Published on October 13, 2013 at 9:03 AM
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has selected Axel Nimmerjahn for a highly competitive EUREKA (Exceptional Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration) grant. Dr. Nimmerjahn is an Assistant Professor in the Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center and holds the Richard Allan Barry Developmental Chair.
The award, in the amount of $1.38M over four years, will support Dr. Nimmerjahn's goal of better understanding the relationship between spinal cord physiology and brain activity and behavior. Data from this research should foster development of new treatment and rehabilitation strategies for spinal cord injury, tumors, infections, and neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and spinal muscular dystrophy.
The EUREKA program was conceived specifically to assist scientists such as Dr. Nimmerjahn to test new, innovative ideas or tackle major methodological or technical challenges. NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., says that, "EUREKA awards reflect the NIH's continued commitment to funding transformative research, even if it carries more than the usual degree of scientific risk. The grants seek to elicit those 'eureka moments' when scientists make major theoretical or technical advances."
One of the technical advances included in Dr. Nimmerjahn's study will be the development of new tools and approaches for minimally invasive optical recordings from spinal cord microcircuits during animal behavior and in previously inaccessible tissue regions. Currently, imaging in the spinal cord, the primary neurological link between the brain and other parts of the body, is limited to superficial dorsal regions in anesthetized animals. Anesthesia precludes animal behavior and alters cellular activity, limiting effective study of how cellular activity in the central nervous system (CNS) affects behavior. By developing new tools for study of cellular network activity in behaving mice he hopes to transform our understanding of CNS physiology and pathology.
Dr. Nimmerjahn is only the second scientist from Salk to be honored with this prestigious award. Fred Gage, a Professor in the Institute's Laboratory of Genetics, was the recipient of a EUREKA grant in 2009.
Source: Salk Institute