Neurobiology News

A special THANK YOU to all of the terrific neuroscience trainees who presented their work at this year’s UAB Comprehensive Neuroscience Center Retreat!  The following students received presentation awards…
CNC Retreat
Postdoc Poster Presenter Winner!
Winner - Xin Xu.  The BDNF val-66-met polymorphism impairs dendritic complexity and dendritic spine density and form in hippocampal neurons of Mecp2 knockout mice.  Xin Xu , Jordi Garcia, Rachel Ewalt, Shelly Nason and Lucas Pozzo-Miller.
Graduate Trainee Poster Presenter Winners!
Winner – Lauren Hablitz.  Circadian Response to Melatonin is Mediated by G-protein Coupled Inwardly Rectifying Potassium (GIRK) Channels.  Lauren M. Hablitz, Hylton E. Molzof, and Karen L. Gamble
Winner – Ian Kimbrough. Vascular Amyloidosis Impairs the Gliovascular Unit in a Mouse Model of Alzheimer Disease. Ian F. Kimbrough, Stefanie Robel, Erik Roberson, and Harald Sontheimer
Winner – Thaddaeus Kwan. Post-transcriptional Regulation of Inflammatory Cytokines by the RNA-binding Protein Human Antigen R in Astrocytes after Spinal Cord Injury.  Thaddaeus Kwan, Candace Floyd, Betty Pat, and Peter King
Winner – Laura McMeekin.  PGC-1α-Mediated Transcriptional Regulation in Pyramidal Neurons Impacts Electrophysiological Properties and Behavioral Output. Laura J. McMeekin, Andrew S. Bohannon, John J. Hablitz  and Rita M. Cowell 
Data Blitz Presenter Winners!
Winner - Kirsten Evonuk.  System xc–transporter Modulates CNS Infiltration of Immune Cells and Reactive Gliosis in Autoimmune Inflammatory Disease.  Kirsten Evonuk, Brandi Baker, Ryan Doyle, Carson Moseley, Christine Sestero, Bryce Johnston, Patrizia De Sarno, Andrew Tang, Igor Gembitsky, Sandra Hewett, Harald Sontheimer, Chander Raman, and Tara DeSilva
Winner - Joseph C. Griffis.  Induction of Functional and Structural Plasticity by Intermittent Theta Burst Stimulation in Post–Stroke Aphasia.  Joseph C. Griffis, Rodolphe Nenert, Jane B. Allendorfer, and Jerzy P. Szaflarski
Winner – Natasha Pacheco.  Aberrant Astrocyte Maturation Contributes to Rett Syndrome Pathogenesis.  Natasha L. Pacheco, Ian Michalak, and Michelle L. Olsen 

Bioethics Team Wins National Championship

The UAB Bioethics Team repeated last week as national champions at the Bioethics Bowl, hosted by Florida State University. UAB advanced against Dartmouth, UCLA, Georgetown, and Rutgers. UAB last won the Bowl at Duke in 2011.

All of the team members are in UAB's Early Medical and Dental Acceptance Program, which is directed by their coach and Chair of the Department of Philosophy Dr. Gregory Pence. The team is comprised of Kevin Shrestha, Biology, Honors College (UHP); Melanie Nichols, Biology, Honors College (UHP); Ameen Barghi, Neuroscience and CAS Individually Designed Major in Translational Research, Honors College (Science and Tech); Brynna Paulukaitis, Neuroscience, Honors College (Science and Tech); and Eric Kim Finance (School of Business), Honors College. Barghi—our 2015 Rhodes Scholar—led the team, which according to Dr. Pence, cemented its win with a passionate, articulate attack by Paulukaitis, a senior, and Nichols, a freshman.

We are so proud the students, Dr. Pence, and their tremendous accomplishment.

Congratulations, and Go Blazers!
R.E. Palazzo, Dean
Congratulations to the UAB winners at the 14th Annual University of Alabama System Honors Research Conference held at the University of Alabama on April 11, 2015.  As has been the case in previous years, UAB's honors students were well represented at this prestigious honors conference, which brings together honors students from UA, UAH, and UAB for podium and poster presentations that are assessed by a panel of judges from the various campuses. Four of the eight categories were won by UAB students.

