Learn more about our most recent students’ thesis research, mentors, grants, and awards below. Click here to find IPN student profiles from 2014 to 1994.


Nicole Alvarez ’22

Thesis title: Currently pre-thesis

Education: Williams College, BS Biology 2022

Matthew Amontree ’22

Thesis title: Currently pre-thesis

Education: University of Florida, BS Biochemistry 2020

Briana Bernstein ’22

Thesis title: Currently pre-thesis

Education: UNC Chapel Hill, BS Psychology 2020

Daisy Booker ’22

Thesis title: Currently pre-thesis

Education: University of Denver, BS Psychology 2022

Iria Gutierrez-Schieferl ’22

Thesis title: Currently pre-thesis

Education: Boston College, BS Neuroscience & BA Studio Art 2022

David McFall ’22

Thesis title: Currently pre-thesis

Education: Princeton University, BA Molecular Biology 2017

Anna Pearson ’22

Thesis title: Currently pre-thesis

Education: DePauw University, BA Neuroscience 2020

Helena Schuch ’22

Thesis title: Currently pre-thesis

Education: University of Brasilia, BS; University of Brasilia, MS Neuroscience 2022

Peyton Thomas ’22

Thesis title: Currently pre-thesis

Education: Kenyon College, BA Neuroscience 2019

Natalya Vladyko ’22

Thesis title: Currently pre-thesis

Education: Novosibirsk State University, BA; Novosibirsk State University, MA; Southern Illinois University Carbondale, MA Linguistics 2021

Pauline Wonnenberg ’22

Thesis title: Currently pre-thesis

Education: American University, BS; American University, MS Chemistry 2019


Melanie Becher ’21

Thesis Title: Currently pre-thesis

Education: William and Mary, BS Neuroscience 2018

Zac Colon ’21

Thesis Title: Currently pre-thesis

Education: University of Washington Seattle, BS; Georgetown University, MS in Integrative Neuroscience

Mia Rose Coutinho ’21

Thesis Title: Currently pre-thesis

Education: Lafayette College, BS in Neuroscience, 2020

Michel Fallah ’21

Thesis Title: Currently pre-thesis

Mentor: Rebekah Evans

Education: Brooklyn College, BS Chemistry, 2019

Nancy Luo ’21

Thesis Title: The Involvement of APOE in Chemotherapy Induced Cognitive Impairment

Mentor: Bill Rebeck

Education: Johns Hopkins University, BS/MS in Neuroscience, 2019

Mateo Nelson ’21

Thesis Title: Currently pre-thesis

Education: University of Chicago, BA; Georgetown University, MS in Integrative Neuroscience

Lara Stefansson ’21

Thesis Title: Currently pre-thesis

Mentor: Daniel Pak

Education: University of Maryland – Baltimore County, BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; The University of Iceland – Háskóli Íslands, MS in Medical Life Sciences

Noah Steinberg ’21

Thesis Title: Investigating the influence of sensory integration during the formation of memory in ATL (anterior temporal lobe)

Mentors: Max Reisenhuber, Kareem Zaghloul

Education: Lafayette College, BS in Neuroscience, 2017

Candace van der Stelt ’21

Pre-Thesis Research: Neural underpinnings of language impairments post-stroke

Education: University of Nebraska at Kearney, Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders; University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology

Spencer Waters

Thesis Title: Currently pre-thesis

Education: Brigham Young University, BS Neuroscience and Psychology, 2018

Naama Zur

Thesis Title: Currently pre-thesis

Education: University of Haifa, BA/MA Psychology, 2017


Christy Agbey ’20

Thesis Title: Currently Pre-thesis

Mentor: Italo Mocchetti

Education: George Washington University, BS 2018 & Georgetown University, MS Integrative Neuroscience 2020

Danna Cunningham ’20

Thesis Title: Currently Pre-thesis

Mentor: Bill Rebeck

Education: University of Florida, BS Biology 2014

Sara Dyslin ’20

Thesis Title: Currently Pre-thesis

Mentor: Peter Turkeltaub

Education: Hendrix College, BA Neuroscience & French, 2018; Jacksonville University, MS Health Informatics, 2019

Carolyn Gershman ’20

Pre-Thesis Research: Typical and atypical lateralization patterns of visuospatial skills

Mentor: Elissa Newport

Education: University of Rochester, BA Brain and Cognitive Sciences & BA American Sign Language, 2018

Richard Klein ’20

Thesis Title: Layer dependent functional connectivity methods

Mentor: Ashley VanMeter (co-mentor: Peter Bandettini at NIMH)

Education: Davidson College, BS Biology, 2015

Madeline Marcelle ’20

Thesis Title: Currently Pre-thesis

Mentors: Elissa Newport & William Gaillard

Education: University of Pittsburgh, BS Neuroscience, 2016

Flo Martinez Addiego ’20

Thesis Title: Currently Pre-Thesis

Mentors: Maximilian Riesenhuber & Ella Striem-Amit

Education: Georgetown University, BS Neurobiology and Mathematics & Physics Minor, 2020

David Saxon ’20

Thesis Title: Currently Pre-Thesis

Mentor: Stefano Vicini (co-mentor: Joshua Corbin at Children’s National)

Education: Claremont McKenna College, BA Neuroscience, 2016


Dan Chapman ’19

Thesis Title: Interrogating synaptic mechanisms of retrograde amnesia in repetitive head impacts

Thesis Research: We are exploring how synaptic alterations in neurons encoding specific memories lead to cognitive dysfunction following repetitive head impacts.

Mentors: Mark Burns, PhD & Stefano Vicini, PhD

Education: Eckerd College, BS Biochemistry, 2017

Lillian Chang ’19

Thesis Title: Functional Architecture of the Multi-modal Speech System

Mentor: Max Riesenhuber, PhD

Education: University of California San Diego, BS Cognitive Science w/ specialization in Neuroscience, 2018

Adam Kaminski ’19

Thesis Title: Executive Control-Dependent Functional Network Reorganization in General Childhood Psychopathology

Mentor: Chandan Vaidya, Ph.D.

Education: Tufts University, BS Cognitive and Brain Sciences, 2017

W. Tyler Ketchabaw ’19

Thesis Topic: Language networks in stroke survivors

Mentor: Peter Turkeltaub, M.D., Ph.D.

Education: Boston University, BS Biomedical Engineering, 2014

Neke Nsor ’19

Thesis Topic: Investigating the Effects and Interaction of Biopsychosocial Factors in at Risk Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) populations

Mentor: Xiong Jiang, PhD & Maximillian Riesenhuber, PhD

Education: University of California Berkeley, BA Psychology & Disability Studies Minor, 2016; Teacher’s College, Columbia University, MS Neuroscience and Ed, 2019

Devin Palmer ’19

Thesis Title: Targeting the Tectopontine Pathway to Monitor and Control Spontaneous Seizures

Thesis Research: Using optogenetics, fiber-photometry and in-vivo electrophysiology to target specific cell types for seizure suppression.

Mentor: Patrick Forcelli, PhD

Education: Macalester College, BA in Neuroscience, 2015

Max Stevenson ’19

Thesis Title: Investigating the role of tyrosine kinase inhibition in the pathogenesis of protein-mediated neurodegenerative disease

Thesis Research: I aim to identify how various tyrosine kinases contribute to neurodegenerative disease pathology and whether inhibition of these enzymes represents a viable therapeutic target for treating these disorders.

Mentor: Charbel Moussa, MB, PhD

Education: University of Virginia, BA in Cognitive Science, 2016

Andrew Wodrich ’19

Thesis Title: Redox-associated mitochondrial function changes in age-related neurodegeneration

Thesis Research: I am studying how the processes of aging, neurodegeneration, and glial activation synergistically come together to create the cellular and molecular hallmarks of neurodegeneration. Specifically, I am investigating which aspects of mitochondrial function and dynamics are most relevant to age-related neurodegenerative pathology and how neuron-glia interactions modulate this degenerative process.

Mentors: Brent Harris, MD, PhD & Edward Giniger, PhD (NIH/NINDS)

Education: University of Miami, BS in Neuroscience and History, 2017


Ismary Blanco ’18

Thesis Title: Inhibition of MMP-9 impairs working memory in zebrafish through changes in overall hippocampal excitation

Mentors: Katherine Conant and Eric Glasgow

Education: Bard College, BA; New York University, MS

Karli Gilbert ’18

Thesis Title: The effect of senescent astrocytes on the vulnerability of motor neurons in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Mentor: Katherine Conant

Education: Christopher Newport University, Neuroscience and Molecular Biology BS, 2015; American University, Biology MS, 2018

Phillip Gross ’18

Thesis Title: Investigating the role of senescent cells in remyelination

Thesis Research: Using mouse models of Multiple Sclerosis we investigate how senescent glial cells limit or improve remyelination.

Mentor: Jeffrey Huang

Education: University of Maryland-College Park, BS in Biology, 2016; Georgetown University, MS in Neuroscience, 2020

Tahiyana Khan ’18

Thesis Title: The Contribution of Cellular Senescence in Epileptogenesis and Associated Neurodegeneration

Thesis Research: I am investigating the role of cellular senescence in preclinical epilepsy to determine whether senescent cell ablation ameliorates seizure burden, neurodegeneration, and cognitive deficits seen in temporal lobe epilepsy and associated comorbidities.

Mentor: Patrick Forcelli

Education: Temple University, BS in Neurobiology, 2015

Marissa Laws ’18

Thesis Title: Brain function during visual motion processing and during magnitude processing in children with math disability.

Grants & Awards: NSF Fellowship

Mentor: Guinevere Eden

Education: Lafayette College, BS Neuroscience & BA Mathematics, 2018

Joshua McCall ’18

Thesis Title: Investigating the Neurocognitive Mechanisms of Error Monitoring in Aphasia

Mentors: Peter Turkeltaub & Rhonda Friedman

Grants & Awards: NIDCD Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F30)

Education: McGill University, BA, Psychology

Danielle Morency ’18

Thesis Title: Glial Roles of dCHD1 in Presynaptic Homeostatic Plasticity

Mentor: Tingting Wang

Education: Simmons College, BS Neuroscience and Biochemistry & Biostatistics Minor, 2018

Plamen Nikolov ’18

Thesis Topic: Investigating the architecture and neural dynamics of speech production and speech perception pathways.

Mentor: Max Riesenhuber

Education: Virginia Commonwealth University, BS, 2011, & MS Biomedical Engineering, 2013

Alison Schug ’18

Thesis Title: Brain anatomy in bilingual children and its relationship to reading ability

Thesis Research: Bilingualism has been shown to result in differences in brain structure of young adult. We found these differences to be more pronounced in bilingual children. Dyslexia also affects brain structure in some of the same regions we see bilingualism related differences. We are now examining the relationship between bilingualism and dyslexia and their combined effects on brain structure.

Mentor: Guinevere Eden

Awards: Georgetown Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Science (GHUCCTS) TL1 Scholar

Education: Georgetown University, MS Integrative Neuroscience, 2018; King’s College, BS Neuroscience & Theatre, 2016


Shiva Hassanzadeh-Behbahani ’17

Thesis Title: Elucidating the role of frontostriatal neural circuits in HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders

Thesis Research: My research applies structural and functional MRI to determine the role of frontostriatal neural circuits in HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders to inform the development of early diagnostic methods.

Mentors: Xiong Jiang & Ashley VanMeter

Grants & Awards: GHUCCTS Translational Biomedical Sciences Grant (TL1)

Education: George Mason University, BA Psychology, 2015

Jessica Jacobs ’17

Thesis Title: Internal models in the auditory dorsal stream support auditory-motor control

Mentors: Ludise Malkova & Patrick Forcelli

Education: The University of Hawaii at Hilo, BA Psychology & BA Philosophy, 2015

Holly Korthas ’17

Thesis Title: The Effects of High Frequency Head Impacts on Sleep Architecture and Circadian Rhythms

Thesis Research: Traumatic brain injury is a serious health problem in the United States, resulting in chronic behavioral and memory deficits and sleep-wake disruptions. Understanding the role of circadian rhythms and sleep architecture in the development of memory and behavioral deficits post injury is imperative to treatment of these injuries. My thesis will characterize the changes in circadian rhythms and sleep architecture after high frequency head impacts and reverse these changes to treat the cognitive and behavioral deficits seen after injury.

