Building Better Brains Symposium to be held April 11–12

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News Article

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School of Medicine & Health Sciences


GRAND FORKS, N.D.—Building Better Brains is a jointly sponsored symposium by the Neuroscience and the Epigenomics Centers for Biomedical Research Excellence (CoBRE, pronounced “KOH-bree”) at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The CoBRE program was established by the National Institutes of Health to support thematic, multidisciplinary centers that augment and strengthen institutional biomedical research capacity.

The purpose of the event is to bring nationally recognized experts in the biomedical sciences to UND to share their work and to highlight the outstanding research taking place in North Dakota. The symposium will focus on the exciting and relatively new field of neuroepigenetics. Epigenetic mechanisms are heritable changes to cells that are induced by external or environmental conditions and provide a mechanistic framework that helps us better understand the dynamic interactions between genes and experience.

The keynote speaker will be Eric Nestler, MD, PhD. He is currently the Nash Family Professor of Neuroscience and director of the Friedman Brain Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and is the president-elect of the Society for Neuroscience. The symposium will host other renowned researchers in the field of neuroepigenomics, including Detlev Boison, Peng Jin, Jungsu Kim, Susan Masino, and Avtar Roopra.

“Dr. Nestler’s impact on this field is manifested by his publication record, with over 500 articles in top scientific journals, including Neuron, Nature, and Science,” said Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor Roxanne A. Vaughan, PhD , Department of Biomedical Sciences, and principal investigator of the Epigenomics of Development and Disease COBRE at the UND SMHS. “He has held a large number of long-lasting R01 and Program Project awards, and has received numerous national and international awards for his research. We are honored that he will speak at our symposium.”

Nestler received his MD and PhD from Yale, where he studied with Nobel Laureate Paul Greengard on protein phosphorylation in the nervous system; he completed his residency in psychiatry at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts.

Nestler’s laboratory studies the molecular mechanisms of drug addiction and depression, and he was one of the first researchers in the field to study how transcriptional and epigenetic mechanisms are related to the long-lasting neuronal changes that occur in these diseases. A major focus of his work is on drug- and stress-induced changes in gene expression and chromatin structure within the brain's reward circuitry.

The Building Better Brains Symposium will be held at the UND Gorecki Alumni Center in Grand Forks on April 11 and 12.