News & Announcements

Ajay Kumar Wins $20,000 in Seed Money in Annual UMass Innovation Challenge Finals

Fourth-year NSB student, Ajay Kumar, received second-place honors in the 2016 UMass Innovation Challenge Finals that took place on April 7. Ajay accepted the award for GeneRisk, the software service he founded. GeneRisk allows medical clinicians to detect neurodevelopmental disorders, such as early indicators of autism. Medical professionals extract a patient’s saliva sample, which they send to a laboratory for gene sequencing and diagnosis. According to Kumar, to date, diagnosis of such disorders has relied largely on questionnaires and trial-and-error treatment, despite advances in understanding complex genetic disorders.

Coordinated by the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship, an initiative that promotes entrepreneurship across the UMass Amherst campus, the multi-stage Challenge, in its culminating event of the year, featured six student teams that vied for $65,000 in awards. Each finalist presented a three-minute project description, followed by twelve minutes of probing questions from the competition’s six judges.

Amanda M. Cremone writes about her sleep research for Huffington Post

NSB doctoral student Amanda M. Cremone writes about her sleep research into whether children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder might benefit from longer periods of sleep. One key area of inquiry is whether extended sleep in children with ADHD might reduce their impulsivity, she says.


Annaliese Beery Wins 2015 Frank A. Beach Award in Behavioral Neuroendocrinology

In 2015 the SBN selected Annaliese Beery as the recipient of the Frank A. Beach Award for early career accomplishment. Dr. Beery received her B.A. from Williams College and PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco. She joined the faculty in Psychology, Biology, and Neuroscience in 2010, where she currently serves as an Assistant Professor. Her work combines modern molecular neuroscience within the context of a strong evolutionary perspective, and has yielded important insights into the neurobiology that mediates differences in social behavior and stress reactivity.

Rosie Cowell receives NSF CAREER award

This 5-year award, "Testing a unified theory of perception and memory in the medial temporal  lobe," for approximately $600,000 will allow Professor Cowell to develop and test a theory of how memory interacts with high-level visual perception and why both of these cognitive functions depend upon the medial temporal  lobes. By applying the theory to both amnesia caused by brain damage and the more moderate memory loss caused by normal aging, this project will investigate whether these two forms of memory loss can be expained by the same mechanisms. This research will employ studies of memory performance, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and computational modeling.

Gerald Downes receives grant to study how brain regulates locomotion

Photo of Gerald Downes

Neurobiologist Gerald Downes, with chemist James Chambers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Amherst College neurobiologist Josef Trapani, have been awarded a three-year $824,025 collaborative research grant from the National Science Foundation to study the zebrafish brain to better understand how neurons regulate locomotion. Downes, the lead investigator, says his ultimate research goal is to better understand how different chemical signals, called neurotransmitters, work together at cellular and molecular levels to coordinate normal locomotion such as walking and swimming. Read more

The Role of Sleep in Product Choice

Photo of Rebecca Spencer

New research suggests sleep may counter impulse buys. Neuroscientists Rebecca Spencer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Uma Karmarkar of the Harvard Business School offer experimental results suggesting that normal nighttime sleep gave shoppers more positive feelings about their purchasing choices, but sleep failed to help them feel more confident about their decision. Further, sleep seemed to make participants reluctant to commit to spending money on an item they had considered buying the day before. Results appear in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. Read more

Clarifying Prefrontal Neurons' Roles in Flexible Behavior

David Moorman, right, and graduate student John Hernandez in the neuroscience and behavior program lab at UMass Amherst.

Results of a new study reported by David Moorman of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Gary Aston-Jones of Rutgers University suggest that adjusting behavior based on previous events involves an unexpected mix of neurons working together in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Findings appear in the online version of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read more

Sandra Petersen to receive Presidential Award for STEM mentoring

NSB faculty member Sandra Petersen is set to receive the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering.  She will receive her award at a White House ceremony later this year.  According to a press release, the White House presents the awards "to individuals and organizations to recognize the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science and engineering--particularly those who belong to groups underrepresented in these fields."   Dr. Petersen is one of only 14 individuals and one organization to receive this award this year.  In addition to being honored at the White House, Dr. Petersen will also receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.  Congratulations to Dr. Petersen!

Ajay Kumar is runner up in Innovation Challenge

Current Neuroscience & Behavior Program student Ajay Kumar (Bittman lab) was a runner up in UMass' Innovation Challenge MinutePitch competition.  Ajay (as a member of Team GeneRisk) proposed a software and web database combination that allows clinicians to deposit raw genetic data to obtain a risk score for Autism Spectrum or related disorders.  Congratulations to Ajay!

Park paper published in Cerebral Cortex

NSB faculty member Joonkoo Park's paper titled "Rapid and Direct Encoding of Numerosity in the Visual Stream" was recently published in Cerebral Cortex.