Mentor: Mark Burns

Grants & Awards: Neural Injury and Plasticity T32, 2019-2021

Education: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, BS Neuroscience 2017

Kelly Martin ’17

Thesis Title: Language system plasticity in typical development and after perinatal stroke

Thesis Research: I aim to characterize how the regions that process language change over the course of typical development and after a stroke around the time of birth (perinatal stroke). Specifically, I am using structural and functional MRI to measure (1) changes in the extent to which language recruits right hemisphere frontal and temporal regions that are homotopic to typical left hemisphere language centers over the course of brain and cognitive maturation, and (2) the structural and functional plasticity in these right hemisphere regions when they are recruited for language processing after a left hemisphere perinatal stroke.

Mentors: Elissa Newport, PhD & Peter Turkeltaub MD, PhD

Grants & Awards: Neural Injury & Plasticity (T32)

Education: Boston University, BA Neuroscience, 2014

George Melchor, Jr ’17

Thesis Title: Oligodendrocyte lineage cell (OLC) and immune system crosstalk in white matter injury

Thesis Research: In multiple sclerosis (MS), immune system activity and oligodendrocyte lineage cell (OLC) progression are interconnected. How the immune system communicates with OLCs and how those cellular interactions facilitate the seemingly incongruous processes of injury progression and repair is not well known. My research focuses on OPC-cytokine signaling in MS models to understand the influence of infiltrating immune cells on OLCs during injury and repair.

Mentor: Jeffrey K. Huang

Grants and Awards: Georgetown Healy Fellowship, SfN Neuroscience Scholars Program Fellow

Education: Austin College, BA Biology, 2017

Joseph Posner ’17

Thesis Title: Orthography Effects in Persons with Aphasia

Thesis Research: Characterizing the integration of orthography with general language processes via the identification of post-aphasia cognitive and neuroimaging changes that are associated with orthographic influence on non-written language tasks.

Mentors: Rhonda Friedman & Peter Turkeltaub

Grants & Awards: NIDCD Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F30); Dingwall Foundation Neurobiology of Language Fellowship; GHUCCTS Translational Biomedical Sciences Grant (TL1)

Education: Georgetown University, MS in Neuroscience, 2021; University of Maryland Baltimore County, BS in Biochemistry, 2014; Community College of Baltimore County, AS in Chemistry, 2012

Andrew Speidell ’17

Thesis Title: The Role of the p75 Neurotrophin Receptor in HIV-1 gp120-mediated Neuronal Injury

Thesis Research: My thesis research involves the investigation of HIV-1 gp120-driven proneurotrophin overabundance in a model of HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorder and how this dysregulation contributes to pro-apoptotic neural events through the p75NTR receptor.

Mentor: Italo Mocchetti

Grants & Awards: Neural Injury & Plasticity (T32)

Education: College of William and Mary, BS in Biology 2008; Georgetown University, MS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 2016

Hannah Waguespack ’17

Thesis Title: Neural circuits of sensorimotor gating and social behavior in nonhuman primates

Mentors: Ludise Malkova & Patrick Forcelli

Grants & Awards: Neural Injury & Plasticity T32

Education: Sewanee University, BS in Biology and Spanish, 2015; Georgetown University, MS, 2016

IPN Student Highlights

My goal is to bridge the gap between the periphery and the CNS and to understand what specific HFD associated peripheral changes lead to CNS deficits.”

Nahdia Jones ’16
2020 NIH Blueprint Diversity Specialized Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Advancement in Neuroscience (D-SPAN) (F99/K00)

“The community felt tight-knit in a beautiful way, and each and every day has proven to be an amazing support system – they’ve truly lifted me up.”

George Melchor ’17
2020 Society for Neuroscience (SfN) Neuroscience Scholars Program Fellow

When I interviewed, I was confident that I would receive strong interdisciplinary training spanning cellular and cognitive neuroscience as well as practical skills necessary for success in academia, such as grant writing.”

J. Vivian Dickens ’17
2019 NIDCD Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F30)

Additional Student Profiles

Class of 2015

Hassan Aleem ’15

Thesis Title: How we learn visual aesthetic values: theory and experiments

Mentors: Norberto Grzywacz

Education: University of Arizona, BS Molecular & Cellular Biology & BS Physiology, 2011

Adam Caccavano ’15

Thesis Title: Hippocampal Microcircuit Alterations in Early Amyloid Pathology: A Selective Impairment of Parvalbumin-Expressing Basket Cells During Sharp Wave Ripple Events

Thesis Research: Synchronous neuronal events known as sharp wave ripples (SWRs) are known to have a critical role in memory consolidation, and to be critically regulated by the activity of parvalbumin-expressing (PV) inhibitory interneurons. I am investigating the dysregulation of SWRs, PV cells, and the extracellular matrix of proteins that preferentially surround these cells in an animal model of Alzheimer’s disease. I employ the tools of slice electrophysiology, immunohistochemistry, calcium imaging, and computational modeling. By identifying the neuronal sub-type underlying this network disruption, this work may provide a therapeutic target to ameliorate memory decline in the disease.

Mentors: Stefano Vicini

Grants & Awards: NIH F31 & ARCS Forster Family Foundation Scholar

Education: University of Oregon, BS Physics & Mathematics, 2007; Portland State University, MS Physics, 2013

Homero Cantu ’15

Thesis Title: Morphogenesis of Type I Spiral Ganglion Neurons and the role of Sema3a/Nrp1 signaling

Thesis Research: Mapping the neurocognitive architecture of the reading network through lesion-symptom mapping and white matter tractography analyses of left hemisphere stroke survivors.

Mentors: Thomas Coate

Education: University of Texas-Pan American, BS Biology, 2013, & MS Biology, 2015

Breana Downey ’15

Thesis Title: The Impact of Bilingualism on Brain Function and Connectivity

Thesis Research: Bilingualism is primarily a linguistic experience, but knowing two languages also has implications for non-linguistic cognition. In my thesis, I use brain activity and connectivity to study executive function and arithmetic processing in children and adults, and I examine how a person’s language experience impacts these measures.

Mentors: Guinevere Eden


Patrick Malone ’15

Thesis Title: Neural mechanisms of vibrotactile speech perception

Thesis Research: For my thesis, I am studying how the brain learns to underspend speech through the sense of touch. I am training individuals to understand speech with a sensory-substitution device that converts spoken speech into patterns of vibration, and am using fMRI and EEG to investigate the neural correlates of vibrotactile speech perception.

Mentors: Max Riesenhuber

Grants & Awards: Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F30)

Education: Emory University, BS Neuroscience, 2012

Cameron McKay ’15

Thesis Title: Using Structural MRI to Examine the Neural Bases of Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, and ADHD in Children

Thesis Research: My thesis research investigates differences in brain structure in children with learning disabilities (i.e., dyslexia and dyscalculia) and ADHD.

Mentors: Guinevere Eden

Grants & Awards: NICHD National Research Service Award (F31); Neural Injury & Plasticity (T32)

Education: Duke University, BS Neuroscience, 2014

Nathanael Lee ’15

Thesis Title: Role of Iron in Inflammatory Demyelination: MRI, Histopathology, and Gene Expression Studies in Marmoset Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis

Thesis Research: My thesis project focuses on investigating the pathogenic role of iron in inflammatory demyelination using an experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis model Pre-thesis

Mentors: Daniel Reich (NINDS) & Jeffrey Huang

Education: Rice University, BS, BA, 2013

Katherine O’Connell ’15

Thesis Title: Affective Processes in Human Empathy and Prosocial Behavior

Thesis Research: Empathy, the ability to recognize and understand another person’s emotional state, is a fundamental and clinically-relevant component of the human social experience. My work aims to disentangle the constituent processes of empathy and test their relation to real-world social behavioral traits using special populations ranging from altruistic living kidney donors to patients with focal brain lesions.

Mentors: Abigail Marsh

Grants & Awards: Ruth L. Kirschstein Diversity National Research Service Award (F31)

Education: Pennsylvania State University, BS Biology, 2013

Stephanie Sloley ’15

Thesis Title: Changes in Hippocampal Synaptic Plasticity Following Repetitive Mild Traumatic Brain Injuryr

Thesis Research: My thesis project is focused on characterizing the changes in excitatory synaptic transmission in the hippocampus that occur following high-frequency, repetitive concussion. I hope to identify how these changes may contribute to persistent alterations in synaptic plasticity over time Pre-thesis

Mentors: Mark Burns

Education: Tufts University, BS Biopsychology, 2011

Class of 2014

Sikoya Ashburn ’14

Thesis Title: Cerebellar Involvement in Reading

Thesis Research: To investigate cerebellum involvement in higher cognitive functions in typically developing pediatric populations in comparison to those who have math and reading disorders.

Mentors: Guinevere Eden

Education: Duke University, BS Neuroscience & BA Spanish, 2012

Lorenzo Bozzelli ’14

Thesis Title: The role of MMPs in impaired paravascular clearance pathways

Thesis Research: I am investigating the role of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) in HIV-associated impairments in pathways that clear waste products from the brain.

Mentors: Katherine Conant

Education: George Mason University, MA, 2014

Edith Brignoni-Pérez ’14

Thesis Title: The Neural Bases of Reading in Bilingual Children and Adults

Thesis Research: Edith’s thesis research focuses on examining the role of bilingualism, orthographic depth, and age in the brain systems for reading. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, she studies brain activity and functional connectivity in bilinguals and monolinguals, children, and adults.

Mentors: Guinevere Eden

Education: University of Puerto Rico, BA Psychology, 2013

Stephanie Davis ’14

Thesis Title: Exploring IL4i1 As A Potential Biomarker And Treatment Option In MS

Thesis Research: I’m characterizing the cytokine profile in different stages of multiple sclerosis, and looking at a protein called IL4i1 as a potential treatment option and biomarker.

Mentors: Jeff Huang & Anton Wellstein

Education: Barnard College, BA Behavioral Neuroscience, 2011

Catherine Elorette ’14

Thesis Title: Rapid Visual Threat Processing in Non-Human Primates

Thesis Research: There is evidence from rodent and lower-order primate studies for a fast-acting subcortical visual threat processing pathway that passes from the superior colliculus through the pulvinar nucleus of the thalamus to the basolateral amygdala. This project uses a combination of pharmacological, behavioral, and anatomical approaches to investigate the presence of this pathway in the rhesus macaque.

Mentors: Ludise Malkova

Education: Saint Joseph’s University, BS Biology, 2014

Kelly Michaelis ’14

Thesis Title: Using EEG and TMS to Investigate the Neural Mechanisms of Speech Perception

Thesis Research: Using EEG and TMS to Investigate the Neural Mechanisms of Speech Perception

Mentors: Peter Turkeltaub

Education: University of Virginia, BA International Development, 2009

Jeremiah Paskus ’14

Thesis Title: Adhesion Molecules at Central Synapses and in Glia

Thesis Research: Thesis work is aimed at elucidating the function of adhesion molecules at excitatory synapses, and in neuron-glia signaling

Mentors: Katherine Roche (NINDS) & Jeff Huang

Education: Franklin and Marshall College, BA, 2008

Alberto Sepulveda-Rodriguez ’14

Thesis Title: Characterizing the acute microglial response to single non-epileptogenic vs. epileptogenic seizures

Thesis Research: Microglia acutely respond to several epilepsy-related CNS events like neuronal injury and hyperactivity. Using a combination of techniques ranging from immunoassays to live tissue imaging and from in vivo epilepsy models to whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiology, I am characterizing the activation pattern of hippocampal microglia after different types of seizures. My work could help identify new treatments or biomarkers to help millions of epilepsy patients, as nearly 1/3rd are unmanaged under the current state of medical care.