UAB Winners:
Ali Massoud, "English Education in Egypt." University Honors Program [Mentor: Michelle Forman, Dept. of History]

Social and Behavioral Sciences [Poster]
Lindsey Yessick, " An examination of pain catastrophizing and experimental pain sensitivity in patients with chronic low back pain." Department of Psychology Honors Program [Mentor: Dr. Burel Goodin, Dept. of Psychology]

Natural Sciences and Mathematics [Poster]
Rhiana Simon, "Regulation of DNA methylation and gene expression by extra-coding RNAs." Honiors College [Mentor: Dr. Jeremy Day, Dept. of Neurobiology]

Social and Behavioral Sciences [Podium]
Sarah Terry, "Effects of habitual caffeine consumption on pain sensitivity." Science and Technology Honors Program [Mentor: Dr. Burel Goodin, Dept. of Psychology]

Congratulations to all 19 UAB students who represented our university with great aplomb.

Thanks also to UAB faculty judges (Category judged): Dr. Shannon Blanton (Interdisciplinary); Dr. Jacqueline Nikles (Natural Sciences and Mathematics), Dr. Rusty Rushton (Arts and Humanities), and Dr. Tino Unlap (Biomedical & Health Sciences)

Mike Sloane, PhD.
UASHRC UAB Coordinator
Director, University Honors Program
Associate Professor of Psychology
University of Alabama at Birmingham
The Undergraduate Neuroscience Program, sponsored by the departments of Neurobiology and Psychology, is graduating top students.  As a graduating senior, watch Ameen Barghi speak of his success at UAB.
McWane Science Center
March 30 - April 3, 2015

UAB's Wesley Burge and Joseph Griffis were on Talk of Alabama discussing Brain Awareness Week which is scheduled March 30 - April 3, 2015 at the McWane Science Center. Brain Awareness Week is an opportunity to learn about the the brain and explore the five senses. The McWane Science Center celebrates Brain Awareness Week annually in partnership with UAB.

Burge is in the Visscher Lab and Griffis is in the Szaflarski Lab at UAB.

Please join me in congratulating Sadhvi Batra on winning the Humanity in Action Fellowship! This highly-selective scholarship allows Sadhvi to spend the month of June in Europe studying human rights. Sadhvi is one of only 40 students selected from a national applicant pool of more than 700 young adults.

As an undergrad, Sadhvi majored in neuroscience and was a member of the UAB Honors College's Science and Technology Honors Program. She is currently completing the fifth-year fast track Masters in Public Health program at UAB. In addition, Sadhvi has been admitted to UAB School of Medicine, and (fingers crossed!) will be continuing her studies here this fall.

Sadhvi is currently serving as an Ambassador for the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders. In this role, she is coordinating an AAPI Youth Summit: Empowering Overlooked Identities to be held on the UAB campus April 11th. You may receive requests from Sadhvi for support of this initiative.

Congratulations, Sadhvi!

Ashley Floyd
Associate Director, UAB Honors College
Director, National and International Fellowships and Scholarships
UAB | The University of Alabama at Birmingham
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UAB scientist pens comprehensive textbook on diseases of the nervous system –

Harald Sontheimer, Ph.D., professor of neurobiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and director of the UAB Civitan International Research Center, has written a comprehensive college-level textbook covering 40 diseases of the nervous system, from stroke to brain tumor.

Sontheimer says the book provides an introductory tutorial for students, scholars, researchers and medical professionals interested in current understanding and treatment of diseases of the nervous system, from foundational science to the best treatment protocols.

"I have been teaching a class with the same title as the book, "Diseases of the Nervous System," for more than a decade, and students kept asking whether there was a book they could use to accompany the class," Sontheimer said. "While there were excellent neurology textbooks, none were suitable for college or graduate students, and even for medical students the neurology textbooks were too specialized."

Sontheimer wrote the book using college students at a Memphis-area college as a focus group while teaching there during a sabbatical from UAB. The book provides comprehensive introductions to stroke, epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, head and spinal cord trauma, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, depression, schizophrenia, and many other diseases of the nervous system.

It is published by Academic Press and is now available at
Media contact: Bob Shepard, 205-934-8934 or