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2017 Friends of BrainHealth Award Recipients

Center for BrainHealth

The Friends of BrainHealth, a circle of donors supporting the Center for BrainHealth® at The University of Texas at Dallas, awarded five $25,000 Distinguished New Scientist Awards at the annual Friends of BrainHealth Scientist Selection Luncheon. Distinguished New Scientist Award recipients included Dr. Namrata Das, Aimee Herron, Breonte Jones, Hana Miric, Erin Venza and Lyndahl Himes.This year's luncheon was sponsored by Katherine and Bob Penn and took place on September 28. Since 2008, the Friends of BrainHealth have raised more than $2.2 million to fund independently designed research studies led by scientists who are establishing their careers. This year’s Visionary Friend award recipients, selected by committee recommendation, include:
DANA JUETT DISTINGUISHED NEW SCIENTIST
Erin Venza, MS, CCC-SLPChemobrain Prevalence and Brain Resilience in Breast Cancer Patients "Chemobrain" is a term to describe the persistent cognitive complaints experienced after chemotherapy treatment. This study will examine the effectiveness of a short-term cognitive reasoning training program to improve cognitive, psychological, and brain health in breast cancer survivors who have completed chemotherapy treatment within the past six months to five years.
LINDA & JOEL ROBUCK DISTINGUISHED NEW SCIENTIST
Namrata Das, MD, MPHAging Mind Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellow Decoding Brain Energy Metabolism in Individuals at Risk for Alzheimer’s disease This project aims to profile metabolic changes in the brains of individuals at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, specifically those with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to support development of new disease tracking methods that can provide a comprehensive treatment approach.
KATHERINE & BOB PENN DISTINGUISHED NEW SCIENTIST
Aimee Herron, CCC-SLP, MS & Breonte JonesFrom Virtual to Reality: A Strategic Social Learning Training for Parents This study will serve as a basis for creating a social cognition companion app to help individuals with social cognitive challenges, such as those on the autism spectrum, thrive in the real world. The app is intended for parents whose child completed the Brain Performance Institute’s Charisma™ Virtual Social Coaching (formerly known as Virtual Reality Social Cognition Training) and aims to help further facilitate adoption of these strategies.
JENNIFER & PETER ROBERTS DISTINGUISHED NEW SCIENTIST
Hana Miric, MsTraining Strategic Learning to Improve Psychological Health & Functional Outcomes in Adults with Traumatic Brain Injury This study will examine how strategic learning performance test results translate in terms of psychological health and everyday functioning of traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivors. Findings will help reveal cognitive processes that account for what may be impeding TBI patients from returning to productive lives years after having sustained a mild to moderate traumatic brain injury.
FRIENDS OF BRAINHEALTH DISTINGUISHED NEW SCIENTIST FINALISTS
Finalists Lyndahl Himes, Alan Dunn, and Monroe Turner presented research proposals during the Friends luncheon, competing for one award voted on by Friends in attendance. Dunn proposed a traumatic brain injury study to discover improved tools of detection and recovery tracking. Turner’s proposal sought to investigate the relationship between neural activity and oxygen metabolism in multiple sclerosis patients in comparison to that of neural activity and blood flow – the traditional way to infer neural activity. Ms. Himes received the audience choice award for her proposal. Lyndahl Himes, BSNeural Mechanisms of Mindfulness and Depressed Mood. The aim of this study is to lay the groundwork for mindfulness training as an alternative to conventional treatments currently used for major depressive disorder, examining the extent to which mindfulness training is able to increase hippocampal volume —  a measure that is compromised in individuals with major depressive disorder. Using healthy individuals and correlating hippocampal volume changes to behavioral responses after a negative mood induction, the study seeks to illuminate a neuro-biomarker indicative of treatment responsiveness and provide evidence for mindfulness training as an effective treatment for major depressive disorder.

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Erin Venza, MS, CCC-SLP

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2018 Winners

In 2018, the Friends of BrainHealth recognized six emerging researchers with $25,000 seeding grants to pursue independent research studies: Kathryn West, Dinesh Sivakolundu, Lyndahl Himes, Susan Larkin, Katie Hinds and Namrata Das. Thirteen graduate students, doctoral candidates and postdoctoral fellows competed for the awards to help fund independently designed research studies.