Mentors: Stefano Vicini


Kaela S. Singleton ’14

Thesis Title: Cross-species Regulation and Function of Sox11 in Neural Development

Thesis Research: My current research interests revolve around understanding the cellular and molecular signals necessary to seed a well-organized and precisely functioning central nervous system across species. My thesis research investigates microRNA regulation and changes in partner protein interaction domains of Sox11, a transcription factor that plays a critical role in neuronal differentiation and maturation, in two divergent species, Xenopus laevis (frog) and Mus musculus (mouse).

Mentors: Maria Donoghue & Elena Silva

Education: Agnes Scott College, BS in Neuroscience & Classical Civilization, 2014

Gabrielle-Ann Torre ’14

Thesis Title: The Modulatory Roles of IQ and SES on Brain Structure and Reading Ability

Thesis Research:

Mentors: Guinevere Eden

Education: University of Arizona, BS Neuroscience and Cognitive Sciences, 2014

Class of 2013

Chinyere Agbaegbu Iweka ’13

Thesis Title: Elucidating the role of Plasticity-Related Gene protein-3 in CNS plasticity

Thesis Research: I am investigating the role of PRG family of proteins in CNS plasticity. Plasticity-related gene proteins are a family of five integral membrane proteins, 1-5, that are characterized by six transmembrane domains and studies have shown them to promote membrane protrusions and induce dendritic spine formation in primary neuronal cultures and in cell lines. I am interested in the role of these proteins in vivo, particularly PRG-3 and PRG-5, both of which little is known. I am currently characterizing the PRG-3 and PRG-5 knock-out mice and have also begun the process of creating a double KO of PRG-3 and PRG-5.

Mentors: Jeffrey Urbach & Herbert Geller

Education: BSUMBC, BS Biology, 2008; Johns Hopkins University, MS Biotechnology, 2011

Brittany Aguilar ’13

Thesis Title: Investigating contributions of intermediate and deep layers of the superior colliculus to defensive and emotional behaviors

Thesis Research: The focus of my research is investigating the role that subcortical structures, such as superior colliculus, substantia nigra, and amygdala, play in mediating defensive and emotional responses in an animal model of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I am interested in the influence that signal changes have on reflexive behaviors such as sensorimotor gating function and classical conditioning, i.e. effects on acquisition and expression of fear and safety learning, as well as socioemotional changes that occur as a consequence of network disruption.

Mentors: Ludise Malkova & Patrick Forcelli

Education: University of California – Irvine, BS Biological Sciences, 2010

Shady El Damaty ’13

Thesis Title: Pattern Classification of Neurocognitive and Socio­-Emotional Developmental Factors Underlying Violent Outcomes in Adolescents & Utility

Thesis Research: This NIJ-funded dissertation research project involves the identification of environmental stressors precluding the development of cognitive-emotional competence and leading to the emergence of aggressive antisocial behavior in children between the onset of puberty and adulthood.

Mentors: John VanMeter

Education: University of Rochester, BS, 2011; Drexel, MS, 2013

Mackenzie Fama ’13

Thesis Title: Self-reported Inner Speech In Aphasia: Behavioral Relationships And Neural Correlates

Thesis Research: I am examining the subjective experience of “successful inner speech” in aphasia, looking for meaningful relationships between subjective reports and objective measures of language function and lesion location.

Mentors: Peter Turkeltaub & Rhonda Friedman

Education: The College of William and Mary, BA Linguistics & Philosophy, 2007; University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, MS Speech-Language Pathology, 2009

Vivianne (Greenwood) Morrison ’13

Thesis Title:

Thesis Research: Previous research suggests a role for retinoic acid (RA), a highly conserved transcriptional regulator, in cortical neurogenesis, but how RA affects cortical gliogenesis remains poorly understood. To test the hypothesis that RA influences glial development, we generated a conditional knockout of retinaldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (RALDH2), the most prolific producer of RA, to prevent endogenous RA synthesis in the central nervous system. Our results confirm that RALDH2-derived RA contributes to normal cortical neurogenesis, and we also provide new evidence that RA is necessary for normal cortical gliogenesis.

Mentors: Jeffrey Huang

Education: Bard College, BA in Psychology, 2009

Class of 2012

Rachael Harrington ’12

Thesis Title: Role of intact hemisphere premotor cortex in recovery after stroke

Thesis Research: My project focuses on the role of the intact hemisphere premotor cortex in the recovery of arm function after stroke. My current project disrupts the premotor cortex using online transcranial magnetic stimulation to demonstrate a greater role of the premotor cortex than other motor areas in the reaching task. My future project will use theta-burst stimulation to prime the premotor cortex to enhance its effects during a reaching practice.

Mentors: Michelle Harris-Love

Grants & Awards: American Heart Association

Education: GWU, MA, 2011

William Hayward ’12

Thesis Title: Objective support for the subjective report of inner speech in aphasia

Thesis Research: People with aphasia almost always have difficulty without loud naming, but often report that the word “sounds right in my head”. This study investigates what the self-report of “inner speech” can tell us about word-finding failure in people with aphasia to predict treatment outcomes and improve the recovery of language in affected individuals.

Mentors: Peter Turkeltaub & Rhonda Friedman

Education: University of Miami, BS, 2008

Lanier Heyburn ’12

Thesis Title: TDP-43 pathology: elucidation of mechanisms and treatment with tyrosine kinase inhibition

Thesis Research: The role of TDP-43 in neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration

Mentors: Brent Harris & Charbel E. Moussa

Education: University of Georgia, BS Biology, 2010

Scott Miles ’12

Thesis Title: The neurocognition of learning a new musical system

Thesis Research: The goal of the project is to investigate the neurocognitive bases of learning a musical system. Healthy adults from a Western tonal music background will be exposed to recordings of an expert musician performing music from a subset of the North Indian classical musical system. They will be followed, during continuous fMRI administration, from initial exposure until they learn the system to a high level of competence. The design will involve alternating exposure and testing sessions. Their performance in identifying grammatical phrases during testing will provide a measure of rule learning.

Mentors: Norberto Grzywacz & Josef Rauschecker

Education: Old Dominion University, BS Psychology, BS Biology, & BA Philosophy, 2010

Erika Raven ’12

Thesis Title: Reproducibility and use of myelin imaging methods for the study of adolescent brain development

Thesis Research: Given that myelin facilitates cognitive processing by increasing the speed and synchrony of signal transmission between brain regions, the ability to describe myelin microstructure and detect damage or delays to myelination will prove to be a critical tool for clinicians. I am currently testing the feasibility of novel MRI techniques in healthy adolescents to investigate how myelin-specific changes correlate with rapid behavioral and cognitive maturation during development.

Mentors: John VanMeter & Jeff Duyn

Grants & Awards: Marshall Sherfield Fellowship

Education: Pepperdine University, BS, 2007

Kathryn Schuler ’12

Thesis Title: The Acquisition of Productive Rules in Child and Adult Language Learners

Thesis Research: Learning adjacent and non-adjacent syntactic dependencies in a serial time task

Mentors: Elissa Newport

Education: University of Rochester, Brain and Cognitive Sciences

Benson Stevens ’12

Thesis Title: GABAergic and Dopaminergic genes in adolescent impulsivity and risk-taking

Thesis Research: I am investigating the effects of polymorphisms in the GABA alpha 2 subunit and dopamine D2 genes, both of which confer risk to adult alcohol abuse, on inhibitory control and risky decision making using fMRI during adolescence. If genes that impart risk for alcohol abuse have an impact before the onset of alcohol use, it is likely they reduce cognitive functioning leading to behaviors that place individuals at risk for initiation of alcohol use.

Mentors: John VanMeter & Chandan Vaidya

Education: Westminster College, BS Neuroscience, 2011

Theodore Turesky ’12

Thesis Title: An fMRI study of motor control in developing and aging brains

Thesis Research: My thesis research investigates how the motor system changes across the lifespan. To carry out this research, I am currently comparing data from children and young adults who performed a finger-tapping task while undergoing functional MRI. For comparison, we hope to soon recruit a third cohort, comprising old adults, to perform the same task under the same experimental conditions.

Mentors: Guinevere Eden

Education: Colorado College, BA, Physics, 2008

Class of 2011

Megan Allen ’11

Thesis Title: Differential effects of PAR1 signaling in neurons and glia

Thesis Research: Glial derived MMP-1 activates PAR1, a GPCR found in neurons and glia. Interestingly, altered MMP and PAR1 levels are found in patients with disorders characterized by aberrant dendritic spine phenotypes. To address the role PAR1 signaling may play in disease, I plan to investigate it using both in vivo and in vitro experimental systems.

Mentors: Kathy Conant & Kathy Maguire-Zeiss

Grants & Awards: Neural Injury & Plasticity (T32)

Education: Temple University, BA, 2005

Andrew Breeden ’11

Thesis Title: Noradrenergic modulation of functional brain networks underlying executive control

Thesis Research: Noradrenergic pathology is associated with numerous psychiatric disorders, but it is still not understood how norepinephrine acts at the large-scale network level in the human brain. We use pupil diameter (a proxy for norepinephrine signaling in the brain stem), and guanfacine (an alpha-2 norepinephrine agonist) in conjunction with fMRI to better characterize how norepinephrine influences functional brain networks in healthy adults.

Mentors: Chandan Vaidya

Education: University of Richmond, BS, 2007

Kelly Chamberlain ’11

Thesis Title: The role of creatine in promoting oligodendrocyte survival and modulation axonal mitochondria in the CNS

Thesis Research: Oligodendrocytes are glial cells primarily known for their role in CNS myelination, which serves to enable rapid saltatory conduction. However, new evidence also implicates oligodendrocytes in trophic and metabolic support, suggesting that these cells may exert neuroprotective influences independent of their role in myelination. We aim to elucidate novel oligodendrocyte-neuron interactions by studying the influence of oligodendrocytes on neuronal mitochondria.

Mentors: Jeffrey Huang

Education: James Madison University, BS, 2010

Valerie L. Darcey ’11

Thesis Title: Investigating the relationship between Omega-3 Fatty Acid intake and neurocognitive development in healthy adolescents.

Thesis Research: Any delay in PFC development during adolescence may heighten an individual’s propensity for impulsivity and risk-taking. DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid abundant in the PFC, is an integral component of membrane phospholipids. Optimal prefrontal development in adolescence may, in part, be dependent on DHA supply in the diet. My thesis research seeks to explore the relationship between omega-3 status and variation in frontal lobe structure, function, and behavior (impulsivity and risk-taking) in a cross-sectional sample of typically developing adolescents.

Mentors: John VanMeter

Grants & Awards: Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F31)

Education: U Penn, BA, 2003; Drexel, MS, 2010; NIH, RD, 2011

Amanda DiBattista ’11

Thesis Title: Alzheimer’s disease risk gene (APOE) predicts differences in the absence of disease

Thesis Research: I study ways in which the strongest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, apolipoprotein E (APOE), may alter brain function before disease onset.

Mentors: G. William Rebeck

Education: University of Virginia, BA, 2011

Laura Erickson, ’11

Thesis Title: Examinations of audiovisual speech processes, the McGurk Effect, and the heteromodal superior temporal sulcus in the human brain across numerous approaches

Thesis Research: My thesis project will evaluate different aspects of cross-modal and multisensory processing in the brain, including audiovisual speech integration, with a special emphasis on the superior temporal sulcus.

