Children with autism see simple movement twice as quickly as other children their age, and this hypersensitivity to motion may provide clues to a fundamental cause of the developmental disorder, according to a new study.
Such heightened sensory perception in autism may help explain why some people with the disorder are painfully sensitive to noise and bright lights. It also may be linked to some of the complex social and behavioral deficits associated with autism, says Duje Tadin, one of the lead authors on the study and an assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester.
"We think of autism as a social disorder because children with this condition often struggle with social interactions, but what we sometimes neglect is that almost everything we know about the world comes from our senses. Abnormalities in how a person sees or hears can have a profound effect on social communication."
Duje Tadin Promoted to Associate Professor
May 1, 2013
Congratulations to Dr. Duje Tadin, who has been promoted to Associate Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. Dr. Tadin investigates neural mechanisms of human visual perception using a multi-disciplinary approach that includes human psychophysics, special populations work, transcranial magnetic stimulation, neuroimaging and computational modeling. Ongoing research in Dr. Tadin's laboratory is comprised of several lines of inquiry, most of which are built around a longstanding focus on the mechanisms of visual motion processing.
Richard Aslin elected to National Academy of Sciences
April 30, 2013
Richard Aslin, the William R. Kenan Professor of brain and cognitive sciences and director of the Rochester Center for Brain Imaging at the University of Rochester, has been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).
Membership in the academy is one of the highest honors given to a scientist or engineer in the United States. Aslin will be inducted into the academy next April during its 151st annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
Steven E. Feldon, M.D., M.B.A., director of the Flaum Eye Institute at the University of Rochester Medical Center, was named president of the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology. The organization is dedicated to advancing the education, research and clinical care provided by academic medical center’s ophthalmologists. He will serve a one-year term.
Feldon takes the helm of the organization with a broad understanding of the many challenges that academic ophthalmologists face balancing clinical, educational and scientific responsibilities. He is an internationally recognized clinical and basic scientist specializing in orbital disease and neuro-ophthalmology, an inventor of ophthalmic instruments, and an entrepreneur and business executive.
Among his career accomplishments, he has invented ophthalmic instruments and an electronic medical record-keeping system and subsequently built companies to manufacture and market them. As the founding director of the Flaum Eye Institute, Feldon has grown the institution dramatically, adding more than 25 basic scientists and clinical faculty in just 12 years.
Richard Aslin Elected Fellow of the Cognitive Science Society
November 13, 2012
Richard Aslin, the William R. Kenan Professor of brain and cognitive sciences and director of the Rochester Center for Brain Imaging at the University of Rochester, has been elected a fellow of the Cognitive Science Society.
Aslin, whose theory of "statistical learning" has helped to revolutionize the field of cognitive science, was recognized for the "sustained excellence and . . . sustained impact" of his work. He is one of only nine scholars elected to the position in 2012.
The Marshmallow Study Revisited
October 11, 2012
For the past four decades, the "marshmallow test" has served as a classic experimental measure of children's self-control: will a preschooler eat one of the fluffy white confections now or hold out for two later?
Now a new study demonstrates that being able to delay gratification is influenced as much by the environment as by innate ability. Children who experienced reliable interactions immediately before the marshmallow task waited on average four times longer—12 versus three minutes—than youngsters in similar but unreliable situations.
Patent Issued for Technology that Improves Eyesight Dramatically
September 27, 2012
A U.S. patent has been issued to the University of Rochester for technology that has boosted the eyesight of tens of thousands of people around the world to unprecedented levels and reduced the need for patients to undergo repeat surgeries.
The patent issued this week for work done by Scott MacRae, M.D., director of the Refractive Surgery Center at the Flaum Eye Institute and Manoj Venkiteshwar, Ph.D., formerly a post-doctoral researcher at the University’s Center for Visual Science.
Pasternak Elected Officer of Society for Neuroscience
September 24, 2012
Tatiana Pasternak, Ph.D., professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Rochester Medical Center, has been elected secretary of the Society for Neuroscience, one of the largest science societies in the world with more than 41,000 members.
Pasternak is one of three people elected this year to help lead the organization, together with a small group of elected councilors and other officers elected in the two past years. She will assume her post as secretary-elect at the organization’s annual meeting Oct. 12 in New Orleans and will be part of the group’s leadership for three years.
David Williams, a faculty member of the University of Rochester's Institute of Optics, director of its Center for Visual Science, and dean for research in Arts, Science, and Engineering, will receive the António Champalimaud Vision Award at a ceremony today in Lisbon, Portugal. The ceremony, chaired by the president of Portugal, will recognize Williams' work on adaptive optics technologies as a "major breakthrough in the understanding and/or the preservation of vision." Williams is widely regarded as one of the world's leading experts on human vision.
