Nicole Goldberg-Boltz

We are frequently required to halt or alter ongoing actions when an unexpected event is presented. For example, when we start crossing the street and we see an unanticipated car, we have to suddenly halt. In neuroscience, this sudden suppression of movement is referred to as response-inhibition. Response-inhibition deficits have been linked to disorders such as ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and substance use disorders. However, the exact neural pathways engaged in response inhibition are undefined, which I am interested in uncovering. For my project, I will focus on three proposed areas of the brain involved in response-inhibition known as the pre-supplementary motor area, pre-motor and primary motor cortex. Specifically, Im interested in uncovering key information regarding the role of the pre-supplementary motor area in the stop-inhibition network. Understanding of this network may provide insight into diseases with impaired response-inhibition, and potentially provide a basis for the development of therapies.

Matthew Boggess

Everyday actions require both the selection of the correct action and then the correct execution of this action. For example, when playing tennis, one has to both select the correct stroke to use and then correctly execute this stroke. The basal ganglia and cerebellum are two systems in the brain thought to be responsible for action selection and execution respectively. My research aims to develop a computational model of these two systems in order to investigate how they interact to produce complex motor actions. This model will be biologically constrained to best approximate actual biological function and will connect the two systems based on existing anatomical connections. By comparing the performance of this model with actual behavioral results, I hope to better understand the functional pathways in the brain that are responsible for producing actions as well as test hypotheses about how these two systems influence each other’s learning.

Nadir Bilici

Many years of research have established dopamine as a key neuromodulator required for learning and adapting behavioral responses to a changing environment. Dopamine actions are mediated by two classes of receptors, with largely antagonistic effects: the D1 group mainly leads to excitation-like effects in neurons, while the D2 group has inhibition-like effects. Particularly, the medial prefrontal cortex contains neurons expressing both D1 and D2 receptors, which have been implicated in a large number of normal and pathological behaviors. Although recent research links dopamine receptor D1 expressing neurons to working memory in the PFC, most studies do not explain how normal dopamine release, acting through both D1 and D2 receptors is able to produce a coherent behavioral effect. How does dopaminergic neuromodulation in the medial prefrontal cortex lead to plasticity and learning? The goal of my project is to characterize the role of dopamine receptor D1 and D2 expressing neurons in […]

Amit Akula

The California Report Card (CRC) is a social media platform that collects public feedback on timely issues and uses a peer-to-peer evaluation network to filter for the most constructive and insightful comments provided. Already successfully deployed with over 8000 visits, the CRC has already indicated high public interest in disaster preparedness. My lab is working to create a new version of the CRC focused on disaster preparedness. We hope to use the CRC as a tool to foster public awareness and dialogue around earthquake safety and wildfire prevention. Since the new platform is more educational/interventional by the nature of content, the deployment of this new platform raises questions about how the data collected can be used to assess and predict disaster readiness. I will work on developing algorithmic approaches that model and assess this.

Aditya Vignesh Venkatramani

Squeezed light is a quantum mechanical state of light with smaller uncertainty in a component of interest (i.e., amplitude or phase) than what is observed in classical light. This reduced uncertainty is equivalent to reducing noise in the component of interest, which thereby allows ultraprecision measurements. Parametric Amplifiers are devices that can generate squeezed light. Experiments have shown that these devices have some non-ideal behaviour, but there is insufficient data to rigorously characterize these non-idealities. This project aims at developing efficient and fast methods to quantitatively measure the squeezed microwaves produced by these parametric amplifiers. A Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) will be used to calculate the components required to image squeezed state of light and will facilitate fast acquisition of data. This data will allow further analysis into the behaviour and improvement of the parametric amplifiers, potentially guiding the design of more effective amplifiers.

Gregory Chin

Post-traumatic epilepsy (PTE), occurring after brain insult, is one of the most common epilepsies, affecting millions of people worldwide. The progression of PTE is marked by a period of neuronal network reorganization in which post-injury inflammatory responses are thought to contribute to a hyperexcitable neural environment, ultimately leading to chronic and spontaneous seizures. Previous research found that the breakdown of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) during injury allows the serum protein albumin from the blood to enter the brain. Serum protein albumin binds selectively to transforming growth factor beta receptors (TGF-R) on astroglia, causing inflammatory TGF- signaling and initiating a variety of effects including reactive astrocytosis, increased neuronal excitability and epileptogenesis. Over the summer, I will be investigating the identity of potentially epileptogenic astrocytes, along with probing their possible roles in causing susceptibility to seizure onset, which could elucidate the cellular and molecular factors underlying epileptogenesis.

Sravya Chilukuri

There is an abundance of what humans consider to be pest animals in the world, such as a high population of rats or an uncontrollable populace of monkeys. These pest animals can often act as vectors for disease and they can damage property or endanger human life. It is crucial to control these growing populations in order to avoid these problems. One major way to control population growth is through effective and humane methods of sterilization. I intend to do this by creating an antibody vaccine against the principal calcium ion channel of sperm, CatSper. However in order to create a successful vaccine, it is crucial to first confirm the actual presence and functionality of CatSper in monkeys and rats, which is what my project aims to achieve. Through this project, I hope to lay the foundation for creating a sterilization vaccine to combat these excessive populations of pest animals.

Xiao Hua Chen

While research concerning the molecular aspects of aging exists, there remain unanswered questions regarding aging differences between males and females. Differences in aging between males and females is a phenomenon that has been observed in many different animals with XY sex determination, including humans. These differences are manifested in the observation that females outlive males. Recent studies have provided insight into the potential role of sex-specific chromatin in aging. My project will focus on conducting lifespan assays for Drosophila flies with altered sex chromosome configurations to directly test the effect of chromatin on aging. By using males that lack a Y chromosome, females with a Y chromosome, and flies with varying degrees of X-linked genomes, I hope to elucidate the influence of Y and X-linked chromatin on sex-specific aging.

Katherine Chen

A hallmark of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection in humans is a latency period where the bacteria remain dormant in granulomas. Lipid droplets within macrophages, a component of these granulomas, are hypothesized to be a source of energy for Mtb. Research suggests that lipid droplet formation may be mediated by large quantities of nitric oxide produced by infected macrophages. This project aims to characterize lipid droplet formation and nitric oxide production in macrophages from C3HeB/FeJ mice in the context of TLR stimulation, IFN-, and infection with Mycobacterium marinum, a close genetic relative of Mtb. I will also investigate whether enhanced IFN- and IL-10 production, cytokines believed to interfere with Mtb killing, is a general property of activated C3HeB/FeJ macrophages. Understanding Mtb dormancy will aid development of newer or more effective antibiotics for the treatment of infected patients.

Jason Budge

My research project seeks to compare worker experiences from cooperatives and conventional businesses to discover whether a cooperative workplace is a more effective way to organize labor in regards to happiness and fulfillment. My research will utilize interviews and surveys of workers in comparable cooperative and conventional workplaces in Berkeley and Oakland in order to better understand how workplace structures influence and shape worker happiness and fulfillment. Theoretically, I am drawing from Marx’s arguments on alienation to examine these experiences. My hope is that my research will spur debate on workplace structures and question whether conventional workplaces are in fact the most effective way for workers to be happy and fulfilled. In a larger sense, I hope to demonstrate that there exist a variety of workplace structures and to dispel the myth that there is no alternative to capitalism.