Mentors: Peter Turkeltaub & Josef Rauschecker

Education: UC San Diego, BS, 2008

Carrie Leonard ’11

Thesis Title: Distinct Roles of EphA7 Splice Variants in Cerebral Cortical Development

Thesis Research: Previously, our lab found that EphA7, a receptor tyrosine kinase, is necessary for many processes in neuronal development, including dendrite guidance and outgrowth, dendritic spine formation, and synaptic activity. I am investigating whether two splice variants of EphA7, a full length and a truncated form, are responsible for the differing roles during cortical development using a variety of techniques including primary cultures, electroporation, western blot, etc.

Mentors: Maria Donoghue

Grants & Awards: Neural Injury & Plasticity (T32)

Education: James Madison University, BS Health Sciences, 2009

Summer Rozzi ’11

Thesis Title: Investigating mitochondrial dynamic impairment by HIV viral protein Tat and the protective capacity of Pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP)

Thesis Research: Summer examines a new alternative mechanism of HIV neurotoxicity by focusing on a possible cause of synaptic simplification. In particular, she tests the hypothesis that HIV viral protein, tat, directly interacts with the mitochondrial network, thus, impairing energy metabolism and causing axonal injury.

Mentors: Italo Mocchetti

Grants & Awards: Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F31)

Education: Bucknell University, BA, 2008

Carissa Winland ’11

Thesis Title: Activated Microglia and AMPAR Mediated Excitatory Post Synaptic Currents

Thesis Research: My goal is to elucidate the mechanisms of glial-neuronal interaction in neurodegenerative diseases. In both Parkinsons and Huntingtons disease, there is a disruption of glutamatergic signaling of striatal GABAergic medium spiny neurons as well as greater glial activation. Activated glia releases a number of factors that are neurotoxic, neuroprotective, and contribute to the maintenance of synapses. I’m examining synaptic remodeling after neuronal injury using molecular and electrophysiological techniques.

Mentors: Kathleen Maguire-Zeiss & Stefano Vicini

Grants & Awards: Ruth L. Kirschstein Diversity National Research Service Award (F31)

Education: Southwestern University, Psychology, BS, 2011

Class of 2010

Patrick Cox ’10

Thesis Title: The Effects of Extensive Single Task and Dual Task Training on the Neural Bases of Visual Object Categorization: Escaping the frontal bottleneck (Ph.D. 2017

Thesis Research: My Thesis Research is focused on how the brain recognizes visual objects and produces appropriate behavioral responses. My recent work has focused on the effect of distractor objects of varying degrees of similarity on the detection of a target object in scenes containing multiple objects. I use a combination of computational modeling, human psychophysics, and brain imaging (EEG/fMRI).

Mentors: Maximilian Riesenhuber

Education: Georgetown University, BS Physics, 2008

Frank Fishburn ’10

Thesis Title: Investigating functional connectivity in developmental and clinical populations using NIRS

Thesis Research: While fMRI is an excellent neuroimaging method for adults, its susceptibility to motion artifacts and intimidating scanning environment make it unsuitable for some developmental and clinical populations. Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) is an alternative neuroimaging method that is both resilient to motion and comfortable for subjects. We are working towards using NIRS to investigate functional connectivity during working memory and at rest in subjects that cannot be scanned with fMRI.

Mentors: Handan Vaidya

Education: University of South Florida, BA Psychology, 2009; University of South Florida, BA Biochemistry, 2010

Kyle Shattuck ’10

Thesis Title: Investigating the Chloinergic REgulations of Human Learning and Memory using Functional Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy

Thesis Research:

Mentors: John VanMeter

Education: Tufts University, BA, 1999

Caitlin Taylor ’10

Thesis Title:

Thesis Research: Behavioral and imaging evidence indicates a connection between poor reading performance (e.g., dyslexia) and deficits in visual motion perception. The magnocellular visual pathway (specifically, area V5/MT) is purported to play a role as a source of these motion processing deficits. Despite evidence of a connection between V5/MT functioning and reading development, the nature of this relationship is not fully understood. We are asking whether the acquisition of reading is accompanied by a change in response to MT. Our aim is to longitudinally track MT functioning in typically developing, early school-aged children as they acquire reading skills.

Mentors: Guinevere Edene


Charisse Winston ’10

Thesis Title: Neuronal Remodeling and GEnetic Vulnerability After Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Thesis Research: Golgi Stain analysis to determine dendritic spine density changes after the concussion model of TBI. Animals are given either a single injury or a repetitive injury in order to determine if there are significant spine density changes after TBI.

Mentors: Mark Burns

Education: UVA, BS Biochemistry; MS Biochemistry, Georgetown University

Class of 2009

Teal (Connor) Burrell ’09

Thesis Title: A novel role for Fyn in ApoER2 Regulation

Thesis Research: The Reelin receptors ApoER2 and VLDLR are required for the development of the six-layered cortex. I study downstream interactions between these receptors and various adaptor proteins that contribute to proper development and also play a role in synaptic plasticity.

Mentors: Bill Rebeck

Education: University of Richmond, BS, 2007

Ghazaul Dezfuli ’09

Thesis Title: Experimental studies of subdiaphragmatic vagotomy and nicotine for reducing body weight

Thesis Research: Use pharmacological methods and stereotaxic injections of viral vectors based on AAV to understand how the melanocortin system interacts with the GABAergic system at the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus (DMV) to control energy balance.

Mentors: Richard Gillis

Education: Smith College, BA, 2007

Brannon Green ’09

Thesis Title: Sound, Memory, and Audiomotor Interactions

Thesis Research: My Thesis Research investigates the role of dorsal and ventral stream structures in the processing of auditory information in the forms of music or speech, as well as understanding the audio-motor interactions involved in their perception or production. Measurement approaches include behavioral testing, functional and structural MRI, and MEG.

Mentors: Josef Rauschecker

Education: CSU Chico, BA, 2004; MA, 2009

Jessica Ihne ’09

Thesis Title: An investigation of working memory: Influences of COMT, sex, urbanicity on cognitive performances and neuroimaging measures

Thesis Research: I study the influence of genetic polymorphisms on differences in cognitive function and associated brain activation using functional MRI.

Mentors: Joseph Callicott (NIH) & Adam Green

Education: The College of William and Mary, BS, 2008

Bridget Queenan ’09

Thesis Title: Synapse- and cell-specific plasticity in the mature hippocampus

Thesis Research: I research the mechanisms of homeostatic and Hebbian plasticity in the hippocampus

Mentors: Dan Pak & Stefano Vicini

Education: Harvard College, BA, 2006

Gustavo Rodriguez ’09

Thesis Title: Human APOE4 affects microglial reactivity and spatial cognition in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease risk

Thesis Research: My Thesis Research interests lie in understanding the neuronal circuitry subserving spatial information processing in rodents. Importantly, the proper functioning of these circuits is essential for spatial navigation and is critical for long-term memory formation. I am interested in exploring the molecular, anatomical, and functional aspects of these cell assemblies in targeted replacement mice that express a human gene shown to dramatically increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Mentors: G. William Rebeck & Rhonda Dzakpasu

Education: Texas State University, BA, 2006

Michael (Misha) Smirnov ’09

Thesis Title: Controlling growth cone behavior through substrate patterning

Thesis Research: In concordance with the Georgetown Physics Dept., I currently study the structural and mechanical guidance of neurons in vitro. My research focuses to identify the structural influence on the chemical sensitivity of both developing as well as mature injured neurons.

Mentors: Jeff Urbach & Herbert Geller

Education: Union College, BS, 2007

Class of 2008

Nancy Cowdin ’08

Thesis Title: A Comparison of Frequency-Specific Activity During REM Sleep in Trauma-Exposed Subjects with PTSD and Resilience

Thesis Research:

Mentors: John VanMeter, Thomas Mellman, & Andrei Medvedev

Education: University of Colorado (Boulder), BS, 1980; Colorado State University (Fort Collins), MS, 1986

Sonya Dumanis ’08

Thesis Title: Using APOE genotypes to identify new biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease risk

Thesis Research: ApoE is the largest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). There are three isoforms: apoE2, E3, and E4. I study apoE’s isoform effects on neuronal morphology and inflammation independent of any AD pathology.

Mentors: G. William Rebeck

Education: Columbia University, BA, 2007

Alfredo Gonzalez-Sulser ’08

Thesis Title: Mechanisms behind the GABA-mediated field potential in the hippocampus in the in vitro 4-aminopyridine model of epilepsy

Thesis Research: I currently research the neural dynamics of the 4-aminopyridine (4-AP) model of epilepsy through the use of a multi-electrode array. 4-AP, a potassium channel blocker, produces spontaneous field potential phenomena in hippocampal brain slices that resemble what is seen in patients with epilepsy. I investigate how synchronization in neuronal networks comes about and how this phenomenon propagates across vast expanses.

Mentors: Stefano Vicini & Rhonda Dzakpasu

Education: University of Pennsylvania, BA, 2005

Anthony (TJ) Krafnick ’08

Thesis Title: Functional and structural brain imaging studies of developmental dyslexia

Thesis Research: Using fMRI I study two different groups in order to understand how written language experience effects brain function. One project examines brain function and structure as it relates to reading intervention success in children with dyslexia. The other project examines the brain basis of reading development from 1st-3rd grade in typically developing children.

Mentors: Guinevere Eden

Education: Saint Joseph’s University, BS, 2008

Thesis Title:

Thesis Research:



Mark Niedringhaus ’08

Thesis Title: The development of bursting networks following chemical long term potentiation

Thesis Research: I examine how different physiological (e.g. developmental), potentiating (e.g. pharmacological and electrical protocols of LTP), and pathological (e.g. pharmacological, genetic, or electrical perturbations) affect network activity. By utilizing multi-electrode array (MEA) technology, I can observe and study changes in activity patterns across a significant area of the network and record from the same neurons within the network over very long (days) periods of time.

Mentors: Rhonda Dzakpasu

Education: University of Virginia, BA, 2003; Georgetown University, MS, 2004

Lauren Orefice ’08

Thesis Title: Role of Local BDNF Synthesis of Dendritic Spine MOrphogenesis

Thesis Research: Alterations in dendritic spine density and morphology are associated with a number of neurological diseases, including mental retardation, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative diseases. The goal of this research project is to elucidate how BDNF, a key protein involved in cell survival and maintenance, may regulate the development and maturation of dendritic spines. These studies will provide insight into processes fundamental for brain development and synaptic plasticity, as well as offer insight into the etiology of some neurological diseases.

Mentors: Baoji Xu

Education: Boston College, BS, 2006

Patricia Washington ’08

Thesis Title: Production, accumulation, and clearance of amyloid-beta after experimental traumatic brain injury

Thesis Research: My Thesis Research focuses on characterizing the production, accumulation and clearance of the Alzheimer’s disease-related peptide amyloid-beta (A?) after traumatic brain injury (TBI) and investigating therapeutic approaches to decrease levels of A? after trauma.

Mentors: Mark Burns

Education: University of Virginia, BS in Biomedical Engineering, 2007

Rachel Wurzman ’08

Thesis Title: A-ephrins in neuropsychiatric spectrum disorder models

Thesis Research:

Mentors: Larry Kromer & Stefano Vicini

Education: Smith College, BA Neuroscience, 2005; Georgetown University, MS Physiology and Biophysics, 2007

Class of 2007

Drew Emery ’07

Thesis Title: Neuroprotective Signaling through Metabotropic Glutamate Receptor 1a

Thesis Research: In addition to its role in synaptic transmission and plasticity, mGlu1 has been shown to be involved in neuroprotection and neurodegeneration. My research shows that the protective effect of glutamate at mGlu1a is mediated by a novel, G protein-independent pathway which involves the activation of the MAPK pathway and sustained phosphorylation of ERK, which is distinct from the G protein-mediated transient ERK phosphorylation. Moreover, the protective signaling through mGlu1a receptors requires expression of beta-arrestin-1, suggesting a possible role for receptor internalization.

