Research Roundup: Jan. - Feb. 2018

Thursday, March 1, 2018
researcher looking into a microscope

Here are summaries of a selection of the papers published by Duke Neurobiology during the first two months of 2018:

Stress and Mental Illness

  • Marc Caron and collaborators have revealed the molecular consequences of repeated exposure to stress, using early-life maternal separation stress and adult social defeat stress. They find alterations in signal transduction and gene expression that may be related to stress-induced mental illness. Read more

Motor Learning

  • Marc Sommer was part of a team that used a virtual environment to probe learning of full-body sensorimotor orienting during a simulated marksmanship task modeled after Olympic Trap Shooting standards. Accuracy improved during training through longer, slower, and more precise ballistic movements that replaced effort spent on corrections and refinement. Read more
  • Erin Hisey and Matt Kearney in Rich Mooney’s lab discovered the neural circuits that mediate improvement of sensory-motor skills through either reward or punishment. They used singing-triggered optogenetic stimulation of VTA terminals to establish how a VTA to basal ganglia circuit enables internally guided song copying and externally reinforced syllable pitch learning. Read more


  • Jennifer Groh’s lab discovered that the eardrums vibrate when the eyes move, even in the absence of sound. Thus, interactions between visual and auditory sensory systems occur all the way at the auditory periphery. Read more
  • Cagla Eroglu’s group has shown that transplantation of human umbilical tissue-derived cells promotes visual function and health by protecting photoreceptors and preserving retinal synaptic connectivity. They pinpoint Müller glia as a novel cellular target for a therapeutic function of transplantation of human umbilical tissue-derived cells. Read more


  • Shiva Nagappan and Kevin Franks review new research about the zebrafish brain represents odors. Read more
  • Warren Grill and Nicole Pelot synthesize clinical and preclinical effects of implanted vagus nerve stimulation on feeding behavior and energy balance. They discuss engineering considerations for understanding and improving this as a potential therapy for obesity. Read more