Dr. Nathan Neckel
Research Assistant Professor
Department of Neuroscience
Department of Rehabilitation Medicine
Physical therapy is a grueling process usually met with limited gains and quickly reached plateaus of recovery. Many robotic devices have been incorporated into the clinic because they provide a highly repeatable and accurate training experience while lessening the burden of the therapist. Unfortunately one of the more popular devices, the Lokomat robotic gait trainer, has fallen out of favor because early studies on the effectiveness of the device showed mixed results. This is no reason to stop using the tool, but reason to learn how to use the tool better. Standard robotic gait training therapy involves guiding the injured limbs through a healthy stepping pattern. But healthy patterns may not be the best treatment following neurological injury. With a fully programmable robotic device there are innumerable variations to the training experience available. The use of rodent models enables us to test novel robotic gait training patterns and investigate their ability to improve overground locomotion as well as their ability to change the neuronal structure of the spinal cord following injury. We are currently investigating the effects of training in applied force fields instead of guided stepping patterns. Specifically, we are robotically training rats in viscous fields as well as negative viscosity fields after an incomplete cervical spinal cord injury and measuring the changes in the overground locomotion. Additionally, we are using manganese enhanced MRI techniques and diffusion tensor imaging tractography to investigate how our novel gait training induces changes in the activity of the spinal interneurons around the injury site. We hope that these studies will uncover better training techniques that can be quickly applied to the clinical setting to improve the locomotion of patients following neurological injury.
Dr. Duy Tran
Developmental Glycobiology Section, NIDCR, NIH
Regulated secretion is a critical process by which cells deliver molecules to the cell surface and extracellular space. Secreted cargo is synthesized in the endoplasmic reticulum, traverses the Golgi apparatus and is subsequently loaded into secretory vesicles. Secretion occurs in response to an external
stimulus and involves directed vesicle movement, docking with the plasma membrane, fusion pore formation, and vesicle collapse to release cargo. Aberrant secretion is the cause of many human diseases. Defining the factors involved in secretion is crucial to develop therapeutic targets for these diseases.
Drosophila salivary glands are the largest secretory structures of the fly and represent a tractable experimental system for studying the factors that regulate hormone-induced secretion. To this end, I perform real time imaging on living salivary glands to elucidate the mechanisms and kinetics of secretion. By using confocal and spinning disc microscopy in combination with fluorescently tagged proteins, I can directly visualize the steps involved in cargo secretion and the role of the actin cytoskeleton during regulated secretion. By combining these approaches with Drosophila genetics I am defining the discrete events of regulated secretion and novel genes involved in this biologically relevant process.
Dr. Beth Cabrera
Center for the Advancement of Well-Being
George Mason University
Researchers in the field of positive psychology have discovered a number of benefits associated with positive emotions. Dr. Cabrera will discuss how these benefits contribute to success and well-being and will highlight specific strategies that can be used to create a more positive workplace where employees can thrive. She will also present a second dimension, in addition to positive emotions, that scientists believe is essential for our well-being.