Mentors: Jarda Wroblewski

Education: George Mason University, BA, 2006; MA, 2007

Tanya (Gerner) Evans ’07

Thesis Title: The brain basis of arithmetic, reading, and reading disability

Thesis Research: I currently study (1) the developmental trajectory of the neural correlates of reading and calculation and (2) the effects of language and sensory experience on visuospatial processing.

Mentors: Guinevere Eden

Education: Lehigh University, BS Chemical Engineering, 2003

Evan Gordon ’07

Thesis Title: Dopamine-regulating genes, executive control, and the network structure of the human brain

Thesis Research: I use fMRI in healthy adult humans to investigate how individual differences in dopamine-regulating genes (such as DAT1, COMT, and DRD2-Taq1A) can alter the network structure of the human brain, both during the “resting state” (when the brain’s activity is relatively unconstrained) and during the performance of a complex dopamine-driven working memory task.

Mentors: Chandan Vaidya

Education: Duke University, BS, 2004

Dawn (Joseph) Beraud ’07

Thesis Title: Alpha-synuclein and its direct effects on microglial activation

Thesis Research: I study alpha-synuclein-mediated inflammatory events in an effort to understand the mechanism by which this protein activates microglia.

Mentors: Kathy Maguire-Zeiss

Education: University of Florida, BS, 2006

Leah Lozier ’07

Thesis Title: The Behavioral and Neural Basis of Emotional Face Processing in Atypically Developing Children and Adolescents

Thesis Research: Using behavioral, eye tracking, and imaging techniques to investigate emotional face processing in children and adults, including individuals with autism and conduct problems.

Mentors: John VanMeter & Abigail Mars

Education: Virginia Tech, BS Psychology, 2005

Brandon Martin ’07

Thesis Title: Slow GABAergic transmission deficits in the basolateral amygdala in a mouse model of Fragile-X Syndrome

Thesis Research: My dissertation work focuses on the role of slow forms of inhibition (i.e. tonic GABAa and GABAb transmission) in the amygdala in Fragile-X Syndrome (FXS). FXS is the most common form of inherited mental retardation and a genetic model of autism, anxiety disorders, and epilepsy. Using patch clamp electrophysiology in a mouse model of the disease, I study how changes in slow inhibition in the FXS amygdala contribute to network hyperexcitability in a key CNS structure involved in comorbid FXS symptoms.

Mentors: Molly Huntsman

Education: University of Virginia, BS Biology, 2004

Monika Mellem ’07

Thesis Title: Brain oscillatory dynamics of lexical-semantic processing

Thesis Research: When you read, various language networks are enabled to support understanding the meanings of words (lexical-semantics). I use EEG to research how these networks are created through oscillatory synchronization.

Mentors: Rhonda Friedman & Andrei Medvedev

Education: Tufts University, BS, 2002; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, MS, 2003

Clara Scholl ’07

Thesis Title: EEG investigations of the temporal dynamics of visual object categorization in the human brain

Thesis Research: I am using rapid adaptation EEG to disambiguate the temporal latencies of separate stages of visual categorization predicted by hierarchical models of visual object recognition.

Mentors: Maximilian Riesenhuber

Education: Kalamazoo College, BA Physics, 2005

Brian Wolff ’07

Thesis Title: Electric fields and slow cortical activity

Thesis Research: My thesis research is comprised of two topics related to slow oscillations in mouse sensory cortex. The first is an investigation of how exogenous electric fields modulate network activity. The second is an investigation of how slow oscillations change in the visual cortex during eye-opening.

Mentors: Jian-Young Wu

Education: UCSB, BS Pharmacology, Mathematics Minor, 2002

Class of 2006

Iain DeWitt ’06

Thesis Title: Word Recognition in Auditory Cortex

Thesis Research:

Mentors: Josef Rauschecker


Li Rebekah Feng ’06

Thesis Title: Alpha-Synuclein and the multiple hit hypothesis of Parkinson’s disease

Thesis Research: Examination of the effects of misfolded alpha-synuclein on membrane integrity and cellular vulnerability.

Mentors: Kathleen Maguire-Zeiss

Education: SUNY at Buffalo, BS, 2006

Patrick A. Forcelli ’06

Thesis Title: Sequelae of Neonatal Antiepileptic Durg Exposure

Thesis Research: My research focuses on the long-term impact of neonatal exposure to antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). I employ histological, electrophysiological and behavioral approaches to determine how exposure alters development and function of limbic and basal ganglia circuits. I have found profound histological, behavioral and physiological changes in the brain following exposure to several common AEDs. Other ongoing research projects employ pharmacological inactivation and optogenetics to understand the neural circuitry of seizures and prepulse inhibition in rats and the role of hippocampus in memory in the monkey.

Mentors: Karen Gale

Education: Boston College, BS, 2006

Meredith Clifford ’06

Thesis Title: Intercellular communication in the cortical neuronal elaboration and circuit formation: A role for EphA signaling

Thesis Research: In some neurodevelopmental disorders, shifts in neuronal form have been described in parts of the cortex, yet little is known about some of the basic mechanisms responsible for normal cortical neuronal maturation. My thesis project aims to examine the roles for a family of signaling molecules, the Eph receptors and ephrin ligands, in directing the initial outgrowth of dendritic arbors of cortical neurons. Understanding how Ephs and ephrins guide the development of cortical neurons could lead to new insights into abnormal states.

Mentors: Maria Donoghue

Education: BA

Guillermo Palchik ’06

Thesis Title: Neuronal DNA Double Strand Break Damage and Repair Following Sublethal iGLuR Activation, and the Neuroprotective Effects of Melatonin

Thesis Research: I study the repair of DNA following double strand breaks (DSBs), following sublethal iGluR activation (mainly NMDA and AMPA) in post-mitotic cortical neurons. Since mitotic cells respond to DSBs by also arresting their cell cycle (a feature already present in mature, G0, neurons), I investigate whether neurons employ similar pathways to repair DSBs, and the role that key proteins involved in DNA DSB damage signaling and repair have along the process. Neurons might repair DSBs using error-prone systems following an initial insult, leading to DNA damage accumulation over its lifespan and the emergence of pathologies later in life.

Mentors: Alexei Kondratyev

Education: Georgetown University, MS Neuroscience, 2007; Boston University, BS, 2002

Scott Paluszkiewicz ’06

Thesis Title: Inhibitory synaptic transmission in the Fmr1 knockout mouse model of Fragile X Syndrome: brain-region and circuit-specific deficits

Thesis Research: Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by cognitive impairment and behavioral disturbances. Using live slice electrophysiology, my research has uncovered inhibitory synaptic deficits in the amygdala and somatosensory cortex of the Fmr1 KO mouse model of FXS, and supports the notion that pharmacological approaches targeting the GABAergic system may be a viable therapeutic option in this disease.

Mentors: Molly Huntsman

Education: McGill University, BS, 2005

Lauren Ullrich ’06

Thesis Title: Recognition memory in mild cognitive impairment

Thesis Research: My research focuses on recognition memory in mild cognitive impairment. In the field of recognition memory, there are two opposing camps: the single-process theorists and the dual-process theorists. To help resolve this debate, I use anatomical neuroimaging to investigate the correlation between memory performance and the volumes of structures in the medial temporal lobe (MTL) in controls and patients with degeneration in the MTL.

Mentors: Rhonda Friedman & R. Scott Turner

Education: Swarthmore College, BA, 2006

Emily Waterhouse ’06

Thesis Title: Role of Dendritic BDNF synthesis in adult neurogenesis and spine morphogenesis

Thesis Research:

Mentors: Baoji Xu

Education: UC Santa Barbara, BS, 2002

Elizabeth West ’06

Thesis Title: Evaluating goals: The roles of the orbitofrontal cortex and amygdala

Thesis Research: My research focuses on the role of the basolateral amygdala (BLA) and orbitofrontal cortex in goal-directed behavior, especially in adapting to changes in reward value. I employ behavioral testing, stereotaxic surgery, intracerebral drug infusions, and histological processing in my research. I have found a differential effect of transient inactivation of BLA and OFC on goal-directed behavior.

Mentors: Ludise Malkova & Karen Gale

Education: University of Delaware, BA, 2006

Class of 2005

Mary Adedoyin ’05

Thesis Title: The role of N-acetylaspartylglutamate (NAAG) in the amygdala

Thesis Research: Investigating the role of the endogynously-released analgesic dipeptide N-acetylaspartylglutamate (NAAG) in the pain pathway, particularly, at the spinoparabrachial amygdaloid pathway to the central nucleus of the laterocapsular amygdala. Using patch clamp recordings from the amygdala of mouse brain slices, we have characterized the peptide’s effect on prolonged mechanical allydonia.

Mentors: Joseph Neale & Stefano Vicini

Education: University College London, BS, 2004

Mark Chevillet ’05

Thesis Title: Neural computations underlying speech recognition in the human auditory system

Thesis Research: Studying the process by which meaningful sounds are recognized by the human auditory system using behavior, functional neuroimaging, and computational modeling.

Mentors: Maximilian Riesenhuber & Josef Rauschecker

Education: Washington State University, BS Physics, 2001

Danielle Evers ’05

Thesis Title: Homeostatic control of AMPA receptor strength and subunit composition by Polo-like kinase 2

Thesis Research: Investigating the molecular mechanism underlying activity-dependent synapse remodeling. Applying molecular and electrophysiological techniques to test the hypothesis that increased synaptic activity leads to decreased AMPA receptor expression via the direct dissociation of N-ethylmaleimide sensitive fusion protein (NSF) from the AMPA GluR2 subunit by Polo-like kinase 2 (Plk2).

Mentors: Daniel Pak

Education: Boston College, BS, 2004

Melissa Herman ’05

Thesis Title: GABA signaling in the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS): Central control of gastric motility and modulation by endogenous opioids

Thesis Research: Testing the hypotheses that GABA signaling in the medial subnucleus of the tractus solitarius (mNTS) regulates the activity of the vago-vagal circuitry and determines resting gastric tone. By microinjecting drugs in vivo to the mNTS, we have shown that intrinsic GABA signaling in the mNTS regulates gastric motility both tonically and phasically, and that stimulation of mu-opioid receptors in the mNTS inhibits gastric motility by suppressing GABA activity.

Mentors: Richard Gillis

Education: Boston University, BS, 2001

Stephanie (Maxfield) Panker ’05

Thesis Title: The effects of robotic training and cortical stimulation on reaching skill after chronic stroke

Thesis Research:

Mentors: John VanMeter & Leonardo Cohen (NIH)

Education: UVA, BA Biology & BA Spanish; Baylor University, MPT and DPT

Sakura Minami ’05

Thesis Title: The role of Fyn in the pathogenic processes of Alzheimer’s disease

Thesis Research: Investigating the role of Fyn tyrosine kinase in mediating APP processing and tau phosphorylation in the triple transgenic model of Alzheimer’s disease. Establishing a role for Fyn in regulating APP and Dab1 localization to lipid rafts, a major site of amyloidogenic processing.

Mentors: Bill Rebeck

Education: University of California, Irvine, BS, 2005

Hilary North Scheler ’05

Thesis Title: Roles of EphA4-mediated intercellular signaling in corticogenesis and in the development of the peripheral somatosensory system

Thesis Research: Studying the role of Eph receptor tyrosine kinases and their ligands, the ephrins, in nervous system development. Using EphA4 knockdown mice, we have characterized two novel roles of EphA4 in development. Namely, EphA4 is essential for the proliferation of cortical progenitor cells, as well as for the proper formation of the trigeminal somatosensory system’s primary sensory organ, the maxillary vibrissae. This investigation additionally revealed a new Eph / ephrin binding pair: EphA4 / ephrin-B1.

Mentors: Maria Donoghue

Education: University of Pennsylvania, BS, 2004

Jeremy Purcell ’05

Thesis Title: The neural substrates underlying both spelling and reading

Thesis Research: My Thesis Research involves the use of an fMRI compatible keyboard to examine the functional neuroanatomy of spelling via fMRI. Specifically, I am interested in whether the same neural representations used to read a word are used to spell that same word as measured with fMRI-adaptation.

