November 18 , 2008

CONTACT: Karen Kreeger
(215) 349-5658
karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu


Penn Researcher Receives $2.7 Million NIH Grant for Neuroscience

PHILADELPHIA - Michael P. Nusbaum, PhD, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, will receive over $2.7 million over the next seven years from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) to understand how a fundamental aspect of molecular signaling in the nervous system, called neuromodulation, modifies sensory-motor integration to enable a single neural network to generate the appropriate coordinated movement in different contexts.

The specific grant is called the Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award. The grant was established to honor the late Senator Jacob Javits (R-NY), who suffered for several years from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and was a strong advocate of brain and nervous system research. The Javits award is given to scientists selected by a national NINDS advisory council from a pool of mainstream National Institutes of Health grant applicants within a given funding cycle. The award is given to distinguished investigators who have a record of “cutting edge” neuroscience research and can be expected to be highly productive for the next seven years of the award.

“The Javits Award will enable my lab to achieve a more in-depth understanding of the impact of neuromodulation on motor network operation, and to extend this work in novel directions,” says Nusbaum.

Dr. Nusbaum studies how a group of neurons, or a neural network, governs coordinated muscle movements. Specifically, he studies this process in the nervous system of the crab Cancer borealis to completely identify a neural network underlying one type of behavior, in this case, chewing.

“This small system is unusually well-characterized at a cellular level, and over the past thirty years considerable research has shown that this crab chewing network operates on the same general principles as comparable networks in the mammalian CNS” says Nusbaum. “Our hope is that this basic research will help us better understand problems in sensory-motor circuits, and what to target for repair, when motor dysfunction occurs as it does for example after a stroke or spinal cord injury.”

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This release is available online at
http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/2008/11/nusbaum-javits-neuroscience-award.html