The Friends of BrainHealth, a circle of donors supporting the Center for BrainHealth at UT Dallas, awarded four $25,000 Distinguished New Scientists Awards at the annual Friends of BrainHealth Scientist Selection Luncheon recently at the Dallas Country Club. The four scientists will use the funding to lead independently designed research studies.
“This is a truly unique way to propel brain science and the young researchers who are its future leaders into new territory and toward new discoveries,” said Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth and Dee Wyly Distinguished University Chair. “We are so grateful to our Friends members. Their efforts and support are making scientific breakthroughs possible and providing the means to elevate scientists early in their careers.”The Friends of BrainHealth raised almost $310,000 this year and more than $2 million since its inception in 2008.Dr. Kihwan Han, a postdoctoral research associate in Dr. Daniel Krawczyk’s lab, received the Sapphire Foundation Distinguished New Scientist award for his proposal to investigate a method for quantifying brain change after cognitive training in individuals with traumatic brain injury. Erin Venza, a clinician in Chapman’s lab, was awarded the Linda and Joel Robuck Distinguished New Scientist award to continue to investigate longitudinal outcomes of cognitive training in bipolar patients one-year post-training. Both Han’s and Venza’s studies will use cognitive testing and magnetic resonance imaging measures.Dr. Wing Ting To, a research scientist working with BrainHealth’s director of neuromodulation Dr. Sven Vanneste, was chosen for her proposal to investigate memory retrieval in people with mild cognitive impairment, those at the highest risk for Alzheimer’s disease, and the benefits of a non-invasive neurostimulation technique, known as high-definition transcranial current stimulation. Her research will use behavioral and electrophysiological markers to assess its effectiveness on memory. David Martinez, a doctoral student and research assistant in Krawczyk’s lab, was awarded a grant to study reasoning ability and eye movements in individuals with traumatic brain injury. His proposal aims to validate a new method for quantifying concussion-related deficits to help survivors maximize recovery with targeted cognitive training.Twelve graduate students, doctoral candidates and postdoctoral fellows at the Center for BrainHealth competed for the awards. Other finalists included Alan Dunn, a research coordinator in Chapman’s lab, and Dr. Shikha Prashad, a postdoctoral research scientist in Dr. Francesca Filbey’s lab. Dunn proposed a study to compare behavioral and brain changes after mild traumatic brain injury at five points in time using brain imaging that assesses brain metabolism, cognitive testing, sleep quality and eye tracking. Prashad’s proposal sought to investigate the effects of cannabis on an individual’s motor skills.Pictured in the photo from left: Dr. Kihwan Han, Erin Venza, Dr. Wing Ting To and David Martinez.Friends of BrainHealth