David Moorman and Karine Fenelon receive ADVANCE Seed Grant

IALS building with squared geometry

This UMass Amherst funding program supports innovative and equitable collaborative research projects among faculty

The UMass ADVANCE program is pleased to announce that three research teams are recipients of ADVANCE Collaborative Research Seed Grant awards for 2021-22. These competitive grants aim to foster the development of innovative and equitable collaborative research projects among faculty. 

Recognizing longstanding gender gaps in the academy, the National Science Foundation (NSF) funds universities to build institutional transformation programs in order to advance gender equity for faculty in science and engineering. Through the power of collaboration, UMass ADVANCE cultivates faculty equity and inclusion—especially for women and minorities in science and engineering.

The team led by Karine Fenelon, assistant professor, department of biology, and David Moorman, associate professor, psychological and brain sciences, will be working on the project “Investigating amygdala circuit dysfunctions in a mouse model relevant to schizophrenia.”

"The filtering of sensorimotor information is a fundamental brain mechanism that, if reduced, is associated with and often predictive of psychosis, attention impairment and cognitive over-load. In humans and translational models, sensorimotor filtering can be measured using the prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the auditory startle response task. Acoustic PPI occurs when a weak sound presented prior to a loud startling sound, inhibits startle. Reduced PPI is a hallmark of schizophrenia but is also seen in other neurological and psychiatric disorders.

"Currently, the reversal of PPI deficits in animal models is widely used in pre-clinical research for antipsychotic drug screening. Yet, the neurotransmitter systems and synaptic mechanisms underlying PPI deficits are still not resolved. Amygdalar dysfunctions alter PPI and are common to pathologies displaying sensorimotor filtering deficits, including schizophrenia. Therefore here, we aim to identify amygdala mechanisms that cause PPI deficits as promising drug targets, using a mouse model of schizophrenia. To do so, the team will perform in vitro (Fenelon group) and in vivo (Moorman group) electrophysiological recordings of neurons central to PPI."

More information on UMass ADVANCE workshops, collaborative research grants, mutual mentoring grants and faculty fellowships is available on the UMass ADVANCE website.