The Neuroscience Anthology project is a part of the INI Internship program. In addition to shadowing Dr. Vokshoor in clinic and in surgery, students in the internship program pick a neuroscience topic and complete an outside research project, giving students a chance to further investigate an area of neuroscience that particularly interests them. Their reports are compiled here to create a working, growing neuroscience curriculum.

Below you can explore what some of our interns have been researching:

Controlling the Brain with Optogenetics

By Scott Goldberg

Imagine controlling neuronal activity with nothing but a miniature flashlight. Shine the light on a set of neurons and they fire up, sending action potentials across the brain and back. Turn the light off and they’re back to resting state. Though perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, this idea basically captures the essence of optogenetics, which in more scientific terms refers to the use of light responsive “opsin” proteins to produce genetically modified neurons. Such neurons express light sensitive ion channels and fire when exposed to specific wavelengths of light. This neuromodulation method allows scientists to control and manipulate groups of simultaneously firing neurons, otherwise known as neuronal circuits, with unprecedented precision in order to see how they work together to produce movement, motivation, pain and many other neural functions.

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Gangliosides and Neurological Development

By Melissa Larcher

Recent developments in neuroscience have led to the discovery that glycolipid structures promote platelet activation and neuroinflammation, therefore having an imperative role neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease. Due to these recent developments new studies have shown that important developmental structures within the brain can also be a vital contributor towards finding preventative cures towards degenerative neural diseases.

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Pain, Spinothalamic Pathways and Pain Management

By Emmanuela P François

The International Association for the Study of Pain defined pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage” (Lipton, 1991) and Karpurkar et al., defined it as “an unpleasant emotional experience usually initiated by a noxious stimulus, mediated over a specialized neural network to cortical and subcortical centers where it is interpreted as such” (Kapurkar 2015). These noxious stimuli activate nociceptors, the free nerve endings found in muscles, joints, bones, viscera and skin that detect signals from damaged tissue and indirectly respond to chemicals such as bradykinin, ATP and K+ released from the damaged tissue (Snell, 2010).

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NTD and TCS: Malformations of the Spinal Cord in Children and Adults

By Richard Ma

One of the most common and life-threatening birth defects are known as neural tube defects (NTDs). These defects are categorized by an opening in the spinal cord or brain during development. Additionally, a less common spinal cord disorder also occurs in adults called adult tethered cord syndrome. This may go undiagnosed until adulthood when pain, sensory, and motor problems occur in a patient’s back.

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Phantom Limb Pain Mechanisms

By Symone Lowery-Hughes

“...Those obdurate and sometimes tormenting ghosts of arms and legs lost years or decades before but not forgotten by the brain.”-V.S. Ramachandran

Phantom sensations are sensory perceptions of a missing limb. Phantom limb pain is a neuropathic pain in the amputated limb and mostly reported in limb amputees. Phantom limb pain can be broadly categorized by supraspinal, spinal and peripheral mechanisms [1]. Supraspinal mechanisms include somatosensory cortical reorganization of body image. Spinal reorganization in the dorsal horn occurs after interruption of a peripheral nerve. Peripherally, damaged axonal nerves initiate inflammation and regenerative sprouting causing increased ectopic afferent input. Central and Peripheral mechanisms are thought to be contributing to phantom limb pain for which aggressive pain management is required. The interplay of multiple mechanisms renders phantom limb pain challenging to treat.

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