition, and glucose metabolism change in older people with changes in protein intake, body weight, and exercise (especially strength training). We are also interested in evaluating the effectiveness of compounds that are promoted to have ergogenic properties. The potential importance of the physical form of food (e.g. liquid versus solid) on appetite, ingestive behaviors, energy balance, and body weight control is also of great interest to our research team.

Thursday, March 30th
Jennifer Van Hook – Penn State University
Diversity in Rural America
I am interested in demography, immigrant integration, and health.  One part of my work is to use demographic methods to estimate the size, characteristics, and dynamics of the unauthorized foreign-born population. Another part of my work focuses on the health and well-being of immigrants and their children.

Friday, March 31st
Chris Austin – Louisiana State University
DNA from Museum Specimens
I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of California at Davis and my PhD at the University of Texas at Austin. As I graduate student I developed a deep interest in the herpetofauna and biogeography of Australasia. I spent two years in Australia as a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the South Australian Museum in Adelaide and a Myer Postdoctoral Fellow at the Australian Museum in Sydney. I then spent two years in Japan as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Statistical Mathematics in Tokyo.

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