Carnegie Mellon University

2018 News

Autism Risk-Factors Identified in "Dark Matter" of Human Genome

CMU's Department of Statistics and Data Science
December 13, 2018

Using cutting-edge statistical models to analyze data from nearly 2,000 families with an autistic child, a multi-institute research team discovered tens of thousands of rare mutations in noncoding DNA sequences and assessed if these contribute to autism spectrum disorder.  Published Dec. 14 in the journal Science, the study is the largest to date for whole-genome sequencing in autism. It included 1,902 families comprised of both biological parents, a child affected with autism and an unaffected sibling. This nationwide research effort seeks to decipher how noncoding DNA, often referred to as the 'dark matter' of the human genome, contributes to psychiatric diseases such as autism, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.  "Protein-coding genes clearly play an important role in human disorders like autism, yet their expression is regulated by the 'noncoding' genome, which covers the remaining 98.5 percent of the genome and remains somewhat mysterious," said Carnegie Mellon's Kathryn Roeder, corresponding author and UPMC Professor of Statistics and Life Sciences in the Statistics and Data Science and Computational Biology departments. "Because the genome comprises 3 billion nucleotides, identifying which portions of the noncoding genome, when mutated, enhance the risk of autism is as challenging as looking for a needle in a haystack." Lead authors on the paper are Joon-Yong An and Donna Werling of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences and Kevin Lin and Lingxue Zhu of CMU's Department of Statistics and Data Science. READ MORE

Parrot Genome Analysis Reveals Insights Into Longevity, Cognition

School of Computer Science
December 6, 2018

Parrots are famously talkative, and a blue-fronted Amazon parrot named Moises – or at least its genome – is telling scientists volumes about the longevity and highly developed cognitive abilities that give parrots so much in common with humans. Perhaps someday, it will also provide clues about how parrots learn to vocalize so well. Morgan Wirthlin, a BrainHub post-doctoral fellow in Carnegie Mellon University’s Computational Biology Department and her colleagues sequenced the genome of the blue-fronted Amazon and used it to perform the first comparative study of parrot genomes. read more

Interview with Dr. Barbara Shinn-Cunningham, Director of CMU's New Neuroscience Institute

The Tartan
December 2, 2018

Dr. Barbara Shinn-Cunningham, director of Carnegie Mellon’s new neuroscience institute, spoke with The Tartan about the potential of neuroscience research on campus and beyond. read more

Attention is Not Just a Gain Changer

CNBC Website 

Matt Smith (Ophthalmology and CNBC, Pitt) and Byron Yu (Biomedical Engineering, ECE and CNBC, CMU): The brain can anticipate stimuli that are behaviorally relevant, and attention can be deployed in advance of the stimuli’s appearance. The prevailing view is that attention works by acting as a sort of gain on neural activity leading to an amplification of a signal. This gain influence is thought to also apply to “spontaneous” activity before a stimulus appears in the neuron’s receptive field, putting the neuron into a more excited state. The problem, however, is that attention increasing spontaneous activity of a visual neuron might be interpreted by postsynaptic populations as the appearance of a weak visual stimulus when no stimulus is present.  READ MORE

Cochlear Synaptopathy a "Hot Topic" at Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting

P&T Community
November 6, 2018

Results from studies using brain-derived neurotrophic factor to repair cochlear synaptopathy, an underlying cause of hearing loss, were presented at the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting.   “Over the last decade, extensive evidence from both preclinical and clinical studies has revealed that a loss or dysfunction of synaptic connections plays an important role in the pathophysiology of hearing loss. This kind of hearing loss, which can come about from aging and noise exposure, seems to manifest especially in difficulties understanding speech in noisy, social settings, which in turn leads to social isolation, depression and early cognitive decline. Recognition by the Society for Neuroscience of cochlear synaptopathy as a Hot Topic at this year's annual meeting signals the practical importance of hearing loss for everyday function and the exciting potential of treatment through synaptic repair,” said Carnegie Mellon Neuroscience Institute Director Barbara Shinn-Cunningham. read more

Mapping the Brain’s Traffic

CMU Enigineering News
November 6, 2018

Engineers Ge Yang and Jessica Zhang are using complex geometric analysis to learn about neuron function and unlock the mysteries of the human brain. The human brain dictates what we see, what we feel, what we think. Our brains are integral to every aspect of our lives, but there is still so much we do not know about them. They remain a mystery, a complicated web of neurons that works in ways scientists and engineers can only begin to explain. How do neurons interact? How do they communicate with each other? How do they function properly? READ MORE

Aryn Gittis Receives Society for Neuroscience Career Development Award

Mellon College of Science
November 3, 2018

Carnegie Mellon University neuroscientist Aryn Gittis has been named a recipient of the Janett Rosenberg Trubatch Career Development Award from the Society for Neuroscience. The award, supported by the Trubatch family, recognizes originality and creativity in research and promotes success for early career scientists. READ MORE

