September 2018                                                          View this email in your browser


Welcome to our incoming PhD students!

Top row: Matt Davis, Erin Aisenberg, Marisa Becerra, Julia Bleier, Brett Nelson, Mark Gorenstein

Bottom row: Katie Cording, Madeline Klinger, Sonali Mali, Azure Grant

Call for Proposals: Radical Ideas in Brain Science Challenge

HWNI is delighted to invite proposals for the Radical Ideas in Brain Science Challenge, focusing on: The Aging Brain. Made possible through the generosity of our donors, this is an opportunity for a $190,000 award (over two years) to catalyze neuroscience research with cross-disciplinary teams, offering the opportunity to engage the broader campus community of potential collaborators. Applications are due October 26, 2018. Click here for program details...

Research Discoveries


Modeling a neurodevelopmental disorder with human brain organoids: a new way to study conditions such as epilepsy and autism

The developmental disorder tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) causes the formation of cortical tubers—disorganized regions of abnormal cells in the cerebral cortex—and often results in epilepsy, autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, and psychiatric disorders.

A new study from the Bateup lab published in Nature Medicine describes how they used 3-D cultures and gene editing technology in human cells to generate the first model of TSC that replicates the tubers seen in patients. Their findings also shed light on how neuronal vs. glial cell fate is regulated in the developing human cortex and how somatic mutations can lead to disease states. Read our article and the research article to learn more.

Pictured: Human cortical spheroid showing normal neurons (green) and astrocytes (blue) generated from cells where only one copy of the TSC2 gene is inactivated; and enlarged, dysmorphic cells (red) from cells where both copies are inactivated, forming a “tuber-like” region. Image from Bateup lab.

Copper in the brain: Mining a mineral that regulates sleep and wakefulness

Copper is highly concentrated in the brain, and one area of the brain—the locus coeruleus (LC)—has the highest levels of copper. What is all this copper doing in the LC? In a study published in Nature Chemical Biology, researchers from the Chang and Isacoff labs found that mutant zebrafish deficient in brain copper were sluggish during the day and more active at night, indicating that copper regulates sleep-activity cycles. Their evidence suggests that copper regulates these cycles by promoting synthesis of norepinephrine in the LC. Read our article and the research article to learn more about their findings and the potential implications for human conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson’s disease, and autism.

Pictured: Copper visualized in the brains of wild type (top row) and mutant (bottom row) zebrafish. Image from Tong Xiao, Chang Lab.

Sleep loss can cause loneliness

Sleep-deprived people withdraw socially and other people avoid them, creating a vicious cycle of loneliness, according to new research from the Walker lab. To learn more about the importance of sleep for social connection and psychological well-being, read the story in Berkeley News and the research article in Nature Communications.

Image from Berkeley News.

It’s a thin line between itch and pain

In a new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from the Bautista Lab discovered how a single molecule, sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P), can trigger the sensations of both itch and pain by activating different TRP ion channels downstream of its receptor. Their findings could have implications for treating itch and pain, as well as diseases related to S1P, including asthma, multiple sclerosis, and cancer. Read the press release or the research article to learn more.

Pictured: The distinct pathways of S1P signaling in sensory receptors that cause itch and pain. Image from press release of Hill et al. JNeurosci (2018). 

Honors and Awards


Lucia Jacobs wins Radcliffe Institute Fellowship

Lucia Jacobs, Professor of Psychology, won a fellowship from Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, where she will be spending the 2018-2019 academic year. Learn more about the fellowship.


Markita Landry wins DARPA Young Faculty Award

Markita Landry, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, has received a 2018 DARPA Young Faculty Award for her work developing optical probes for neuromodulators such as dopamine. Read our article to learn about how the award will allow her to investigate visualizing the probes in awake and behaving animals, and may ultimately be used to improve brain-computer interfaces.  

David Schaffer selected as a Bakar Fellow

David Schaffer, Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, has been selected as a Bakar Fellow for his work engineering cells to increase the production of viral vectors that can deliver genes into patients. The goal is to make gene therapy a more feasible medical treatment. Read the Berkeley News article to learn more about the award and his research.  


PhD Program News



Two of our PhD students received prestigious travel award

Maimon Rose (left) and Tobias Schmid (right), both members of the Yartsev lab, received International Society of Neuroethology Heiligenberg Student Travel Awards  


Alum Chris Holdgraf uses neuroscience to study neuroscience research

Now a data scientist at UC Berkeley, PhD program alum Chris Holdgraf explains why color-coded maps of human brain activity can make research findings appear more dramatic than they actually are, due to how our visual system perceives color. Read the article in Live Science.

Image from Live Science, credit: Chris Holdgraf.  

Alum Profile 

Revealing your brain: Erica Warp develops brain wearables using her background as a neuroscientist, artist, and entrepreneur

“I think throwing fireballs with your mind in a game is cool, but taking care of the brain and helping the brain get stronger is what really motivates me.”

As Vice President of Product at EMOTIV, Erica Warp helps develop wearable EEG products that move the study of brain activity out of the lab and into the world, for use by researchers and consumers alike. Her diverse career has included studying neural development, co-founding an artist-run gallery space, and founding an educational game company to teach kids about the brain. In our Q&A, Warp talks about how she uses her knowledge of the brain to improve learning and health, her advice for graduate students interested in business, and how being an artist helps her be more creative in her professional life. Read the full profile...

Photo credit: Andrew Miller Photography

Faculty Interviews in the News 


Effects of stress on the brain: an interview with Daniela Kaufer

Daniela Kaufer, Professor of Integrative Biology, studies the long-term effects of stress on the brain. In an interview with Being Patient, Kaufer discusses the harmful effects of chronic stress, how small amounts of stress can be beneficial, and the relationships between stress and anxiety, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease.  

Brain-machine interfaces: a Q&A with Jose Carmena

Jose Carmena, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Neuroscience and Co-Director of the Center for Neural Engineering and Prostheses, talks with the Berkeley Science Review about his career path, his research on the neural basis of brain-machine interfaces, and his goals for developing neuroprosthetic devices.  

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