AnnouncementsNeural Excitability, Synapses, and GliaTechniques

NIH Awards $1.4 Million to MPFI and NYU Scientists supporting NIH BRAIN Initiative

Work will focus on developing new optogenetic technologies to understand learning and memory functions

A $1.4 million, three-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been awarded to Dr. Ryohei Yasuda, Scientific Director at the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience (MPFI) and collaborator, Dr. Wenbiao Gan, Professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Physiology at the NYU Langone Medical Center, to develop new optogenetic tools analyze protein activity in neurons during synaptic and behavioral plasticity – a key process in understanding learning and memory in the brain.

This NIH grant was awarded as part of the federal Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN Initiative). This federal initiative dedicates funds to the most promising researchers and projects with the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain.

“There are very few effective cures for neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders,” says Walter J. Koroshetz, M.D., Director of NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “By pushing the boundaries of fundamental neuroscience research, NIH BRAIN Initiative scientists are providing the insights researchers will need to develop 21st century treatments.”

Synaptic plasticity, learning and memory are all regulated by protein signaling in the brain – a complex process that is still not yet fully understood. Many forms of learning disabilities and other mental diseases are caused by abnormal protein signaling. To even begin to address these brain disorders and diseases, it is crucial to understand the underlying processes within the brain on a molecular level that are involved in learning and memory.

“Synaptic plasticity is thought to be a basis of learning and memory of the brain,” says Dr. Yasuda. “The work supported by this grant will improve our knowledge of the biochemical events that underlie synaptic plasticity and will provide significant insights into what happens in our brain on a molecular level when mental disorders occur.”

In October 2015, MPFI’s Dr. Yasuda was awarded the NIH Pioneer Award which recognizes scientists who have demonstrated creativity and groundbreaking approaches in biomedical or behavioral science. The prestigious award was given to only 13 scientists in the country.

This research is being supported by the NIMH of the NIH under award number R01MH111486. The content of this release is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH. The NIMH is the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders. The mission of NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery and cure.

About The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies ® (BRAIN) Initiative
The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative is part of a new Presidential focus aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain. By accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies, researchers will be able to produce a revolutionary new dynamic picture of the brain that, for the first time, shows how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space. Long desired by researchers seeking new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders, this picture will fill major gaps in our current knowledge and provide unprecedented opportunities for exploring exactly how the brain enables the human body to record, process, utilize, store, and retrieve vast quantities of information, all at the speed of thought.