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Neuroscience Initiative

Launched in Fall 2014, the Neuroscience Initiative unites the academic, translational, and clinical neuroscience communities toward the common goals of better understanding the brain in disease and in health. University of Utah physicians and researchers are at the forefront of neuroscience; they are pioneering treatments in health care, breaking ground in imaging techniques, designing new solutions for brain and spinal cord repair, and more. The website serves as a portal to discovering more about the University's neuroscience expertise.

Neuroscience Community News:

The Gregg lab in the Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy uncovered gene expression effects in the mammalian brain that cause some neurons to express your mom’s gene and others to express your Dad’s. Watch this fun video and know more about this fascinating discovery on youtube. 

Congratulations! to Dr. Gregory Clark (Dept of Bioengineering) for having his neuroprostheisis research work featured in an article for Wired by Dr. Arati Prabhakar, Director of the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Read more about this exciting work on WIRED.

Congratulations to Drs. Deborah Yurgelun-Todd & Perry Renshaw on recent news coverage of their exciting adolescent brain development study! See the news coverage at KUTV and Deseret News.

Drs. Brian Curtis, Paula Williams, and Jeff Anderson are in the news for an interesting paper based on a project funded by the Neuroscience Initiative, "Examination of Neurobehavioral and Neurophysiological Mechanisms Underlying Habitual Short Sleep Duration." Learn more here.

Funding Opportunities:

We are delighted to announce the awardees of the 2016 Neuroscience Initiative Innovative Approaches to Neural Circuits and Collaborative Pilot Project programs! These programs aim to catalyze collaboration across campus, stimulate innovation, and move us towards our vision: better understanding the brain in disease and health, and transforming that knowledge into innovative solutions for patient care. 

Innovative Approaches to Neural Circuits

The Innovative Approaches to Neural Circuits program has a specific emphasis on the manipulation of cells, synapses and neural circuits through innovative neural engineering technologies, techniques (including neuromodulation), and computational approaches. The three projects listed below, representing 7 departments/institutes across University of Utah campus, were selected for up to $50,000 of funding each:

Alessandra Angelucci (Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences), Valero Pascucci (SCI): Towards the Non-Human Primate Connectome: Computational Approaches and Software Development

Christopher Butson (Bioengineering/SCI), Lauren Schrock (Neurology), Jeffrey Anderson (Radiology): Differentiating Neural Circuits Modulated During Therapeutic vs. Ineffective Deep Brain Stimulation

Matt Wachowiak (Neurobiology & Anatomy), Adam Douglass (Neurobiology & Anatomy), Massood Tabib-Azar (Electrical & Computer Engineering): Genetically-Encoded Magnetic Reporters for Recording Neural Activity 

 2016 Collaborative Pilot Projects

The eight projects listed below, representing 14 departments from 4 schools & colleges across University of Utah campus, were selected for up to $50,000 of funding each:

Deborah Bilder (Psychiatry), Erin Clark (Obstetrics & Gynecology): Prenatal Mechanisms and Biomarkers for Autism Spectrum Disorder 

Wendy Chapman (Biomedical Informatics), Lisa Cannon-Albright (Internal Medicine), Jennifer Majersik (Neurology): Powerful Predisposition Gene Identification for Ischemic Stroke

Elisabeth Conradt (Psychology), Erin Clark (Obstetrics & Gynecology), Trafton Drew (Psychology): Identifying Infant Neurophysiological Signatures Linked with Prenatal Exposure to Maternal Anxiety 

Summer Gibson (Neurology), Lynn Jorde (Human Genetics), Joshua Bonkowsky (Pediatrics): Rapid ALS Candidate Gene Validation Study

Eric Schmidt (Medicinal Chemistry), Michael McIntosh (Psychiatry), Danny Chou (Biochemistry): Therapeutic intervention in addiction by targeting the alpha6 nicotinic receptor

Alexander Shcheglovitov (Neurobiology & Anatomy), Robert Bollo (Neurosurgery), Jay Spampanato (Neurosurgery): Patient-specific "mini brains" as a new model system for pediatric epilepsy research 

Stefan Pulst (Neurology), Alan Dorval (Bioengineering): Developing deep brain stimulation of the dentate nucleus for the treatment of degenerative cerebellar ataxias

Jun Yang (Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences), Christopher Hill (Biochemistry), David Belnap (Electron Microscopy Core Director): Understanding usherin, the major protein associated with inherited deaf-blindness

 Awardees from both programs, as well as renewal awardees from the 2015 cycle, will present at an interdisciplinary symposium to be held next summer. Stay tuned for details!


Don't forget to check CompetitionSpace for the most up-to-date information on internal opportunities, foundation awards, and limited submissions!

Engine Funding Program. Awards typically around $30,000 are available to provide faculty inventors with business guidance and assistance moving discoveries towards commercialization. Opportunities to submit open approximately every two months. Find more details here.

Travel Grants. $1,000 awards are available on a rolling basis for faculty to meet with DOD or DARPA program managers. Apply through the VP for Research Office.

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Utah Parkinson Disease Registry A Window Into Disease’s Causes

The Utah Parkinson Disease Registry ( was launched in May in an effort to understand an apparent rise in PD by 30 percent over the last ten years in Utah, and to uncover causes of the disease. Effective March 12, 2015, the Utah State Board of Health requires that health care providers report cases of PD and related movement disorders. Because Utah has one of the highest rates of PD in the nation, it is uniquely poised to contribute toward a new understanding of the disease. UPDR is the first registry of its kind in the nation. READ MORE


Genetic Tug-Of-War In The Brain Influences Behavior

Not every mom and dad agree on how their offspring should behave. But in genetics as in life, parenting is about knowing when your voice needs to be heard, and the best ways of doing so. Typically, compromise reigns, and one copy of each gene is inherited from each parent so that the two contribute equally to the traits who make us who we are. Occasionally, a mechanism called genomic imprinting, first described 30 years ago, allows just one parent to be heard by completely silencing the other.

Now, researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine report on a version of genetic parental control in mice that is more targeted, and subtle than canonical imprinting. Published in Cell Reports, so-called noncanonical imprinting is particularly prevalent in the brain, and skews the genetic message in subpopulations of cells so that mom, or dad, has a stronger say. The mechanism can influence offspring behavior, and because it is observed more frequently than classic imprinting, appears to be preferred.

“The field has traditionally thought of genetics at the level of the whole animal, and sometimes the tissue. We’re documenting it at the cellular level,” says senior author Christopher Gregg, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy. “Genetics is much more complicated than we thought. READ MORE

Last Updated: 10/25/17