Mentors: Guinevere Eden

Education: Michigan State, BS, 2003

Filip Vanevski ’05

Thesis Title: Role of HuD in regulating local dendritic translation of long Bdnf 3’UTR transcripts

Thesis Research: Using primary cell culture and in vivo techniques to understand the mechanisms governing the activity-dependent translation of BDNF mRNAs in dendritic compartments.

Mentors: Baoji Xu

Education: BS Biology

Class of 2004

Kristen Ade ’04

Thesis Title: GABAergic control of striatal medium spiny neurons

Thesis Research: Investigated the GABA-A sensitivity of medium spiny neurons expressing D1 and D2 receptors. Developed a novel methodology for future investigations of phosphorylation effects on ion channel kinetics.

Mentors: Stefano Vicini

Education: Indiana University, BA, 2002

Ericka Burgos Ruiz ’04

Thesis Title: Interaction of attention and emotion across development and disorder

Thesis Research:

Mentors: Chandan Vaidya

Education: George Mason University, BS & MS, 2002

Laura Cocas ’04

Thesis Title: Genetic regulation of the generation of neuronal diversity in the developing mammalian basal forebrain

Thesis Research: Examined the mechanisms used in the development of forebrain neuronal diversity by examining several important developmental questions using a combination of genetic fate-mapping, mutagenesis, cell birth-dating, migration assays, immunohistochemistry, and electrophysiology.

Mentors: Josh Corbin

Education: Pitzer College, BA, 2003

Laurie Glezer ’04

Thesis Title: Investigating the neural code for single-word reading

Thesis Research: (a) Probed the selectivity of neurons in visual word form area (VWFA); (b) Examined the evidence for a hierarchical organization of the visual word form representation along the ventral visual stream; (c) examined hemispheric specialization in word form processing

Mentors: Maximilian Riesenhuber & Rhonda Friedman

Education: University of Massachusetts, BS, 1992; NMSU, MA, 1994

Angela Holmes ’04

Thesis Title: The role of the intermediate and deep layers of the superior colliculus in the control of posture and movement in the nonhuman primate

Thesis Research: I examined the role of the intermediate and deep layers of the superior colliculus (DLSC) in the control of posture and motor movement in the nonhuman primate. My research also focused on examining the functional interaction between DLSC and substantia niga pars reticulata for posture and motor movement control. I performed intracerebral microinfusions of GABA-A agonists and antagonists to determine the role of DLSC. My results suggest that activity in DLSC is necessary for the expression of specific abnormal postures and motor movements (e.g. dystonic head tilt).

Mentors: Ludise Malkova & Karen Gale

Education: University of District of Columbia, BS, 1998; MS 2002

Elizabeth Lacey ’04

Thesis Title: Generalization and maintenance in aphasia rehabilitation

Thesis Research: Investigated two important factors in the rehabilitation of language disorders: generalization and maintenance. Applied Multiple Oral Re-Reading in clinical use for two acquired reading disorders, pure alexia, and phonological alexia.

Mentors: Rhonda Friedman

Education: Connecticut College, BA, 1997

Amber Leaver ’04

Thesis Title: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) studies of the human auditory brain: Objects: sequences, and dysfunction

Thesis Research: Conducted MRI investigations of the human auditory brain using fMRI to musical sequence learning, as well as to monitor dysfunction and voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to measure anatomical abnormalities in tinnitus.

Mentors: Josef Rauschecker

Education: University of Illinois, BA, 2001; Bucknell University, MA, 2003

Esther Krook-Magnuson ’04

Thesis Title: Specificity of inhibitory control of cortical interneurons in layer 4 of mouse somatosensory barrel cortex

Thesis Research: In order to understand the mechanisms of inhibitory control in the cortical processing of sensory information, examined the cell-type specificity in layer 4 of mouse somatosensory cortex of two understudied mechanisms of GABA inhibition: (1) tonic inhibition mediated by specific GABA-A receptors and (2) GABA-B receptor-mediated inhibition.

Mentors: Molly Huntsman

Education: UC Berkeley, BS, 2004

Robert (Tom) Naumann ’04

Thesis Title: Call responses in the amygdala of the mustached bat, pterontous parnellii: Stimulus-specific excitation, suppression, and spike timing

Thesis Research: In interactions with their conspecifics, social animals are presented with social signals representing different opportunities and dangers. This work reflects an attempt to elucidate how the amygdala, a brain structure intimately involved in social behavior and behavioral flexibility in challenging situations, responds selectively to communication sounds that differ in their acoustic structure and behavioral significance.

Mentors: Jag Kanwal

Education: University of Dayton, BA, 2003

Ana Počivavšek ’04

Thesis Title: Microglial LRP1 modulates JNK activation: A signaling cascade that also regulates apolipoprotein E levels

Thesis Research: Used a small bioactive peptide formed from the receptor-binding domain of apoE, apoE peptide (EP), to study LDL receptor family signaling in microglia. In a model of glial activation in which primary mouse microglia and microglia cell line BV2 were treated with lipopolysaccharide, studied two inflammatory responses: an increase in nitric oxide (NO) production and a decrease in apoE production.

Mentors: Bill Rebeck

Education: Duke University, BS, 2003

Kentaroh Takagaki ’04

Thesis Title: Spatiotemporal patterns of population activity in the rat barrel cortex

Thesis Research: In the rodent barrel cortex, voltage-sensitive dye imaging has revealed wavelike propagation of neuronal population activity, originating from one barrel and spreading throughout the barrel cortex. Tested the hypothesis that this propagation may be correlated with the computations underlying sensory integration.

Mentors: Jian-Young Wu

Education: University of Tokyo, BAgr, 2002

Class of 2003

Casandra Cartagena ’03

Thesis Title: Cholesterol 24S-hydroxylase: Involvement in brain injury and disease

Thesis Research: Here we investigated whether traumatic brain injury (TBI) altered the regulation of cholesterol 24S-hydroxylase (Cyp46), an enzyme that converts cholesterol to the more hydrophilic 24S-hydroxycholesterol.

Mentors: Bill Rebeck

Education: University of Michigan, BS, Cellular and Molecular Biology; Eastern Michigan University, MS, Molecular and Cellular Biology

Craig Dietrich ’03

Thesis Title: Endogenous acidification of the inhibitory synapse: Proton amplification of GABa-mediated neurotransmission

Thesis Research: Maintenance of external pH is critical to ensuring proper CNS function. Recent work in excitatory transmission suggests that in vivo synaptic proton buffering is not sufficient to rigidly maintain an extracellular pH of 7.4. The results provide strong evidence that endogenous acidification of the GABAergic synapse via the Na+/H+ exchanger is of sufficient magnitude to enhance inhibitory neurotransmission.

Mentors: Martin Morad

Education: Carleton College

Alexis Jeannotte ’03

Thesis Title: Modulation of the norepinephrine transporter by the synuclein family of proteins

Thesis Research: A definitive endogenous and chronic mechanism for regulating the activity and trafficking of the norepinephrine transporter (NET) is unknown. The purpose of this dissertation research was to examine the regulation of NET by the synucleins, a family of presynaptic proteins. Three hypotheses were tested: (1) a-synuclein decreases NET activity and trafficking to the plasma membrane, (2) a-synuclein regulation of NET is dependent on interactions with the cytoskeleton, (3) altered a-synuclein and ?-synuclein-mediated regulation of NET contributes to the development of depression.

Mentors: Anita Sidhu


Alexandria Nugent ’03

Thesis Title: Morphine activation of stress pathways alters peripheral immune cell signaling

Thesis Research: Morphine is routinely used as an analgesic for acute and chronic pain often in people at greater risk for infection, in spite of the fact that morphine suppresses immune function. Few studies have examined the effects of morphine on antigen presentation. Therefore, these studies sought to characterize the effect of morphine on MHC-II expression. Morphine (10 mg/kg, 2 hours) was found to significantly reduce basal and IL-4 induced MHC-II expression on circulating B lymphocytes.

Mentors: Barbara Bayer

Education: Trinity University, BA, Psychology, 1991; University of Maryland College Park, BS, Biology, 2002

Sunbin Sylvie Song ’03

Thesis Title: Explicit/implicit interactions in motor sequence learning

Thesis Research: Implicit/unconscious learning is responsible for the formation of habits and the mastery of complex motor skills. It remains poorly understood how implicit learning is affected by concurrent explicit processes. In the following set of studies, a novel explicit/implicit motor sequencing paradigm was developed. Unlike other paradigms, this paradigm could generate measures of implicit memory in those with and without explicit knowledge during training by removing explicit knowledge from performance measures in certain blocks. This ability is an important one as we could separate the effect explicit knowledge had on the acquisition of implicit learning from the effect explicit knowledge had on performance.

Mentors: Darlene Howard

Education: MIT, BS Biology

Class of 2002

Eddie Billingslea ’02

Thesis Title: Comparisons of behavioral phenotypes in multiple methods of serotonin deficiency in the rat brain

Thesis Research: Attempted to understand serotonin’s role in psychiatric disorders. It has been suggested that diminished brain serotonin plays a role in the behaviors of autistic patients, yet they do not explain why some reuptake inhibitors attenuate these behaviors and others do not. Could it be that there is a certain range of serotonin loss that accounts for some behaviors over others?

Mentors: Benjamin Walker

Education: Virginia Union University, BA, 1999

Philberta Leung ’02

Thesis Title: Lower urinary tract function after spinal cord contusion and transection: Plasticity in the distal spinal cord

Thesis Research: Normal lower urinary tract (LUT) function requires coordination between the bladder and the external urethral sphincter (EUS). Phasic EUS relaxation during bladder contractions, necessary for efficient voiding in rats, is lost initially after complete spinal cord transection but re-emerges chronically in some rats. Factors relating to LUT function after injury were investigated.

Mentors: Jean Wrathall

Education: Carleton College, B.A., 2002

Judith Lytle ’02

Thesis Title: Response of NG2-expressing cells to spinal cord contusion: Evidence for the stimulation of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) and non-OPC populations

Thesis Research: Contusive spinal cord injury results in both immediate and secondary injury. This project aimed to advance understanding of the progression and physiological response of NG2 + oligodendrocyte progenitor cells in the acute injury phase in a murine model of contusive injury

Mentors: Jean Wrathall & Vittorio Gallo


Danyan Mao ’02

Thesis Title: Heterogeneity of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in rat nervous system and their differential regulations by chronic administration of nicotine

Thesis Research: Neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are present throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. Native nAChRs are not only heterogeneous in subtypes but also complex in subunit composition. In the present study, we used receptor binding and immunoprecipitation methods to examine the nAChRs in a number of peripheral ganglia and brain regions from adult rat.

Mentors: Ken Kellar


Kelly McVearry ’02

Thesis Title: Antiepileptic drugs as cognitive teratogens: Differential effects on creativity in prenatal exposure to carbamazepine, lamotrigine, and valpropate

Thesis Research: This neuroteratology study investigates behavioral outcomes for three commonly used antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) (valproate, carbamazepine, and lamotrigine), with a special emphasis on outcomes indicative of impaired creativity

Mentors: Kimford Meador

Education: Harvard University, EdM, 2000; American University, MA, 1996; University of Vermont, BA, 1992

Pavel Ortinski ’02

Thesis Title: Timing in the cerebellum: Duration of the inhibition and mechanisms of control

Thesis Research: Inhibitory neurotransmission by GABA A receptors powerfully regulates neuronal activity. Previous studies independently observed that a number of GABA A receptor subunits are expressed differently through brain development and that synaptic inhibition undergoes certain developmental changes. I extended these studies to trace a temporal pattern of correlated changes of inhibitory synaptic function and the expression of distinct GABA A receptor subunits by using a combination of electrophysiological, immunocytochemical and pharmacological tools.