Long before babies understand the story of Goldilocks, they have more than mastered the fairy tale heroine's method of decision-making. Infants ignore information that is too simple or too complex, focusing instead on situations that are "just right," according to a new study to be published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE on May 23.
Dubbed the "Goldilocks effect" by the University of Rochester team that discovered it, the attention pattern sheds light on how babies learn to make sense of a world full of complex sights, sounds, and movements. The findings could have broad implications for human learning at all ages and could lead to tools for earlier diagnosis of attention-related disabilities such as ADHD or autism, says Celeste Kidd, lead author on the paper and a doctoral candidate in brain and cognitive sciences at the University.
With the aid of eye-tracking devices and statistical modeling, the research is the first to provide both a theory and quantifiable measures of what keeps a baby's attention, says coauthor Richard Aslin, the William R. Kenan Professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University.
James Eles Wins Walt and Bobbi Makous Prize
May 21, 2012
The first-ever Walt and Bobbi Makous Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Vision Research was presented to James Eles during the senior awards ceremony during commencement weekend.
James Eles is a neuroscience major currently in his fifth-year in the Take-5 program where he is studying the history and psychology of warrior codes. James has had a remarkable academic career and has been on the Dean’s list every single semester. He has received a Dean’s scholarship for his studies and has been elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
Since his junior year he has worked in the department of Neurobiology and Anatomy on an independent research project in the lab of Dr. Ania Majewska. He was also awarded the prestigious Center for Visual Science undergraduate summer research fellowship to continue his work full-time during the summer. During the last few years James worked on a glutamate transporter, GLT-1, which is expressed exclusively in glial cells in the mouse cerebral cortex. He showed that GLT-1 expression can be modulated by sensory experience. This was an unexpected finding since glia are largely expected to play supportive roles to neurons and not necessarily participate in responses driven by changes in the sensory environment.
Neuroscientist Benjamin Hayden Named 2012 Sloan Research Fellow
February 22, 2012
Benjamin Hayden, a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester who is helping to unravel the mysteries of how humans make decisions, has been selected as a 2012 Sloan Research Fellow.
Awarded annually by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation since 1955, the fellowships are given to early-career scientists and scholars whose achievements and potential identify them as rising stars. Each fellowship carries a $50,000, two-year award to help support the recipient's research.
"Today's Sloan Research Fellows are tomorrow's Nobel Prize winners... These outstanding men and women are responsible for some of the most exciting science being done today," says Paul L. Joskow, president of the Sloan Foundation.
Professor James Fienup Elected to National Academy of Engineering
February 12, 2012
James R. Fienup, the Robert E. Hopkins Professor of Optics at the University's Institute of Optics within the Hajim School of Engineering, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering.
Election to the National Academy of Engineering is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. Academy membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to "engineering research, practice, or education, including, where appropriate, significant contributions to the engineering literature," and to the "pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education."
Fienup was selected for his work in the development and application of phase retrieval algorithms.
Nerve Cells Key to Making Sense of Our Senses
November 21, 2011
The human brain is bombarded with a cacophony of information from the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin. Now a team of scientists at the University of Rochester, Washington University in St. Louis, and Baylor College of Medicine has unraveled how the brain manages to process those complex, rapidly changing, and often conflicting sensory signals to make sense of our world. The answer lies in a relatively simple computation performed by single nerve cells, an operation that can be described mathematically as a straightforward weighted average. The key is that the neurons have to apply the correct weights to each sensory cue, and the authors reveal how this is done.
The study, published online Nov. 20 in Nature Neuroscience, represents the first direct evidence of how the brain combines multiple sources of sensory information to form as accurate a perception as possible of its environment, the researchers report.
The discovery may eventually lead to new therapies for people with Alzheimer's disease and other disorders that impair a person's sense of self-motion, says study coauthor Greg DeAngelis, professor and chair of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester. This deeper understanding of how brain circuits combine different sensory cues could also help scientists and engineers to design more sophisticated artificial nervous systems such as those used in robots, he adds.
Envisioning Better Eyesight
January 1, 2010
Sometimes, even in vision research, the key to moving forward is seeing things in a new way.
That’s what happened about four years ago, when Wayne Knox ’79, ’84 (PhD), a professor of optics and physics and the director of the Institute of Optics, was presenting his work on using ultrafast lasers to change optical materials like intra-ocular lenses to a group of scientists discussing lasers, optics, and human vision.
Krystel Huxlin, an associate professor of ophthalmology at the Flaum Eye Institute, chimed in with a question: “Have you ever tried this in living materials?”
By doing a set of vigorous visual exercises on a computer every day for several months, patients who had gone partially blind as a result of suffering a stroke were able to regain some vision, according to scientists who published their results in the April 1 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.
Such rigorous visual retraining is not common for people who suffer blindness after a stroke. That’s in contrast to other consequences of stroke, such as speech or movement difficulties, where rehabilitation is common and successful.