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The U's Neuroscience Initiative awarded seed grants to six collaborative projects aimed at deepening our understanding of the brain and finding innovative solutions for patient care.

By Julie Kiefer, Manager, Science Communications, University of Utah Health Sciences Office of Public Affairs

The University of Utah’s Neuroscience Initiative has awarded seed grants to six collaborative projects aimed at deepening our understanding of the brain in disease and in health, and transforming this knowledge into innovative solutions for patient care.
Recipients of the grants will work on a wide range of projects, from understanding why some can sleep for short periods of time without negative health consequences, to developing novel drugs to treat glaucoma.

The grants were designed to build cross-disciplinary partnerships to catalyze innovation, and jump-start research with clear clinical or translational relevance. This year’s recipients come from 12 departments across campus. “This program is intended to stimulate the formation of new research teams to tackle important problems in neuroscience that require diverse expertise,” says Monica Vetter, Ph.D., chair of the Neuroscience Initiative Scientific Advisory Board, and professor and chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy.

Each project was awarded up to $50,000 from the Neuroscience Initiative. Research project titles and awardees are:

•    Development of TRPV4 Channel Antagonists To Treat Glaucoma
David Krizaj, Ph.D. (Ophthalmology), Christopher Reilly, Ph.D. (Pharmacology & Toxicology), Ryan Looper, Ph.D. (Chemistry), Paul Sebahar, Ph.D. (Medicinal Chemistry), Eric Schmidt (Medicinal Chemistry)

•    Identifying Modifiers of Anticipation in Myotonic Dystrophy Type-1
Nicholas Johnson, M.D. (Neurology), Robert Weiss, Ph.D. (Human Genetics), Russell Butterfield, M.D., Ph.D. (Neurology)

•    Discovering Roles of Mitochondrial Movement and Distribution in Glia
Janet Shaw, Ph.D. (Biochemistry), Karen Wilcox, Ph.D. (Pharmacology & Toxicology)

•    Tracking Arc by Super-Resolution Microscopy in Living Synapses
Erik Jorgensen, Ph.D. (Biology), Jason Shepherd, Ph.D. (Neurobiology & Anatomy)

•    Examination of Neurobehavioral and Neurophysiological Mechanisms Underlying Habitual Short Sleep Duration
Paula Williams, Ph.D. (Psychology), Jeff Anderson, M.D., Ph.D (Radiology), Chris Jones, M.D., Ph.D. (Neurology), Yana Suchy, Ph.D. (Psychology), Matt Euler, Ph.D. (Psychology)

•    Understanding the Genetic and Neurobiological Basis of Pediatric Bipolar Disorder 
Jeff Anderson, M.D., Ph.D. (Radiology), Melissa Lopez-Larson, M.D., Ph.D. (Psychiatry), Mark Yandell, Ph.D. (Human Genetics), Alex Shcheglovitov, Ph.D. (Neurobiology & Anatomy)

Launched in fall 2014, the University’s Neuroscience Initiative aligns with President Barack Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, calling upon universities, government agencies,and private organizations across the nation to develop new tools to map the trillions of connections within the human brain. The local and national efforts are mutually beneficial, meaning outcomes will positively impact not only Utahns but patients worldwide.

The initiative will fund another round of grants in 2016. Learn more about the Neuroscience Initiative and upcoming events at