Mentors: Stephano Vicini

Education: Guilford College, BA, 2002

Jill Turner ’02

Thesis Title: Neuronal nicotinic receptors in the rat cerebellum: Nicotinic receptor subtypes, their localization, and potential functional roles

Thesis Research: The objectives of my thesis research were to quantitatively determine the major heteromeric nAChR subtypes in the cerebellum, determine their distribution within the cerebellum, and to begin to determine the potential functional roles they play there.



Jill Weisberg ’02

Thesis Title: The functional anatomy of spatial and object processing in deaf and hearing populations

Thesis Research: Used brain imaging to examine the effects of language and sensory experience on the functional anatomy of object recognition and spatial processing.

Mentors: Guinevere Eden

Education: George Mason University, BA & MA

Robbin Wood Miranda ’02

Thesis Title: Double dissociation between rules and memory in the neurocognition of music

Thesis Research: Both language and music depend on rules and memorized representations. Double dissociations between the neurocognition of rule-governed and memory-based knowledge have been found in language but not music. Here, both rule- and memory-based aspects of music were examined in two studies: a behavioral study investigating sex differences in long-term memory for music, and an event-related potential (ERP) study investigating brain responses to rule and memory violations in melodies.

Mentors: Michael Ullman

Education: Duke University, BS Biology, AB Music, 2002

Class of 2001

Maureen Cruz ’01

Thesis Title: Characterization of DMV pathways controlling gastric motility in the rat

Thesis Research: The purpose of my research was to functionally characterize the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus vagal pathways that are responsible for controlling gastric motility.

Mentors: Richard Gillis

Education: Brown University, BS, 1998; Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, MPH, 2001

Laura Gehl ’01

Thesis Title: Studies on the biosynthesis of N-acetylaspartyglutamate and the comparison of the glutamate carboxypeptidase II and glutamate III

Thesis Research: Characterized N-Acetylaspartylglutamate (NAAG), a peptide neurotransmitter, which is prevalent and widely distributed in the mammalian nervous system.

Mentors: Joe Neale

Education: Yale University, BA Psychology

Byung Gon Kim ’01

Thesis Title: Remodeling of synaptic structures in the motor cortex following spinal cord injury

Thesis Research: Spinal cord injury (SCI) results in a severe and permanent loss of motor function. Although regeneration of severed axons is extremely limited, spared motor system undergoes a substantial extent of structural remodeling. This research, tested a hypothesis that SCI leads to a remodeling of synaptic structures in the motor cortex. The results suggest that modulation of the synaptic remodeling in the motor cortex may be a promising strategy to enhance functional recovery after SCI.

Mentors: Barbara Bregman

Education: Seoul National University, MD, 1993

Jinsook Kim ’01

Thesis Title: Effects of repeated brief seizures and antiepileptic drugs in the developing rat brain

Thesis Research: Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) induce apoptotic neuronal death in specific regions of rat brain during the first two postnatal weeks; this developmental neurotoxicity may contribute to adverse behavioral outcomes. In this project, four studies examined the impact of seizures and/or AEDs or AED combinations on cell survival in the immature brain.

Mentors: Karen Gale & Alexei Kondratyev


Jae Lee ’01

Thesis Title: Distal plasticity after experimental spinal cord injury: The H-reflex

Thesis Research: Spontaneous recovery after incomplete spinal cord injury (iSCI) can be partially attributed to plasticity between spared suprasegmental and lumbar segmental circuitry. However, very little is known about the mechanisms involved. The goal of this study was to use the H-reflex to better understand the mechanisms of recovery of hindlimb function after iSCI.

Mentors: Jean Wrathall


Azik Schwechter ’01

Thesis Title: Immune regulation in T-cells by transcription factor Sp3: Implications for multiple sclerosis

Thesis Research: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system and is generally considered to be autoimmune in nature. We previously demonstrated that the transcription factor Sp3 is significantly down-regulated in immune cells from MS patients. This study demonstrates the mechanisms by which Sp3 may regulate immune function and suggest a basis for its potential contribution to MS disease

Mentors: John Richert & Vicente Notario

Education: Yeshiva University

Stuart Washington ’01

Thesis Title: Neural mechanisms for call process in the auditory cortex of mustached bats: Frequency modulated sounds and their lateralization

Thesis Research: Speech processing is lateralized to the left hemisphere of the human brain. Single unit electrophysiological recordings in a sub-region of the mustached bat primary auditory cortex (A1) has revealed a left hemispheric advantage for processing species-specific (or conspecific) calls that at least superficially resembles the hemispheric specialization observed in humans. The hemispheric specialization for speech in humans has been related to an advantage of the left auditory cortex for processing information with a high temporal resolution, and, thus, the discovery of a similar mechanism in mustached bats would further demonstrate the similarity between lateralization for communication sounds in humans and bats.

Mentors: Jagmeet Kanwal

Education: George Washington University

Samantha Crowe ’01

Thesis Title: Phosphorylation of histone H2A.X and regulation of DNA repair mechanism in the brain following seizures

Thesis Research: Seizures lasting in excess of 30 min are injurious, triggering neuronal death in endangered populations. Pre-exposure to non-injurious seizures protects endangered cells from seizure-evoked neurodegeneration. Our findings indicate that seizures induce DNA damage and compensatory repair responses in the mature brain. Pre-exposure to non-injurious seizures attenuates subsequent seizure-evoked DNA damage, suggesting that the neuroprotection effects of ECS are mediated, at least in part, by a decrease in the cellular damage elicited by subsequent insults.

Mentors: Karen Gale & Alexei Kondratyev

Education: Allegheny College, BS Biology, 1999

Class of 2000

Ivy Estabrooke ’00

Thesis Title: The influences of sex and sex hormones on the production of the English past tense

Thesis Research: The declarative/procedural model posits that expressive and receptive language depends on two memory systems that underlie the mental lexicon and mental grammar, two aspects of language. We hypothesized that the female superiority at declarative memory may result in women retrieving regular forms from the lexicon rather than composing them with the grammatical rule.

Mentors: Paul Aisen & Michael Ullman

Education: Smith College, BA, 1998

Laurie Wellman ’00

Thesis Title: The role of the amygdala in primate socioemotional behavior

Thesis Research: Monkeys with bilateral amygdalectomies show decreased social contact and social status as well as increased social fear. However, the lesion methodology itself introduces an array of problems that may affect the outcome of the study and thus the conclusions established from the data. Our studies use pharmacological manipulations through acute drug infusions into specific areas of the amygdala to further understand the role of specific amygdalar nuclei in socioemotional behavior. The data indicate that regions of the amygdala play different roles in social behavior as well as changes in reward value.

Mentors: Ludise Malkova & Karen Gale


Rachel Nosheny ’00

Thesis Title: The neuroprotective effect of a brain-derived neurotrophic factor against human immunodeficiency virus type-1 glycoprotein 120-mediated neurotoxicity in the basal ganglia

Thesis Research: A subset of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type-1 (HIV-1) infected individuals experience a constellation of motor, cognitive, and psychiatric symptoms that are collectively called the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome Dementia Complex (ADC). Dysfunction of the nigro-striatal circuitry of the basal ganglia is integral to the neuropathology of ADC. Neuroprotection against gp120 by BDNF may in turn limit neurological complications associated with HIV-1 infection in the brain.

Mentors: Italo Mocchetti


Brent Richards ’00

Thesis Title: The role of ephrins and Eph receptors in the development and function of the basal ganglia

Thesis Research: The Eph receptor tyrosine kinases and their ligands, the ephrins, make up two large protein families that are involved in a wide array of biological processes during development and adulthood. The purpose of the research described in this dissertation was to determine if Eph receptors and ephrins are involved in basal ganglia development.

Mentors: Larry Kromer

Education: University of Oklahoma, BS, Biochemistry, 2000

Sean Rogers ’00

Thesis Title: The underlying mechanism of semantic memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease and semantic dementia

Thesis Research: Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and patients with Semantic Dementia (SD) both exhibit impairments on explicit tasks of semantic memory. The deficits in both patient groups have been attributed to a degradation of the central semantic network. An alternative explanation for the semantic memory deficits in AD is that the ability to consciously retrieve items from the semantic network is impaired. The present study used both implicit and explicit tests to evaluate the semantic networks of both patient groups and dissociate contrasting explanations for the observed deficits in AD patients.

Mentors: Rhonda Friedman

Education: Johns Hopkins, BA, 2000

Class of 1999

Peter Turkeltaub ’99

Thesis Title: Functional imaging studies of the development of neural mechanisms for reading

Thesis Research: This dissertation presents three complimentary studies which apply significant methodological advances to examine (1) the neural circuitry used by literate adults for reading, (2) the development of these neural systems in normal children, and (3) the neurobiological basis of precocious reading in a case of hyperlexia.

Mentors: Guinevere Eden

Education: George Washington University, BS Electrical Engineering, 1997

Helen Yankovich ’99

Thesis Title: Learning to control dynamic systems: Aging and implicit learning in the process control task

Thesis Research: In three experiments we investigated how one form of learning, that of learning to control complex systems, varies with adult age. The main goal of this study was to determine whether there are age-related differences in learning the Process Control task. Furthermore, we wanted to investigate the two-stage theory of learning, which states that early in training, learning in the Process Control task is implicit, while later on, it becomes explicit.

Mentors: Darlene Howard


Lalia Zai ’99

Thesis Title: Cellular proliferation and replacement following contusive spinal cord injury

Thesis Research: In the 24 hours following contusive spinal cord injury (SCI), 50% of the oligodendrocytes and astrocytes of the epicenter are lost. By 6 weeks, however, the density of these cells returns to normal, suggesting that endogenous progenitors divide in response to injury. This study investigated if cell proliferation is responsible for this recovery.

Mentors: Jean Wrathall

Education: University of Virginia, BS Biology/Neuroscience, 1998

Class of 1998

Liza Bundesen ’98

Thesis Title: Ephrins and Eph receptors participate in spinal cord development and injury responses in the adult

Thesis Research: Eph receptors and their ephrin ligands are a multifunctional family of proteins that participate in physiological events during embryogenesis and through adulthood. Ephrins and Eph receptors were originally described as mediators of contact-dependent repulsion that regulate axon guidance, cell migration, and tissue patterning. Now, it is known that these proteins also are involved in mechanisms such as cell adhesion and protein clustering at specialized structures. In this thesis, several new roles for ephrins and Eph receptors are described during development and after injury in the adult spinal cord.

Mentors: Larry Kromer & Barbara Bregman

Education: Lehigh University, BS Molecular Biology, 1997

Nicole Dietz ’98

Thesis Title: Phonological processing studied with functional magnetic resonance imaging

Thesis Research: Used fMRI to investigate the neural anatomy and mechanisms of deriving the sound structure of a word from its written form, a process referred to as phonological decoding in reading.

Mentors: Guinevere Eden

Education: University of Virginia, BA Interdisciplinary Studies,1994

James Lynskey ’98

Thesis Title: Functional recovery and anatomical plasticity after cervical spinal cord injury: The effects of transplants, neurotrophins, and environmental enrichment

Thesis Research: In addition to locomotor impairments, the loss of forelimb motor function can be a major consequence of spinal cord injury. The interruption and subsequent failure of interrupted descending supraspinal motor pathways to regenerate are major causes of these functional impairments. Treatment paradigms designed to address some of these factors have produced varying levels of anatomical plasticity and functional recovery in both animals and humans after spinal cord injury. The data in this thesis describe the anatomical and behavioral effects of two treatment strategies (one cellular transplantation/pharmacological and one rehabilitative) designed to address some of these factors in a rodent model of cervical spinal cord injury.

