In the news / Brain

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Scientists continue to investigate how COVID-19 affects our senses and changes the way we interact with society. University of Arizona Neurology professor and BIO5 member Dr. Katalin Gothard, says the isolation that comes with COVID-19 especially impacts our sense of touch. She is also studying how COVID-19 is changing our brain chemistry.
 
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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a significant and alarming trend of increased alcohol use and abuse – especially among younger adults, males and those who have lost their jobs – according to a new study by University of Arizona researchers. The research led by professor of psychiatry in the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson, director of the Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab, and BIO5 member Dr. Scott Killgore, found that hazardous alcohol use and likely dependence increased every month for those under lockdowns compared to those not under restrictions.
 
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Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a neurodegenerative disorder that affects an estimated 5.8 million Americans, disproportionately affects women. The Women's Alzheimer's Movement (WAM), a nonprofit founded by Maria Shriver, is at the forefront in taking action to help find solutions to the disease. $500,000 in grant funding for women-based Alzheimer’s disease research to many researchers including Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton, University of Arizona Center for Innovation in Brain Science director and BIO5 member, who is using her grant to study Type 2 diabetes therapies and associated risks of Alzheimer’s in women.
 
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Drawing upon inspiration from an orphanage in Romania, Dr. Katalin Gothard aims to understand how the physical and social aspects of touch translate to emotion within the brain.
 
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College of Nursing faculty is comprised of both nurses and scientists from other fields, creating a rich environment for team science, bringing their expertise to enrich research and education. Dr. Judith Gordon the college’s associate dean for research and BIO5 member, uses her health care background in behavioral psychology, and backgrounds in IT and theater, to work with Nursing students. They studyed computer science, working together to create the See Me Serene mobile phone app to study guided meditation for stress reduction and smoking cessation.
 
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New research from a UArizona Health Sciences team, co-lead by COM-T Division of Infectious Diseases chief and BIO5 member Dr. Elizabeth Connick, shows getting a good night’s sleep could be another tool to help people successfully quit smoking. The study is funded by a nearly $4 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and will initially focus on HIV positive patients.
 
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UArizona Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine research director and BIO5 member, Dr Esther Sternberg shares different tips and tricks to help relieve stress and navigate anxiety. Dr. Sternberg says engaging in activities that help alleviate stress can not only help you feel better in the moment, but could combat the long-term negative effects chronic stress has on the body.
 
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Six UArizona College of Engineering researchers, including Biomedical Engineering assistant professor and BIO5 member Dr. Philipp Gutruf, were named as the first Craig M. Berge fellowship awardees to advance their research. Dr. Gutruf will continue his work to create devices that integrate with human biological systems for health diagnostics and neuroscience.
 
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Dr. Judith Su runs the UArizona Little Sensor Lab, where researchers are working to sense tiny amounts – down to a single molecule – of everything from doping agents to biomarkers for cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Lyme disease and, yes, even COVID-19. Dr. Su, biomedical engineering and optical sciences professor and a member of the BIO5 Institute, has received a $1.82 million, five-year Maximizing Investigators' Research Award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.
 
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Dr. Ian Robey is a Research Assistant Professor within the Department of Medicine at the University of Arizona and a Full Investigator at the Arizona Cancer Center, specializing in tumor biology and microenvironment. Dr. Robey also serves as the Technical Director for the Department of Veterans Affairs Biorepository Brain Bank, which helps support future research on central nervous system diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
 
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University of Arizona Health Sciences researchers are moving closer to conducting clinical trials on what would be the first therapeutic drug for vascular cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID), the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. Research by Meredith Hay, PhD, a UArizona professor of physiology, and member of the BIO5 Institute and the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, may offer a remedy for vascular dementia. To date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved any drugs that specifically treat vascular dementia, which involves cognitive impairment caused by injuries – often stroke related – to the vessels supplying blood to the brain.
 
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Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton, director of UArizona Center for Innovation in Brain Science and BIO5 member, is testing whether a drug called allopregnanolone is a safe and effective way to restore cognitive function in Alzheimer's patients. If the results are good, she’ll be one step closer to bringing the world’s first regenerative therapeutic for Alzheimer’s to the millions of people living with the disease.
 
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Through her research, Dr. Renee Duckworth has found that birds' maternal stress can be important for offspring during development. During this episode of Arizona Science on NPR 89.1, she discusses how her work makes parallels about stress from birds to other species like humans.

 
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Endometriosis is a chronic, often painful, gynecological disorder affecting 15% of U.S. women of childbearing age. This condition often causes higher incidences of infertility, miscarriage and stroke. Dr. Leslie V. Farland of the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health has been awarded federal funding from the National Institutes of Health to study the association among endometriosis, infertility and risk of stroke.
 
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New findings by UArizona researchers and BIO5 members Drs. Wolfgang Peti and Rebecca Page provide a start to better understanding Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Peti and Dr. Page have been using NMR spectrometers to explore the interaction between two proteins that are implicated in these neurological diseases.
 
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Wolfgang Peti, a University of Arizona professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has been investigating the interaction between two proteins implicated in Down syndrome and Alzheimer's disease for nearly 10 years. Past technological limitations have prevented researchers from determining the precise physical relationship between the two proteins. Peti teamed up with Rebecca Page, professor and interim associate head of research and faculty affairs in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, to address the research question through a new approach .
 
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With only five available drugs approved by the U.S. FDA to treat Alzheimer's disease, the National Institute on Aging has awarded a $6.1 million grant to the UArizona Center for Innovation in Brain Science to investigate a novel approach to treat the disease. The center is led by a top neuroscientist and BIO5 member, Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton.
 
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A UArizona team of researchers, including Department of Psychology distinguished professor and BIO5 member Dr. John Allen, has found that a program focused on yogic breathing – a meditative practice that involves slow and fast patterns of breath – improved participants' ability to cope with stress better than a workshop that focused on cognitive approaches to stress.