Neurons Reliably Respond to Straight Lines

Mellon College of Science
October 23, 2018

Single neurons in the brain’s primary visual cortex can reliably detect straight lines, even though the cellular makeup of the neurons is constantly changing, according to a new study by Carnegie Mellon University neuroscientists, led by Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Sandra Kuhlman. The study’s findings, published in Scientific Reports on Oct. 16, lay the groundwork for future studies into how the sensory system reacts and adapts to changes. READ MORE

Brain Computer Interface Researchers Receive $8 Million from NIH to Expand Groundbreaking Work

University of Pittsburgh/UPMC
October 11, 2018

A team of University of Pittsburgh and UPMC researchers was recently awarded two grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) totaling over $8 million to expand their groundbreaking brain computer interface (BCI) research in collaboration with researchers at the University of Chicago and Carnegie Mellon University. READ MORE

Krishna V. Shenoy To Receive Andrew Carnegie Prize in Mind and Brain Sciences

Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences
September 25, 2018

Carnegie Mellon University will award the sixth annual Andrew Carnegie Prize in Mind and Brain Sciences to Krishna V. Shenoy, the Hong Seh and Vivian W. M. Lim Professor of Engineering at Stanford University. Shenoy directs the Stanford Neural Prosthetic Systems Lab and co-directs the Stanford Neural Prosthetics Translational Laboratory, which aims to help restore lost motor function to people with paralysis. READ MORE

Exploring New Frontiers in Brain-Based Education at Carnegie Mellon

Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences
September 25, 2018

Building on groundbreaking research that identified the brain representations of elementary physics concepts, Carnegie Mellon University’s Robert Mason and Marcel Just have received a $549,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to investigate the brain representations of physics concepts in college students and determine their relation to the students’ academic performance. READ MORE

Carnegie Mellon, Pitt Receive $3.8M NIMH Grant To Diagnose Suicidal Thinking Using Brain Imaging

Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences
August 29, 2018

The grant will be used to advance previous research and establish reliable neurocognitive markers of suicidal ideation and attempt. read more

Aryn Gittis Named Finalist for Science & PINS Prize

Mellon College of Science
August 2, 2018

Carnegie Mellon University neuroscientist Aryn Gittis was named a finalist for the Science & PINS Prize for Neuromodulation for her discovery of new therapeutic targets for Parkinson’s disease. The highly competitive prize is awarded for outstanding research from the last three years as described in a 1,500 word essay. Gittis’ essay will be published in the Aug. 3 issue of Science. read more

Case Study: Child’s Lobectomy Reveals Brain’s Ability To Reorganize Its Visual System

Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences
July 31, 2018

After three years of testing, CMU researchers discover that the patient is able to recognize faces normally, despite the removal of the preeminent regions involved in facial recognition. READ MORE

The story was covered by NBC News and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

When in Nature, Google Lens Does What the Human Brain Can’t

July 29, 2018

The visual search tool can identify a California poppy or Pacific poison oak with a single photo, bringing you deeper into the nature around you. READ MORE

Neuroscientists Map Brain’s Response to Cold Touch

Mellon College of Science
June 14, 2018

Carnegie Mellon University neuroscientists let by Professor of Biological Sciences Alison Barth have mapped the feeling of cool touch to the brain’s insula in a mouse model. The findings, published in the June 15 issue of Journal of Comparative Neurology, provide an experimental model that will advance research into conditions like pain and hypersensitivity to cold and help researchers to continue to unravel the multifaceted ways touch is represented in the brain. READ MORE

In a Race to the Finish, Neurohackathon Contestants Analyze Brain Data in New Ways

Mellon College of Science
May 30, 2018

Five Carnegie Mellon University students won the third annual BrainHub Neurohackathon with an analysis of the interactions between two different regions in the brains of mice as they reached for and moved a joystick. The findings could help pave the way for accurately using neural activity to control a video game or computer. READ MORE

Alison Barth Contributes to "Think Tank"

Mellon College of Science
May 24, 2018

In the newly published book Think Tank: Forty Scientists Explore the Biological Roots of Human Experience a dream team of leading neuroscientists were asked “What idea about brain function would you most like to explain to the world?” Professor of Biological Sciences Alison Barth contributed a chapter on how our brains change when we use tools. read More

Video: Deep Learning and the Brain: Does the Brain Approximate Backpropagation?

