images Spring 2010 Neuroscience Seminars

Fall 2012 Seminar Series in Neuroscience

Location of Seminars: Muenzinger E214 (See map and directions)

Tuesday Sept. 11th, 4-5 pm Dr. Helene Bach, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University

TITLE: “Neuronal Tryptophan Hydroxylase (TPH2): Postmortem Studies In Suicide

Abstract: Our work centers on understanding the molecular underpinning of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Suicide using postmortem human brain tissue and animal models of anxiety and depressive symptoms. Deficits in the serotonin system have long been associated with MDD and suicide. Our research focuses on measuring the amount of tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (TPH2), the enzyme that synthesizes serotonin, and determining how it is dysregulated in suicide. Serotonin is synthesized in source neurons in the midbrain dorsal and median raphe nuclei. These serotonin synthesizing neurons project all over the brain but importantly are the predominant projection to the prefrontal cortex, the main site of mood and behavior regulation. Therefore we target these regions for our analyses of TPH2 and the related molecules that regulate it expression and its function. TPH2 is a stress sensitive enzyme. We therefore determine the effects of early life stress and other important suicide risk factors such as cigarette smoking on TPH2 expression and function.
Tuesday Sept. 25th, 4-5 pm Dr. Chuck Raison, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Arizona

TITLE: "Coming to Our Senses: Harnessing the Mind-Body Connection to Enhance Behavioral and Pharmacological Interventions for Major Depression"

Abstract:Despite ongoing scientific advances in our understanding of brain-body processes central to mental illness, the treatment of depression remains little changed over the last 20 years. While often effective, current treatment strategies leave many patients with residual symptoms that predict both chronic disease and treatment resistance. Approximately 20% of patients with depression are resistant to all currently available therapeutic modalities. This lecture tackles the limitations in our current therapeutic armamentarium by asking whether current scientific understandings of the human organism might provide untapped paradigms for the development of new behavioral and pharmacological treatments for major depression. Beginning with a review of relevant evolutionary theory, this lecture will suggest that multiple brain-body signaling pathways may hold promise as interventions for the treatment of depression. Based on the speaker's ongoing research into these processes, the talk will examine evidence that targeting the peripheral immune system may offer promise as a therapeutic strategy for depressed patients with increased levels of inflammatory biomarkers. The lecture will conclude by exploring the possibility that evolutionary processes might be harnessed to develop novel treatments based on manipulation of body-based sensory pathways that signal nervous system in ways known to reduce depressive-like behavior in animal models and to improve depressive symptoms in humans. By using body-based pathways to target specific brain areas such strategies might offer efficacy while avoiding the many side effects that arise from current pharmacological strategies that indiscriminately target receptors throughout the brain.
Tuesday Oct. 9th, 4-5 pm

Dr. Tor Wager, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Institute of Cognitive Science, University of Colorado Boulder

TITLE: “Found In Translation: fMRI-Based Biomarkers for Pain and Distress

Abstract: The combination of fMRI with machine learning-based analytic approaches can yield interpretable brain patterns that accurately predict an individual's pain experience based on normative data from other individuals, and further can differentiate physical pain from other kind of salient events that produce very similar overall brain responses. I describe a series of studies developing fMRI as a sensitive and specific biomarker for acute physical pain. These biomarkers provide new information on the roles of anterior cingulate, insula, thalamus, SII/dorsal posterior insula, and other 'pain intensity coding' regions in pain vs. other emotional experiences, and provide new ways of testing the effects of attention, emotion, and expectancy on 'pain processing' in the brain. More broadly, they illustrate a new way of using fMRI data, a "Neuroimaging 2.0", that has the potential to yield both clinically useful applications of neuroimaging and better integrate human neuroscience with systems approaches in non-human animals.

Tuesday, Oct. 30th, 4-5 pm Dr. Monique LeBourgeois, Assistant Professor, Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado Boulder

TITLE: “Sleep and Circadian Physiology in Early Childhood: Developmental Trajectories, Associations with Sleep Problems, and Emotion-Related Effects

Abstract: Early childhood (ages 2-5 years) is a period characterized by dramatic changes in sleep duration, sleep timing, and sleep quality. About 25% of young children have sleep problems (e.g., bedtime resistance, difficulties initiating and maintaining sleep), which commonly persist into later childhood and adolescence. How long, how intense, and when individuals sleep in influenced by the interaction between a sleep-wake dependent homeostatic process and a clock-like circadian process. Although these processes have been well characterized in adolescents and adults, no longitudinal data on early childhood have been published. Furthermore, very few studies exist on the health and development consequences of challenging the sleep and circadian systems in young individuals. In this talk, I will first describe the methods we developed to be able for the first time to study sleep homeostasis and circadian rhythms in young children. Second, I will present longitudinal data on sleep and rhythms from a cohort of children studied at ages 2, 3, and 5 years. Last, I will discuss findings on circadian misalignment and its association with early sleep problems, as well as the effects of sleep restriction (nap deprivation) on emotion processing in young children.
Tuesday Nov. 13th, 4-5 pm Dr. Fred Helmstetter, Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

TITLE: “Neural Mechanisms of Memory and Emotion

Abstract: This presentation will cover recent work on the molecular, systems, and behavioral processes underlying long term memory and emotion. Using Pavlovian fear conditioning, a relatively simple associative learning procedure that can be applied to laboratory animals or human volunteers, we address a series of questions about how synapses are modified by experience and how multiple cortical and subcortical brain regions interact during learning and remembering.
Tuesday, Dec. 4th, 4-5 pm Dr. Marc-Andre Cornier, Associate Professor, Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Diabetes, Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Anschutz Medical Center, University of Colorado Denver

TITLE: "My Brain Made Me Eat It: Using fMRI to Better Understand Eating Behavior"

Abstract: The prevalence of obesity has risen dramatically in the US and the world over the last 30-40 years. While genes and biology undoubtedly play an important role in the development of obesity, genetic influences would not be expected to change over such a short period of time. This suggests that environmental influences are likely playing a significant role in the cause of this epidemic and that interactions between relevant genes and environmental factors probably produce the obesity state. One of the most dramatic changes in the environment years has been the broad availability of relatively inexpensive highly palatable food and the reduced need for high levels of physical activity in daily life. Furthermore, biologic signals are primarily designed to protect us during states of undernutrition. Why then are we not all overweight or obese? An individual's susceptibility to weight gain or not in an obesogenic environment and the state of energy balance. Neuroimaging studies have allowed us to gain a better understanding of the neural response to the food environment and how that response related to biologic signals in varying phenotypes (obesity resistant vs. obesity prone) and under varying conditions (overfeeding, exercise, etc).