Congratulations to the winners of the 2023 Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health Trainee Endowment Awards! These awards recognize excellence in academics and research activities of our trainees. Special thanks to our donors and the Graduate Program in Neuroscience for their generous support.

Leslie Ann Wyman Brain Tumour Research Endowment:

Corbin Glufka, MSc student

Under the supervision of Dr. Kurt Haas, Corbin investigates the functional impacts of tumor suppressor gene PTEN on cellular signaling pathways in individuals with multiple cancers, autism spectrum disorder, and PTEN hamartoma tumor syndrome.

Benjamin Feldman and Family Endowment Fund for Transformational Activity in Mental Health:

Abhijit Mahesh Chinchani, PhD student

Under the supervision of Dr. Todd Woodward, Abhijit is developing a closed-loop transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) system that can monitor the frequency and phase of brain oscillations in real-time for improved treatment of psychiatric disorders.

Neural Repair (Spinal Cord) Endowment:

Katharina Raschdorf, PhD student

Under the supervision of Dr. Brian Kwon, Katharina’s research study is a first-in-human clinical study to demonstrate the safety, feasibility, and effectiveness of a near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) sensor for monitoring the injured spinal cord.

Schizophrenia Endowment:

Naomi (Catie) Futhey, PhD student

Under the supervision of Drs. Veronica Hirsch-Reinshagen and Mark Cembrowski, Naomi is investigating the neuropathology of cognitive impairment in chronic Schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s Disease by studying the expression of neuronal and synaptic protein markers.

DMCBH General Award:

Eric Press, PhD student

Under the supervision of Dr. Douglas Altshuler, Eric’s research tests an electrophysiology system on midbrain optic flow neurons in zebra finches across a variety of behavioural and pharmacological states to yield discoveries related to the processing of optic flow during locomotion.

Melody Salehzadeh Moghadami, PhD student

Under the supervision of Dr. Kiran Soma, Melody’s research explores how early-life lipopolysaccharide exposure affects long-term glucocorticoid regulation in blood and immune organs for a better understanding of the effects of environmental stressors on neural and immune development.

Minseon Jung, MSc student

Under the supervision of Dr. Kiran Soma, Minseon’s research examines the neuroendocrine impacts of maternal sucrose intake during pregnancy on glucocorticoid signaling in the placenta and fetal brain, and more broadly, how nutrition alters neurodevelopment.

Sasha McDowell, PhD student

Under the supervision of Dr. Michael Gordon, Sasha studies the salt-specific ionotropic receptor IR7c and its mechanisms for altering salt feeding behavior based on need in Drosophila to provide insight into general principles of salt homeostasis pertinent to mammalian salt feeding circuits.

Ahmad Samara, PhD student

Under the supervision of Dr. Tamara Vanderwal, Ahmad investigates the developmental differences in large-scale cortical organization during naturalistic processing. Understanding the maturation of naturalistic functional gradients could provide insights into a novel framework to study abnormalities in psychiatric disorders.

Brianna Bristow, MSc student

Under the supervision of Dr. Mark Cembrowski, Brianna’s research will assess synaptic inputs on atypical subiculum neurons and investigate atypical cell activity upon stimulation from upstream neurons to form the basis of correlative and causal functional understanding of internal state representations in the brain.

Hitasha Bajaj, MSc student

Under the supervision of Drs. Kiran Soma and Annie Ciernia, Hitasha’s research examines the local glucocorticoid production and enzymatic activity by microglia in the neonatal and adult mouse brain to understand the mechanisms underlying the negative effects of early-life stress.

Hong Lu, PhD student

Under the supervision of Dr. Ann Marie Craig, Hong is studying Neurexin-1 (NRXN1) mutations found in schizophrenia and autism, and how altering the splicing in the remaining NRXN1 allele will boost NRXN1 function and alleviate deficits resulting from loss of one allele due to a disease associated mutation.

Juana Ayala, MSc student

Under the supervision of Dr. Miriam Spering, Juana will relate deficits in impulse control, assessed as lack of movement inhibition and anticipatory movements, to hypomania proneness using sensitive tests based on eye movements in a cohort of young, undiagnosed adults.

Karina Aika Thiessen, PhD student

Under the supervision of Dr. Christian Schütz, Karina is conducting a human cannabis clinical trial to investigate the underlying neural mechanisms of cannabis and its potential effects on attenuating the psychological and physiological stress response.

Regan Campbell, MSc student

Under the supervision of Dr. Mark Cembrowski, Regan will investigate the intrinsic dendritic properties, synaptic inputs, and neuromodulatory interactions driving the cellular computations of novelty within a specialized cell type to provide foundationally new insight into the cellular mechanisms of novelty detection.

Tetiana Poliakova, PhD student

Under the supervision of Dr. Cheryl Wellington, Tetiana aims to understand how reconstitution of cholesterol ester transfer protein (CETP) expression affects amyloid and cerebrovascular pathologies in mouse models of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Cristina Rubino, PhD student

Under the supervision of Dr. Lara Boyd, Cristina is examining the functional role of eye movements in motor learning by investigating the function of saccades during implicit motor sequence learning, and examining how functional connectivity between saccade and motor cortical regions change after motor learning.

Seyedehleila Abtahi, PhD student

Under the supervision of Dr. Douglas Allan, Seyedehleila’s research goal is to determine how genes in motor neurons control postsynaptic receptor accumulation and provide insight into how multiple Ly6/uPAR genes control synaptic strengthening of neuronal circuits of the fly.