April 24, 2018

Google DeepMind's Timothy Lillicrap gave Carnegie Mellon University's BrainHub Victor Bearg Lecture. Watch now

Psychology Graduate Selected As Early Career Policy Ambassador

Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences
April 4, 2018

The Psychology Department’s Casey Roark was recently selected as an early career policy ambassador to advocate for the sciences. Read more

CMU Neuroscience and Engineering Team Receives Chuck Noll Foundation Grant

Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences
March 27, 2018

Neuroscientists Marlene Behrmann and Michael J. Tarr will work with engineers Pulkit Grover and Shawn Kelly to further refine a custom EEG that is the first non-invasive, high-resolution system of its kind. Read more

The Learning Brain is Less Flexible Than We Thought

College of Engineering
March 12, 2018

New research from Carnegie Mellon and University of Pittsburgh finds that, when learning a new task, the brain is less flexible than previously thought. Read more

CMU Celebrates Pittsburgh Women in Data Science

Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences
March 19, 2018

Women in Data Science (WiDS), a conference made up of many satellite events in cities around the world, came to Pittsburgh for the first time in March. Read more

The Learning Brain is Less Flexible Than We Thought

College of Engineering
March 12, 2018

New research from Carnegie Mellon and University of Pittsburgh finds that, when learning a new task, the brain is less flexible than previously thought. Read more

Farnam Jahanian Named President of Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University
March 8, 2018

Farnam Jahanian, the nationally recognized computer scientist, successful entrepreneur, senior public servant and respected leader in higher education, has been appointed as the 10th president of Carnegie Mellon University. The appointment is effective immediately, with a formal inauguration scheduled for fall 2018. Read more

Barbara Shinn-Cunningham To Lead Carnegie Mellon's New Neuroscience Institute

Carnegie Mellon University
February 27, 2018

Building on years of momentum in advancing brain science research, CMU has appointed renowned auditory neuroscientist Barbara Shinn-Cunningham to help establish a new, cross-disciplinary neuroscience institute that will create innovative tools and technologies critical to advancing brain science. READ MORE

Revolutionizing the Study of Talk

Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences
March 7, 2018

The advent of systems such as Google, YouTube and Wikipedia has made it seem as if all types of information are accessible at all times. Yet, for people who study spoken language in realistic conversations, none of those resources really help. Psychology Professor Brian MacWhinney has spent the past three decades addressing this gap. Read more

Barbara Shinn-Cunningham To Lead Carnegie Mellon's New Neuroscience Institute

Carnegie Mellon University
February 27, 2018

Building on years of momentum in advancing brain science research, CMU has appointed renowned auditory neuroscientist Barbara Shinn-Cunningham to help establish a new, cross-disciplinary neuroscience institute that will create innovative tools and technologies critical to advancing brain science. READ MORE

Acetylcholine Wakes Silent Neural Network by Targeting Nicotine Receptors

Mellon College of Science
February 23, 2018

Neuroscientists at Carnegie Mellon University have, for the first time, used acetylcholine to functionally rewire a dense matrix of neurons in the brain’s cerebral cortex. Using optogenetics, Alison Barth and colleagues found that the neurotransmitter can turn on the normally silent network by binding to the same receptors targeted by nicotine. READ MORE

SCS Scientists Receive Sloan Research Fellowships

School of Computer Science
February 15, 2018

School of Computer Science faculty members Chris Harrison, Bryan Parno, Andrew Pavlo and Andreas Pfenning have received 2018 Sloan Research Fellowships, which honor early career scholars whose achievements put them among the very best scientific minds working today. Read more

CMU’s Rob Kass and Byron Yu To Discuss Advanced Techniques for Understanding Brain Function at 2018 AAAS Meeting

Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences
February 13, 2018

The session will feature examples of the ways cutting-edge statistical methods are contributing important new insights and demonstrate the use of a brain-computer interface for illuminating how neurons work in the brain and providing better treatment options for paralyzed patients. Read more

New BME Dept. Head Bin He arrives on campus

College of Engineering
February 5, 2018

As of Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, the College of Engineering welcomed new Department Head of Biomedical Engineering Bin He to campus as he began his appointment. Dr. He succeeds Yu-li Wang, the R. Mehrabian Professor of Biomedical Engineering, who has served as Department Head since 2008. READ MORE

Gittis Receives BRAIN Initiative Grant to Study Parkinson’s Circuits

Mellon College of Science
January 19, 2018

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Aryn Gittis has received close to $387,000 from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke through the federal BRAIN Initiative to study neuronal circuits involved in Parkinson’s disease. READ MORE

Black Mirror’s mind-reading tech could be here sooner than you think

January 18, 2018

Scientists are working toward building mind-reading algorithms that could potentially decode our innermost thoughts through memories that act as a database. READ MORE

New Carnegie Mellon Dynamic Statistical Model Follows Gene Expressions Over Time

Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences
January 15, 2018

The model gives researchers a tool that extends past observing static networks at a single snapshot in time. Future applications could range from understanding disease progression to analyzing fMRI data and social networks. Read more