News & Announcements

Announcing the Inauguration of the On-Ramp Summer Pre-graduate Program

IDGP On Ramp Students 2019

The Interdepartmental Graduate Programs in the Life Sciences (IDGPs) launched a brand-new On-Ramp program for entering students on August 1st, with 18 soon-to-be PhD students participating. The month-long On-Ramp program is designed to facilitate the transition to graduate school by providing mentoring and professional development opportunities prior to the start of fall classes. Participants have the opportunity to work closely with a faculty member and current graduate students in a laboratory or in the field on research. In addition to hands-on training experience, On-Ramp students participate in lab meetings, journal clubs, and professional development workshops. On-Ramp students are paired with a graduate student peer mentor and join current students for social and programmatic events. There has been enthusiastic support for On-Ramp from all four IDGP graduate programs (MCB, NSB, OEB, and PB). We hope the On-Ramp Summer Research Program becomes a permanent part of the IDGP graduate experience at UMass.
Molecular and Cellular Biology Program
Neuroscience and Behavior Program
Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Program
Plant Biology Program

UMass researchers find sex differences in cognition of middle-aged marmosets

In a paper recently published in the journal e-Neuro, NSB doctoral recipient Matthew LaClair and his advisor Agnes Lacreuse examined what is a highly controversial topic in humans, by turning to the nonhuman primate, the common marmoset. The investigators asked whether biological sex modulates some aspects of cognitive performance as well as neural connectivity measures. They identified sex differences in cognitive flexibility that are correlated with sex-dependent patterns of resting brain networks.  The findings support the idea that cognitive sex differences may have identifiable intrinsic neural correlates. Investigating the dynamics of cognitive sex differences and associated brain networks across the lifespan may shed a new light on sex-specific cognitive disorders.

Sex differences in cognitive flexibility and resting brain networks in middle-aged marmosets.
M. LaClair, M. Febo, B. Nephew, N.J. Gervais, G. Poirier, K. Workman, S. Chumachenko, L. Payne, M.C. Moore, J.A. King, A. Lacreuse, eNeuro. 1 July 2019, ENEURO.015419.2019; DOI: 10.1523/ENEURO.0154-19.2019

Sleep Secret:
Neuroscientist probes sleep’s role in learning and memory

Rebecca Spencer

Does “sleeping on it” help us make better decisions? Are sleep disorders just a natural part of aging? How important are naps, anyhow? Rebecca Spencer, Professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and director of the UMass Amherst Sleep Monitoring Lab is finding answers to these questions. Read More

Deater-Deckard and Team Study Adolescent Risky Decisions

 Kirby Deater-Deckard

Developmental psychologist Kirby Deater-Deckard, Psychological and Brain Sciences, Neurosciecne and Behavior Graduate Program, is a co-investigator on a recently renewed five-year, $3.7 million grant from the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse to support a research team studying the environmental and neurobiological risk factors that influence brain development and healthy versus unhealthy decision-making in adolescence and early adulthood. Read more

Katz, Lyzinski to Explore Neuron-Level Mechanisms of How Brains Make Decisions

photo of Paul Katz

Paul Katz, professor of biology and director of neuroscience, and Vincent Lyzinski, a network expert and assistant professor of mathematics and statistics, recently received a three-year, $3.5 million grant from the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for a new collaboration between researchers at four universities who will explore the neuron-level mechanisms of how the brain makes decisions.

The project is part of President Obama’s 2013 Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative at NIH, which seeks to accelerate the development and application of new technologies leading to “a revolutionary new dynamic picture of the brain that, for the first time, shows how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space.” Read more

UMass Amherst researchers studied origins of adverse effects of a common anti-cancer treatment

Results of a new study by neuroscientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst suggest that a new treatment approach is needed – and how this may be possible – to address adverse effects of aromatase inhibitors, drugs commonly prescribed to both men and women to prevent recurrence of estrogen-positive breast cancer.

Neuroscientists Agnès Lacreuse, Luke Remage-Healey and their graduate students at UMass Amherst, collaborator Jessica Mong at the University of Maryland and first author Nicole Gervais worked together on this research. Gervais, who conducted the experiments as a postdoctoral researcher at UMass Amherst, is now at the University of Toronto. The authors studied a small group of aged male and female marmosets, non-human primates whose brains are much like humans’ and which exhibit “complex behavior,” senior author Lacreuse explains. (Read more)

Research by Rebecca Spencer is Highlighted by Education Drive News

Professor Rebecca Spencer

Research conducted by Professor Rebecca Spencer, Psychological and Brain Sciences, that indicates missing a nap for small children significantly and negatively reduced memory in several areas, including motor-skill development and regulating emotions, is cited in a news story. The story says even if children in preschool and kindergarten don’t require a nap, they should at least have some quiet time during the day. It also says up to 60 percent of 4-year-olds still need naps. Read More

Four new assistant professors join the Neuroscience and Behavior Graduate Program

The Neuroscience and Behavior Graduate Program welcomes four new Assistant Professors. They epitomize the diversity of backgrounds and approaches in the Neurosciences. Two of the faculty members are in Biology, one in Psychological Brain Sciences, and one in Communication Disorders. Each of them is recruiting PhD students for the coming year.  Read More.

UMass Week of Memory and Forgetting Begins Oct. 29

Week of Memory and Forgetting 2018

UMass Week of Memory and Forgetting: Science, Society, and Senescence” brings together science and art to explore and understand memory from a variety of perspectives through a variety of events from Oct. 29-Nov. 2.  Read more

Bittman receives $2.4 million, 4-year NIH grant to support circadian rhythm research

The 4-year, $2.4 million NIH grant will allow Bittman to determine the sequence of duper, a mutation that speeds up the circadian clock and dramatically reduces jet lag by affecting the function of a master pacemaker in the hypothalamus. Millions of Americans work shift schedules, and most of us have experienced the disorientation that occurs when we travel across multiple time zones. Such abrupt shifts of the biological clock aggravate many diseases. The new grant will allow the Bittman lab  to determine how the duper mutation alters the brain's clock. In addition, Bittman will use the duper mutant to determine whether phase shifts per se, or the internal desynchronization of multiple clocks throughout the body, are responsible for the adverse health effects of jet lag. The work is done in collaboration with John Hogenesch (Cincinnati Children's Hospital).