June 6, 2022

U-M Neuroregeneration & Cognition Challenge Connects Investigators to Further Neuroscience Research

Interdisciplinary collaboration provides opportunities for researchers to synthesize information across disciplines. It allows faculty from different backgrounds to look at scientific problems from multiple angles and make discoveries they might not have been able to do individually.

On April 22-23, the Michigan Neuroscience Institute (MNI) and the Biointerfaces Institute (BI) hosted the U-M Neuroregeneration & Cognition Challenge to encourage such collaboration. The 2-day Challenge brought together clinicians, scientists, engineers, and technologists from across the University of Michigan to explore new research concepts that connect at the intersection of neuroregeneration and cognition. 

The challenge featured presentations by U-M Faculty from a variety of departments such as Biomedical Engineering, Psychology, and Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology, and Psychiatry. The event’s keynote address -- Parkinson’s disease: Finding Therapeutic Opportunities” -- was given by Dr. Valina Dawson, Director, Neuroregeneration and Stem Cell Programs, Institute for Cell Engineering, at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Dawson gave a fantastic presentation that highlighted promising therapeutic targets for Parkinson’s Disease. She described her elegant research on neuronal cell death and survival and demonstrated how her basic research program has unveiled a number of novel targets for the treatment and/or potential prevention of Parkinson’s Disease.   

A reception wrapping up the first day gave everyone the chance to network, discuss the exciting science they heard about from the speakers, and begin to identify collaborations.

Break-out discussions were the focus of the second day. Attendees chose one of three topics to engage in:

  • What are the technical gaps hindering progress in the field of cognitive neuroscience?
  • How will neuroregeneration assist with cognition 100 years from now?
  • What are the technical and conceptual challenges to consider when investigating cognition on a cellular and molecular level?

Challenge participants were encouraged to use the break-out session discussions to develop collaborative research proposals for the seed fund competitions, to:

  • Promote emerging interdisciplinary collaborations,
  • Fund novel research directions for the collection of early data,
  • Create stepping stones for larger-scale proposals, and
  • Establish a bridge between a diverse group of scientists and researchers

Seed fund monies will be awarded to selected proposals, along with access to MNI and BI administrative and scientific resources.

Proposals are currently being reviewed for funding consideration, and the winning proposals will be announced by the end of June 2022.

During the breakouts, three post-doctoral researchers served as scribes for each session and later met to exchange notes and discuss the event. These scribes, Nicolette Ognjanovski, Matt Gaidica, and Sam Crowley, have collaborated and will be submitting a review paper outlining the event for publication.

Special thanks to the Neuroregeneration and Cognition Challenge Steering Committee, which includes Drs. Jill Becker, Cindy Chestek, Shelly Flagel, and Joerg Lahann.

Speakers included Drs. David Brang (Tracking Cognition in The Human Brain) Dan Leventhal (Subcortical Circuit Plasticity in Motor Control), Huda Akil, (Stress Biology and Cognition),  Jill Becker (The Challenges of Studying Sex Differences & Why Sex Matters in Neuroregeneration and Cognition), Sara Aton (Reverse Engineering Sleep to Support Cognition - Can (and should) we do it?), Ben Hampstead (Non-pharmacologic Treatments for Cognitive Impairment), Cindy Chestek (Restoring Fine Finger Movement with Neuroprosthetics), Parag Patil (Neuromodulation for Neural Network Diseases: Wicked Challenges that We Can Meet), Martin Sarter (Cross-Species Cognitive Genetics of Choline Transporter Variants), and Jack Parent (Advances in Human Brain Organoid Models).

Photos from the event can be found here.