Phyllis Cohen Stevens
Deputy Director of News Services
JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE PUBLISHES ARTICLE BY QUEENS COLLEGE
PROFESSOR JOSHUA BRUMBERG ON RESEARCH CONDUCTED AT QC
-- Findings Could Suggest New Ways to Treat Neural Disorders or Injuries --
FLUSHING, NY, June 27, 2007—Two Queens College researchers share credit on a paper published in a recent issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, one of the most prestigious titles in its field. The article, which shows that trimming the whiskers of a newborn mouse affects the animal’s neural development, was not only printed in full in the May 16 edition of the weekly, but also summarized on the front page, where editors highlight particularly notable projects. “It’s the first paper from Queens to be highlighted in the Journal of Neuroscience since I’ve been here,” says Professor Joshua Brumberg, head of the neuropsychology doctoral subprogram, who came to the college in 2002.
Brumberg and his colleague at Yale University, Russell Matthews—now affiliated with Syracuse University—launched the experiment in 2004 to test what sensory deprivation does to the mouse brain. “Mice receive input from their whiskers,” explains Brumberg. “They’re as sensitive as your fingertips.” The researchers discovered that continuously trimming the right-side whiskers of mice during the animals’ first 30 days of life decreased the amount of a specific protein in the brain tissue surrounding a specific subset of nerve cells in the cortex, which handles sensory information. Trimming whiskers after the mice were a month old had no such impact.
“This work provides critical insight into the mechanism by which experience affects
brain structure and function,” Brumberg notes. “Our results suggest potential novel strategies for reactivating these mechanisms in the mature nervous system to treat neural disorders or injuries.”
Much of the hands-on work for this experiment took place at the Flushing campus. A group of grad students and undergraduates made daily trips to Dr. Brumberg’s lab to trim the
mice whiskers, using tiny scissors designed for eye surgery. The process of counting the brain cells in mounted tissue samples—a task that required state-of-the-art microscopes—was also handled on campus.
The team sent its abstract to the Journal of Neuroscience in May 2005 and submitted the complete article the following year; they learned it was accepted roughly a month before publication. Mary Rocco, a City University Ph.D. student based at Queens College, coordinated the trimming activities and initial processing of the tissue, and is listed as the second author of the paper—she’s the first neuropsychology doctoral student at Queens to receive credit at the Journal of Neuroscience. Brumberg is named as the fourth author. “It’s good news for all of us,” says Brumberg, noting that his lab is preparing other articles on related experiments.
The neuropsychology doctoral subprogram at Queens, an offshoot of the City University of New York’s doctoral program in psychology, offers basic and clinical tracks. Both tracks involve extensive training in neuroscience; the former emphasizes brain-behavior relationships, while the latter prepares would-be clinicians to work with diverse patient populations.