Academics, News, Science and Technology

Neuroscience building open house honors varied research

Elizabeth Reyes, an administrative assistant at UM's Department of Psychology, demonstrates the new fMRI equipment at Friday's Neurosicence Facility Open House. Erum Kidwai // Staff Photographer

Elizabeth Reyes, an administrative assistant at UM’s Department of Psychology, demonstrates the new fMRI equipment on Friday at the neuroscience facility’s open house. Erum Kidwai // Staff Photographer

 

More than $300 million is spent annually on research expenditures at the University of Miami, and the neuroscience building on the Coral Gables campus acts as a physical reminder of the varied research happening at the school.

On Friday, University of Miami students, alumni, faculty and donors were welcomed to the neuroscience building, adjacent to the Cox Science Center, for an open house to learn about the research happening at the school. The three-story research facility opened in 2013 after a $14.8 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was awarded by the National Institutes of Health. The psychology department has received over 20 million in external research dollars this year, much of which is neuroscience-based, according to Dr. Michael Alessandri, assistant chairman of the psychology department and executive director of the UM Center for Autism and Related Disabilities.

“What’s happening here is cutting edge, innovative research in various psychological disorders and issues of attention and memory, many different topics,” Alessandri said. “We thought this was the right time to bring the community in and share what we’re doing with the public.”

Dr. Fred Pattany, the MR physicist and an associate professor in the radiology department, aims to learn how people with anxiety can overcome mental deficits through training.

“In this [MRI] scanner we do primarily structural images and functional images … Structurally, we look at the white matter connectivity in the brain … We also do functional imaging. We look at which areas of the brain are active during a certain disorder and we compare that to normal controls,” he said. “Whether it’s anxiety or ADHD, you get different pathways of the brain that are active compared to a normal subject. Then we say structurally how those active areas are interconnected differently than subjects that have some cognitive deficit compared to a normal control.”

Dr. Lucina Uddin, director of the Brain Connectivity and Cognition Laboratory and assistant professor in the department of psychology, received a grant for $2 million over five years from the National Institute of Mental Health to investigate flexible behaviors and their brain basis. 

“We have a 3 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging facility which allows us to take images of the brain … so we can look at the structure and function of a patient’s brain,” Uddin said. “What we are particularly interested in here is looking at children who have autism … We try to characterize exactly what’s going on in terms of their brain connections that differ from a typical child and how that relates to the behavioral difficulties that they have day to day.” 

The biology department also takes advantage of the research technology at the facility, using imaging technology to study the biological processes of life.

“We started off with a weird question … and now we’re chasing a bigger, broader story that we’re very excited about,” said Dr. James Baker, a research assistant professor and manager of the imaging core facility in the building. “We wondered how it was that the respiratory system of these [larvae]becomes filled with a gas, which has kind of a mysterious origin. The gas seems to come from within the animal and not from the atmosphere … we decided to test it … and along the way, it improved our understanding of this whole respiratory structure inside the animal. We’re now thinking that there are common underlying mechanisms for [activating]the respiratory spaces of both humans and flies, and we’re trying to understand a little bit more detail about how this works.”

The facility also houses tools for physics research. Associate professor in the department Dr. Mason Klein looks at how animals react physically to different stimuli.

“How does sensory input lead to behavioral output? Well, fundamentally, an animal, just like any other physical system, operates via an input, something happening, and then a corresponding output. So an animal will perceive some kind of stimulus … its brain will take that information and process it, and that will lead to some kind of muscle action.”

November 8, 2015

Reporters

David Ufberg


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Hurricanes fans, get out your pencils, calendars and a list of your favorite hotels. The Atlantic Co ...

Three former Miami Hurricanes — defensive lineman Chad Thomas, offensive lineman KC McDermott and de ...

In all technicality, the Orange Bowl is a postseason, neutral-site bowl game that includes a top tea ...

When it comes to recruiting, the scariest sentence for Miami Hurricanes fans is this one: Nesta Silv ...

This time, there was no miracle Miami win over Duke. The fifth-ranked Blue Devils rallied from a 13- ...

Global and local efforts needed to respond to biological threats, UM President Julio Frenk warned at ...

As artificial Intelligence takes hold, tech visionary David Kenny stresses keeping human values in t ...

UM’s First Black Graduates Project committee visits an iconic D.C. museum for inspiration to create ...

The Beaux Arts Festival of Art debuts at a new site with picture-perfect weather and a panoply of or ...

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision for a “Beloved Community” has inspired a number of University of ...

The University of Miami women's basketball team took down Syracuse to record their 750th all-ti ...

Following a promising performance during the fall portion of the 2017-18 campaign, the University of ...

The University of Miami track and field program travels to Texas this week to compete at the Texas T ...

The Miami women's tennis team will begin its 2018 spring season this weekend on its home court. ...

The University of Miami released its 2018 football schedule Wednesday, highlighted by a nationally t ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.