Mentors: Barbara Bregman

Education: Duquesne University, MPT, 1995

Selamawit Negash ’98

Thesis Title: Adult age differences in implicit learning of short and higher-order sequential patterns

Thesis Research: The present experiments investigated whether there are age-related deficits in learning of short but higher-order regularities, and whether such learning occurs without people’s ability to develop awareness about the pattern. The main goal was to find out whether age deficits documented in earlier studies using 4-item alternating sequences (e.g., 1r2r3r4r) extend to shorter ones, that have a smaller number of triplets to be learned, and yet the same second-order structure.

Mentors: Darlene Howard

Education: University of District of Columbia, BS Psychology, 1997

Kimberly Rivas-Plata Ballard ’98

Thesis Title: Neuroimmune interactions of stress and opioids in a chronic morphine paradigm

Thesis Research: Opioids, such as morphine, and stress are both known to adversely affect immune and neuroendocrine functioning, with both generally resulting in suppression of mitogenic T lymphocyte responses and elevation of stress hormones. However, the extent to which opioids and stress systems overlap, especially in terms of modulation of immune responses, has not been fully elucidated. The studies described in this dissertation, examine the heightened immune sensitivity following chronic morphine administration and endeavor to determine mechanisms leading to this vulnerability.

Mentors: Barbara Bayer

Education: Case Western Reserve University, BA Biology and Anthropology, 1996

Rachelle Toman ’98

Thesis Title: The complexity of sphingolipid metabolism in the modulation of neuronal development

Thesis Research: The lipid mediators, ceramide and sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P), have multipotential roles in survival, migration, and differentiation of neurons depending on concentration, cell type, and developmental stage. Although exogenous ceramide has been reported to cause neuronal apoptosis, the role of endogenous ceramide has not been previously evaluated. Both ceramide and bacterial sphingomyelinase result in time- and dose-dependent increases in apoptosis of cerebellar granule cells and cortical neurons. In addition, the extent of apoptosis induced by trophic factor withdrawal or etoposide treatment correlates with endogenous ceramide increases, suggesting that ceramide produced by sphingomyelinase results in neuronal death.

Mentors: Sarah Spiege


Class of 1997

Ali Al-Attar ’98

Thesis Title: The role of a binding protein for fibroblast growth factor

Thesis Research: Fibroblast growth factor-binding protein 1 (FGF-BP1) is a secreted heparin-binding protein that can bind and solubilize members of the fibroblast growth factor (FGF) family. It has been shown to be upregulated in tissue samples from various epithelial cancers (colon, squamous cell, and breast), and has been demonstrated to act as an angiogenic switch in models of malignant progression of these cancers. Here the mechanism of action of FGF-BP1 was investigated using two recombinant FGF-BP1 proteins, produced in prokaryotic and eukaryotic expression systems.

Mentors: Anton Wellstein

Education: Georgetown University, BS, 1995

Rana Al-Hallaq ’97

Thesis Title: Characterization of NMDA NR1 splice forms in the postsynaptic density and NMDA NR3A in developing rat brain

Thesis Research: An understanding of the N -methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor is crucial to understanding normal excitatory transmission in the mammalian central nervous system and to drug development for various diseases. Using immunoblotting, immunoprecipitations, and immunocytochemistry, the expression, localization, and interactions of NMDA receptor subunits were examined.

Mentors: Barry Wolfe

Education: Hamilton College, BA Biology, 1996

Brandon Zielinski ’97

Thesis Title: Auditory-visual interactions in the perception of species-specific communication sounds in the human: Towards a comprehensive model of elementary sound processing in primates

Thesis Research: Species-specific communication has traditionally been studied in the context of single species. The present body of work was undertaken in order to further our understanding of this process with the objective of providing a synthesis of animal and human models of species-specific communication. In particular, this work was undertaken in order to further our understanding of auditory cortical processing of species-specific communication sounds and to advance our knowledge of the general principles of organization and function of the cerebral cortex.

Mentors: Josef Raushecker

Education: Arizona State University, BS Zoology

Class of 1996

John Agnew ’96

Thesis Title: Behavioral and functional neuroimaging studies of sensorimotor deficits in dyslexia

Thesis Research: Dyslexic individuals are impaired on a range of low-level sensorimotor tasks. Several theories have been proposed to account for these deficits, including abnormalities in temporal processing, the magnocellular system and cerebellar or parietal lobe function. Behavioral and functional neuroimaging studies described in this dissertation investigated sensorimotor function in dyslexic and non-dyslexic individuals.

Mentors: Guinevere Eden

Education: Haverford College, BA Chemistry, 1996

Kwame Brown ’96

Thesis Title: Glutamate receptor subunit expression and spinal cord injury in young rats

Thesis Research: Overstimulation by excess glutamate acting on its receptors is a causative agent in the secondary loss of tissue after weight-drop trauma to the spinal cord (SCI) in the adult rat. Additionally, protein levels of specific glutamate receptor subunits have been shown to be altered as a result of such injury. Glutamate receptor subunit mRNA is more highly expressed in the rat spinal cord during the first 2-3 weeks after birth. My hypothesis was that the protein expression of these subunits was also elevated during this same period.

Mentors: Barry Wolfe & Jean Wrathall

Education: Hampton University, BA Molecular Biology, 1995

Meggan Czapiga ’96

Thesis Title: Modulation of microglial nitric oxide production by apolipoprotein E

Thesis Research: Although apolipoprotein E (ApoE) participates in lipid transport and regulates tissue cholesterol flux, ApoE also plays a role in the immune system. Treatment of macrophages/microglia with ApoE, in combination with other immune regulators, enhances the production of nitric oxide (NO). NO is a critical mediator of cellular processes and a major component of the constitutive immune response. Since indices of oxidative stress are found in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and since NO participates in tissue redox regulation, the abnormally high level of L-arginine uptake in APOE4 transgenic mouse microglia may provide an important link between the increased susceptibility to AD seen in APOE4 individuals and the oxidative stress associated with AD pathology.

Mentors: Carol Colton


Eric Hernandez ’96

Thesis Title: The translation initiation of the three isoforms of the human transcription factor Sp3

Thesis Research: Sp3, a gene whose expression pattern is associated with multiple sclerosis, is a bifunctional transcription factor which can stimulate or repress the transcription of a number of genes, including several neuronal and inflammatory proteins. Sp3 has three isoforms, one of 100 kDa and two in the mid-60 kDa range. The size of Sp3 mRNA by northern blot is 4.2 kb, however, the total size of the known Sp3 cDNA sequence is 3.6 kb including the poly-A tail.

Mentors: John Richert


Cherie Marvel ’96

Thesis Title: Timing and modulation of cognitive and motor function in schizophrenia: A model of disrupted cerebellar circuitry

Thesis Research: Cerebellar abnormalities can lead to a disruption in the coordination of thought, referred to as “cognitive dysmetria”. This disturbance in mental processing is analogous to motor incoordination that arises from cerebellar dysfunction. There is growing interest in cerebellar dysfunction in schizophrenia. Specifically, this work addressed the possibility that schizophrenia patients were impaired in sequence learning, time perception, postural stability, and word production.

Mentors: Barbara Schwartz

Education: Tufts University, BS Biopsychology, 1994

Hugh Moulding ’96

Thesis Title: Clinical mutations in L1 neural cell adhesion molecule affect trafficking and cell-surface expression

Thesis Research: Mutations in the L1 neural cell adhesion molecule, a transmembrane glycoprotein, cause a spectrum of congenital neurologic syndromes, ranging from hydrocephalus to mental retardation. Taken together, these studies are the first to demonstrate that missense mutations in human L1 can impede correct protein trafficking, with functional consequences independent of protein activity. This provides a rationale for how normally expressed, full-length proteins with single amino acid changes could cause clinical phenotypes similar in severity to ‘knock-out’ mutants, and thus be an important mechanism by which mutant surface proteins fail to achieve normal function.

Mentors: Samuel Rabkin


Class of 1995

Jason Allen ’95

Thesis Title: Investigation of the effects of group I metabotropic glutamate receptor modulation on neuronal injury

Thesis Research: Glutamate underlies the pathogenesis of many CNS disorders and acts at two classes of receptors: ionotropic and metabotropic receptors. The present thesis was designed to investigate both the effects of group I mGluR modulation on necrotic and apoptotic cell death, and the possible mechanisms underlying these effects.

Mentors: Alan Faden


Rachel Brown ’95

Thesis Title: Pathways and regulation of human neurosteroid biosynthesis

Thesis Research: Neurosteroids in rodents can originate from peripheral tissues or be locally synthesized in specific brain areas. There is no information about synthesis and regulation of neurosteroids in human brain. We examined the ability of human brain to synthesize steroids from a radiolabeled precursor, and mRNA and protein expression of key components of steroidogenic machinery.

Mentors: Vassillos Papadopoulos


Basil Eldadah ’95

Thesis Title: The role of caspase-3 in apoptosis of cerebellar granule cells

Thesis Research: The current investigation attempted to elucidate the role that caspases may play in cerebellar granule cells (CGCs), a neuronal model of apoptosis induced by deprivation of serum and/or depolarizing concentrations of potassium. The results indicate that caspase-3 plays an important role in one model of neuronal apoptosis and may be a potential target of therapeutic interventions to treat neurological conditions where apoptotic cell death is present.

Mentors: Alan Faden


Karin Japikse ’95

Thesis Title: Interference in procedural learning: Effects of exposure intermittent patterns

Thesis Research: The extent to which intermittently presented information affects incidental and intentional pattern learning was investigated using the alternating serial reaction time (ASRT) task. People were able to learn implicitly about two patterns presented intermittently. These findings have implications for imaging studies of SRT task learning which use random or patterned secondary blocks as a baseline comparison for implicit primary pattern learning conditions.

Mentors: Darlene Howard


George Mashour ’95

Thesis Title: A study of neurofibromin-deficient Schwann cells and skin: Implications for the pathogenesis and diagnosis of neurofibromatosis type 1

Thesis Research: Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is one of the most common genetic disorders of the nervous system, and is thought to be caused by the loss of the tumor suppressor neurofibromin. Although a highly pleiomorphic disease, its clinical symptomatology relates primarily to disorders of the neural crest-derived Schwann cells, which form the basis of neurofibromas. With respect to neurofibroma formation, the angiogenic dysregulation of neurofibromin-deficient Schwann cells was characterized at the molecular level. In particular, the angiogenic factor midkine was shown to be dysregulated in neurofibromin-deficient Schwann cells in human neurofibromas and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNST). Furthermore, midkine was shown to be upregulated in the endothelial cells of angiogenic, but not quiescent, vessels. Midkine was demonstrated to have a mitogenic effect on endothelial cells, neurofibroma-derived fibroblasts, and MPNST-derived cells of Schwann cell origin. Thus, its upregulation with loss of neurofibromin is consistent with the growth of all major cell types in neurofibromas.

Mentors: Robert Martuza & Anton Wellstein


Class of 1994

Rob Cassidy ’94

Thesis Title: Pattern formation in the mammalian striatum: Eph receptor tyrosine kinases in the development of striatal compartments

Thesis Research: Receptor tyrosine kinases are known to play a critical role in the development of the brain. Recently, a new family of RTKs, the Eph family, has been discovered and their multiple roles in brain development are slowly becoming understood. The present study shows that in the postnatal striatum EphA4 and EphA7 mRNA are expressed in unique mosaic patterns, which precisely correspond to mosaic patterns of ephrin-A binding sites.

Mentors: Lawrence Kromer


Penelope Kuhn ’94

Thesis Title: The role of p75(NTR) in spinal cord injury in mice

Thesis Research: Spinal cord injury causes both immediate and delayed (secondary) injury responses that result in tissue damage over time. Oligodendrocytes, the myelinating cells of the central nervous system, are particularly vulnerable to secondary injury and are known to undergo apoptosis at delayed time points. I was interested in understanding the mechanism underlying the delayed cell death response and developed a mouse model of contusive spinal cord injury to investigate the possible role of p75 NTR, the common neurotrophin receptor.

Mentors: Barbara Bregman & Jean Wrathall