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Fetterhoff Awards, Congrats!

Posted on May 12th, 2014

dfetterhPlease join us in congratulating Dustin Fetterhoff!

Dustin has won a Travel award to attend the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS) conference this summer at Lake Maggiore, Baveno, Italy. 


Dustin has also recently learned that he was accepted to attend the Advanced Course in Computational Neuroscience (ACCN) to be held at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Sciences.

Congratulations to Dustin and also to his advisors, Rob Hampson and Sam Deadwyler.

Kromrey Wins Poster Award at ASPET

Posted on May 5th, 2014

KromreySarah Kromrey won the Behavioral Pharmacology Division’s Best Graduate Student Poster award at the annual meeting of the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET).

Congratulations, Sarah!

Neuroscience Student-Organized Research Day WINNERS!

Posted on April 25th, 2014

Thank you to everyone who participated in this “first-ever” Student-Organized Neuroscience Research Day! Everyone did a great job presenting their research. 

The winners of the poster session are:

1st Place – Cody Siciliano

2nd Place – Dominic Gioia

Honorable Mention:  Svitlana Bach and Sarah Kromrey

 Congratulations to all on a job well done this year!

SfN Travel Award – Cody Siciliano

Posted on April 24th, 2014

CodyPlease join us in congratulating Cody Siciliano for winning the SfN Travel Award to attend the Japanese Neuroscience Society Meeting in Yokohama in September!

2014 Gordon A. Melson Outstanding Doctoral Student Award – Calipari!!

Posted on April 24th, 2014


Please join us in congratulating Erin Calipari for receiving the Gordon A. Melson Outstanding Doctoral Student Award for 2014! Below is an excerpt from Dr. Godwin’s letter notifying Erin of the award that summarizes her accomplishments. Congratulations also to Dr. Sara Jones, Erin’s thesis advisor.

The committee was impressed by your research, which showed that dopamine transporter levels predict the reinforcing efficacy and neurochemical potency of dopamine releaser drugs such as amphetamine, and suggested that individuals with elevated dopamine transporter levels may be particularly vulnerable to developing substance use disorders. You’ve produced very interesting data and 9 publications, 6 of which were first authored. A senior faculty member characterized you as among our most driven and gifted students.

The committee was also impressed that you have honored the spirit of the Melson Award with your contributions to the educational mission of the University through your participation in outreach and service, including outreach to the local community, playing a role in local “Brain Awareness” activities in schools and elsewhere in the community.

Student Travel Award Winner – Emerson!

Posted on April 21st, 2014

nemersonNichole Emerson has received the American Pain Society Young Investigator Travel Award ($750) to attend the 33rd Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Pain Society, April 30-May 3, 2014 in Tampa, Florida.

She will be presenting a poster on her work using voxel-based morphometry to assess structural correlates of inter-individual differences in pain sensitivity.

Congratulations, Nichole!

SPECIAL Neuroscience Seminar 4/24

Posted on April 18th, 2014

kepecs Announcement

Graduate School Research Day 3MT Winner – 1st Place, Alexander Birbrair!!

Posted on April 1st, 2014

Please join me in congratulating Alexander Birbrair for winning 1st Place in the inaugural Graduate School Research Day Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition for the Bowman Gray campus this year! The 2014 event featured nearly 50 presentations from 15 graduate programs. Two students won 1st place and Runner-Up on each campus and Alexander won as the designated representative from the Neuroscience department. The selection of his presentation by the judges indicates that his research was stellar in each of three areas: comprehension, engagement, and communication. His 3MT clearly appealed to a broad audience.

Congratulations, Alexander on a job well done! We are very proud of you!

Dr. Coghill interviewed for article

Posted on February 5th, 2014

Robert Coghill, PhD, neurobiology and anatomy, is interviewed for an article about his research on brain structure and pain sensitivity.

Researchers Study Alcohol Addiction Using Optogenetics

Posted on December 23rd, 2013

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center researchers are gaining a better understanding of the neurochemical basis of addiction with a new technology called optogenetics.

In neuroscience research, optogenetics is a newly developed technology that allows researchers to control the activity of specific populations of brain cells, or neurons, using light. And it’s all thanks to understanding how tiny green algae, that give pond scum its distinctive color, detect and use light to grow.

The technology enables researchers like Evgeny A. Budygin, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist, to address critical questions regarding the role of dopamine in alcohol drinking-related behaviors, using a rodent model.

“With this technique, we’ve basically taken control of specific populations of dopamine cells, using light to make them respond – almost like flipping a light switch,” said Budygin. “These data provide us with concrete direction about what kind of patterns of dopamine cell activation might be most effective to target alcohol drinking.”

The latest study from Budygin and his team published online in last month’s journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. Co-author Jeffrey L. Weiner, Ph.D., professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest Baptist, said one of the biggest challenges in neuroscience has been to control the activity of brain cells in the same way that the brain actually controls them. With optogenetics, neuroscientists can turn specific neurons on or off at will, proving that those neurons actually govern specific behaviors.

“We have known for many years what areas of the brain are involved in the development of addiction and which neurotransmitters are essential for this process,” Weiner said. “We need to know the causal relationship between neurochemical changes in the brain and addictive behaviors, and optogenetics is making that possible now.”

The researchers used cutting-edge molecular techniques to express the light-responsive channelrhodopsin protein in a specific population of dopamine cells in the brain-reward system of rodents. They then implanted tiny optical fibers into this brain region and were able to control the activity of these dopamine cells by flashing a blue laser on them.

“You can place an electrode in the brain and apply an electrical current to mimic the way brain cells get excited, but when you do that you’re activating all the cells in that area,” Weiner said. “With optogenetics, we were able to selectively control a specific population of dopamine cells in a part of the brain-reward system. Using this technique, we discovered distinct patterns of dopamine cell activation that seemed to be able to disrupt the alcohol-drinking behavior of the rats.”

Weiner said there is translational value from the study because “it gives us better insight into how we might want to use something like deep-brain stimulation to treat alcoholism. Doctors are starting to use deep-brain stimulation to treat everything from anxiety to depression, and while it works, there is little scientific understanding behind it, he said.

Budygin agreed and said this kind of project wouldn’t be possible without cross campus collaboration between neurobiology and anatomy, physiology and pharmacology and physics. “Now we are taking the first steps in this direction,” he said. “It was impossible before the optogenetic era.”

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health T32 AA007565, AA020564, AA021099, AA017531, AA010422, and DA024763.

Co-authors include Valentina P. Grinevich, Dominic Gioia, Jon Day-Brown, Keith D. Bonin, all of Wake Forest Baptist; Garret D. Stuber of UNC Neuroscience Center and Caroline E. Bass of University of Buffalo.