National Recognition for Autism Researcher

National Recognition for Autism Researcher

Joseph D. Buxbaum, PhD

Joseph D. Buxbaum, PhD, a pioneering researcher in the field of autism, recently was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, considered one of the highest honors in medicine. New members are elected annually by current active members through a selective process that recognizes individuals who have made major contributions to advance medical sciences, health care, and public health.

A world-renowned molecular geneticist and neurobiologist, Dr. Buxbaum is Professor and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Psychiatry, and Director of the Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He is also Professor of Neuroscience, and Genetics and Genomic Sciences, and the G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Research Professor of Geriatrics and Adult Development. Read more

Town Hall Meeting on Diversity in Neuroscience

Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD

Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD

Creating a level playing field, increasing mentorship opportunities, and making inclusion a priority, are among the steps needed to attract more underrepresented minorities and increase the number of women in senior faculty positions in the neurosciences. Those steps were outlined on Friday, September 25, at a Town Hall Meeting on “Diversity in Neuroscience,” attended by an overflow crowd of students and faculty in Hatch Auditorium on the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai campus. Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD, Nash Family Professor and Chair, Fishberg Department of Neuroscience, and Director, The Friedman Brain Institute, presented statistics that illustrate the underrepresentation of women at senior faculty ranks in neuroscience departments throughout the country, and how minorities continue to lack equal representation in the sciences. At the Icahn School of Medicine, for example, there are 52 women and 39 male instructors and 386 women and 436 male assistant professors; but at the professor level, there are 79 women and 240 men. And of the 261 faculty members within the Mount Sinai Health System’s eight basic science departments, only 13 are from underrepresented minority groups. These data are equivalent at other leading medical centers around the country. Read more

New Study Links Emotional Behavior to Anesthesia

Department of Anesthesiology

The Department of Anesthesiology at the Mount Sinai Health System

Repeated exposure to anesthesia early in life causes changes in emotional behavior that may persist long-term, according to new research from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The findings, published in the August 2015 Online First edition of Anesthesiology, mark the first time nonhuman primates have been found to experience long-term behavioral changes resulting from repeated postnatal exposure to anesthesia. Prior results have shown that baby rodents also experience cognitive impairments later in life stemming from early anesthesia exposure. Read more

Researchers Receive Robin Chemers Neustein Award

Leticia Tordesillas, PhD

Leticia Tordesillas, PhD, and Elizabeth Heller, PhD, are the recipients of the 2015 Robin Chemers Neustein Postdoctoral Fellowship Award, which was created to encourage and support female research scientists at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Dr. Tordesillas works in the laboratory of Cecilia Berin, PhD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics. Her research is focused on how to establish immune tolerance to foods for the treatment of food allergy. In particular, she is studying how regulatory T cells induced by epicutaneous immunotherapy are generated and suppress anaphylaxis. Read more

Study Reveals Mechanisms that Activate Depression

New research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai sheds light for the first time on how depression and emotional resilience operate on a molecular level. The findings, published in the December 4, 2014, issue of Nature, bring fresh perspective to an area that has eluded researchers for decades by outlining the mechanisms within cells that activate depression and laying the groundwork for new treatments. Current drugs for depression focus on neurotransmitters, or communication between cells, but identification of this novel biochemical pathway could pave the way for more effective drugs with very different mechanisms. Read more

Study Reveals Common Genetic Changes Are Significant in Autism

Genetic changes are responsible for roughly 60 percent of the risk for autism, and most of these variants are commonly found in the general population, according to a groundbreaking study led by Joseph D. Buxbaum, PhD, Director of the Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment, and Professor of Psychiatry, Neuroscience, and Genetics and Genomic Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The remaining nongenetic factors that account for roughly 40 percent of the risk for autism are not known. However, environmental factors and the interaction between genes and the environment may be a part of these nongenetic factors, says Dr. Buxbaum, the G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Research Professor of Geriatrics and Adult Development at Icahn School of Medicine.

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Molecular Autism receives highest Impact Factor

On July 29, 2014, Thomson Reuters awarded an Impact Factor of 5.486 to the open access journal Molecular Autism. This represents the highest Impact Factor for any journal dedicated to autism or related neurodevelopmental conditions.

The journal was created in 2010, by Professor Joseph Buxbaum, Director of the Seaver Autism Center and Professor of Psychiatry, Neuroscience, and Genetics and Genomic Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge. The goal of the journal was to provide an outlet for the volume of exciting genetic and other molecular autism research papers, and to make this cutting-edge autism research available freely via open access. In the past four years, Molecular Autism has grown and now publishes approximately five articles per month.

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Restoring fading memories

Research in Mark Baxter’s laboratory, the Glickenhaus Laboratory of Neuropsychology, focuses on the neural systems underlying memory and other higher cognitive functions, and understanding how disturbances in these systems impair cognitive function in brain disorders. Our general approach is to study the effects on behavior of specific manipulations of neural circuits in animal models, to gain insight into how similar disruptions in human disease may be responsible for cognitive impairment.

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Making an Old Brain More Plastic

We all know that it is easier to learn a new language or musical instrument as a child rather than in adulthood. At no other time in life does the surrounding environment so potently shape brain function – from basic motor skills and sensation to higher cognitive processes like language – than it does during childhood. This experience-dependent process occurs at distinct time windows called “critical periods”, which are times of great opportunity but also of great vulnerability for the developing brain. Early disruption of proper sensory or social experiences will result in mis-wired circuits that will respond sub-optimally to normal experiences in the future. Comparable effects are also seen for the development of vision, where if a child’s binocular vision is compromised and not corrected before the age of eight, amblyopia (‘lazy eye’) is permanent and irreversible.

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