Friday Seminars

Stay tuned for upcoming talks!


Oct 6: Dr. Nick Puts

Sensory impairments and inhibitory dysfunction in neurodevelopmental disorders

10-11 am Friday 6th of October 2017, IoPPN Boardroom


Sensory, e.g. touch, impairments are common in children with neurodevelopmental disorders, such as Autism (ASD) and Tourette syndrome (TS). Such impairments can substantially affect daily functioning, but the underlying neurophysiology is not well known. Several lines of evidence suggest that GABA, the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the human brain, is affected in Autism and TS and it is well known that GABA plays an important role in encoding tactile information. Edited MRS of GABA allows for in vivo measurements of neurotransmitter levels in the human brain. In my talk I will introduce MRS of GABA and our newly developed battery of tasks assessing tactile function. I will then discuss our recent findings showing relationships between altered tactile function and GABAergic dysfunction in neurodevelopmental disorders. Finally, I will discuss some recent developments from our lab, including pediatric MRS at 7T and novel faster-editing techniques at 3T that can substantially change the type of studies we can do in the future.


​Nick Puts is assistant professor in the Russell H. Morgan Department of Radiology and Radiological Science at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine​ in Baltimore, USA​. Originally from the Netherlands, he did his PhD in Biosciences/Psychology at Cardiff University in Wales, UK, studying the cortical dynamics of touch processing using psychophysics, MEG, and ​Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (​MRS​) of GABA​. During his Autism Speaks postdoctoral fellowship at Hopkins, he started studying the ​role of inhibition on tactile impairments in children with Autism using psychophysics and MRS​. ​He recently started applying TMS in autism as well. ​Nick also works with children with ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, and concussion, as well as healthy populations. H​e​ also contributes to the development, support, and dissemination of MRS methods and the Gannet analysis package.

Oct 20: Cancelled


Nov 3: Dr. Tiffany Bell

Multimodal imaging of the human striatal cholinergic system

10-11 am Friday 3rd of November 2017, IoPPN Boardroom

Animal studies have shown that the striatal cholinergic system plays a role in reversal learning, but there has been no attempt to study this in humans due to a lack of appropriate non-invasive techniques. This body of work aimed to address the gap in the literature concerning the role of the human striatal cholinergic system and its thalamic inputs in cognitive flexibility in vivo.  To do this, we used a combination of proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) and high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), together with a reversal learning task and computational modelling to investigate the relationship between cholinergic function and cognitive flexibility. These experiments provide multimodal in vivo evidence to demonstrate a role for the human cholinergic system in the striatum in behavioural flexibility as measured using a reversal learning paradigm. Additionally, this body of work demonstrates that it is possible to use in-vivo proton MRS, both at rest and as a functional measure, to investigate the human striatal cholinergic system. This method not only helps to bridge the gap between animal and human studies, but importantly may provide a novel method of studying disorders characterised by cholinergic dysfunction (e.g. Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease), extending our understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying these disorders.


Nov 17: Dr. Enrico Grisan

Towards personalized medicine: deep learning and big data in neuroimaging

10-11 am Friday 17th November 2017, IoPPN Boardroom

The imaging of the brain has opened the possibility for understanding the intricacies and interconnections among anatomy, physiology and pathology.

As more and more imaging modalities are developed (molecular, structural, functional) the data available to unravel the patterns of disease onset and progression become larger and larger, making the task of extracting usable biomarkers challenging.
However, the advent of new machine learning machinery and of unparalleled computational power, has made possible to assign each new patient to its own specific class, class of risk, diagnosis, prognosis or therapy, effectively stratifying tha population at the individual level almost in real time.
But nothing comes for free: the cost for this increased knowledge is an insatiable hunger for data and a reduced human understanding of how the data are combined to provide an answer.

Nov 24: Dr. Mark Tricklebank

The neurobiology of oxytocin

2-3 PM Friday 24th November 2017, Addiction Science Building (ASB) Ground Floor Seminar Room (Note different room and time!)

This talk will consider the neurobiology of oxytocin and how its fascinating properties might be harnessed for clinical benefit in disorders associated with impairments in social cognition such as schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, autism and antisocial behaviour disorders.

Using intranasal inhalation of the nonapeptide oxytocin as a route of administration, it has been shown that conditions involving impairments in social cognition i.e. the reduced ability to interpret the thoughts, feelings and expressions of others can be significantly ameliorated. There have been numerous small clinical studies with positive outcomes using this method of drug administration, the pharma industry has not risen to the challenge and, more widely, continue to withdraw from drug discovery in psychiatry. What is now required is a thorough understanding of the neurobiology of the oxytocin system so that key points of oxytocinergic modulation can be identified and exploited as rational drug targets. This talk will focus on the evidence accumulated thus far for some of those targets and how we might push the field forward.

Dec 8: Dr. Emma Robinson

The Human Connectome Project’s multi-modal cortical parcellation: new avenues for research

10-11 am Friday 8th of December 2017, IoPPN Boardroom

The Human Connectome Project’s multi-modal parcellation represents the most cyto-architecturally consistent, mapping of the cortical surface to-date. In this talk I will discuss the methodological advances that made this possible, before discussing the potential for modelling trends in behaviour, cognition and the development of disease from this data; finally presenting the challenges that must be overcome before we can predict these traits in individuals with high accuracy.