MARC is soliciting Center Component projects – applications due Nov. 16

Please note: this is an update on the Oct. 1 posting, which contained incomplete information.

marcThe Methamphetamine Abuse Research Center (MARC), is soliciting applications for Center Component projects to include in its P50 Center grant renewal. This NIDA-funded center at OHSU and the Portland VA Medical Center, currently in its 9th year of funding, plans to submit its renewal application next September and is seeking input on potential new research directions. The MARC approaches drug addiction research at all levels in a translational context; as such, both clinical and basic science projects are welcome and there is a particular interest in the role of trace amine associated receptor 1 (TAAR1) in methamphetamine abuse.

A project component has a five-year duration and an approximate budget of $150,000 in direct costs per year, with some costs covered by the center’s cores.

Project proposals are due on November 16. Interested investigators should submit a one-page document that includes a brief hypothesis- and data-driven project description and specific aims related to the center’s overarching theme or to TAAR1-related themes as suggested by this recent paper. Applications will be collated and common themes will be discussed at a meeting of all submitters in early- to mid- December. Competitive proposals will require strong preliminary data, so be prepared to discuss data that you have or expect to have in support of your proposal.

Submit your proposals to For any inquiries, contact Aaron Janowsky, Ph.D., Program Director/Principal Investigator; Tamara Phillips, Ph.D., Scientific Director; or William Schutzer, Administrative Manager.



Who’s new at OHSU? Kathleen Humphries, Ph.D.

Kathleen Humphries

Kathleen Humphries, Ph.D.

Kathleen Humphries, Ph.D., recently joined OHSU as director of the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and associate director for research and academic affairs at the Institute on Development & Disability (IDD). Her research focus includes nutrition behavioral interventions for persons with disabilities and their support teams as well as health and developmental outcomes related to food habits and nutrition.

Where are you from and where did you study?
I’m from Ohio originally, but I attended the University of Oregon as an undergraduate because my family had moved here. I went to UC Davis for graduate school and earned my Ph.D. in nutrition science there. While at Davis, I studied with a nutritional geographer, Louis Grivetti. He had very broad interests in nutrition. As an example, he would go into caves and look at drawings and try to understand what people ate during the time the drawings were made. Drawings of children might indicate nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition with renditions of say, bowed legs or tummies that stuck way out, but the figures were otherwise very skinny. My work with him looked at social and cultural influences on what we eat and the health consequences of those choices. I am still very interested in this type of research, and because it’s a process-oriented interest, it can be applied to any group of people anywhere.

How did you get involved in nutrition research for people with disabilities?
I started working in disability about 15 years ago and sort of fell into it by happenstance, as often happens. What really drew me to the work is unraveling the complex influences on the food habits and nutrition-related behavior of adults who were living with disability and how that played out for their health, as well as independence and quality of life. Adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities are at higher risk for nutrition-related secondary conditionsa secondary condition being something that’s preventable and doesn’t necessarily have anything directly to do with the disability but the disability puts these individuals at risk for the condition. For example, obesity rates are higher in this population, but obesity is not a comorbidity of disability. However, adults with disability are at higher risk due to many influences, which are complicated and interwoven. Contributing factors can include support staff or care providers for those who need assistance with food-related tasks. These care providers bring all of their food issues and biases with them when they assist with purchasing and preparing food. Also, social and media influence seems to be greater with this population. They may eat more junk food, and part of that is about education, but part of it’s about being influenced. The consequences are such that there’s a narrower margin of health for these folks. The ramifications can be dramatic for a person who has a disability who becomes obese. They may have to move into a higher support setting and lose their independence as adults. Imagine losing your independence when you’re 35 years old and when it is entirely preventable? I get very worked up over the injustice of this; I am very mission oriented about it.

Where were you before coming to OHSU?
Before coming to OHSU about a year ago, I was at the University of Montana in Missoula and ran an independent, grant-funded research lab there for 18 years investigating these issues. I was affiliated with the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) there and had a faculty appointment in the School of Public and Community Health Sciences.

What brought you to OHSU?
The UCEDD director position opened up here and it was both a fabulous opportunity for me and a place I felt I could make a difference. Most states only have one UCEDD, but Oregon has two. Here at OHSU, we’re focused on health, and the UCEDD in Eugene is focused on disability in education. We’re fortunate to be able to target these two areas in discrete ways.

What are you working on now?
As associate director for research and academic affairs, I work with other researchers and facilitate their research. Though it’s one step away from doing the research myself, it broadens research for me.  Over the last year, I’ve tried to lay administrative groundwork and institute policies to free our researchers up so they can get their work done most effectively. Our clinical program at IDD is so strongit’s been around for over 100 yearsand our research teams are both independent and collaborative. It’s been rewarding to support their work. An example of what IDD is involved in is assistive technology, particularly in the area of communication. Charity Rowland, Ph.D., has an international research agenda and is involved in Design to Learn, an organization built by a group of IDD researchers and educators that develops assessment tools and teaching strategies for children and adults with severe disabilities. She collaborates with Melanie Fried-Oken, Ph.D., who has multiple projects, including ones with people who have locked-in syndrome, a condition in which most of the body is paralyzed but cognitive function is intact, helping them communicate.

As far as my personal research goes, I’m in the process of getting it started again and am bringing the work I did in Montana here to OHSU. Currently, I’m working in the community with people with disabilities who are living independently, as most of this population in Oregon does, either with family or on their own with needed supports. I’m trying to understand their food systems, the complexity of them. Once this is mapped out, we introduce some interventions or supports to help them manage this food system. When I was at the University of Montana, I created a product, Choice Food Routines for Independent Living, designed to help people with disabilities and/or their caregivers organize their food systems to set them up for healthy nutrition and sustainable food practices. I’m hoping to adapt this tool for Oregon and include it in a larger plan for all people with disabilities who receive services from the state.

This work is done with participatory methods. We have a number of partner groups that can serve in leadership roles: Parents who want their children to be independent and healthy, self-advocates who are living independently successfully, the support workers. Our partners include the Oregon Home Care Commission that trains personal support people in the state, and the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities and the Oregon Self-Advocacy Coalition. Oregon’s Parent Training and Information Center, FACT, the organizing group for families of children with disabilities in Oregon, is also involved. The drivers on some of these projects have been M.P.H. students from OSU, and as our new School of Public Health builds up, we’ll have even more students getting involved. My faculty appointment is with the School of Public Health. The interim dean, Elena Andresen, Ph.D., is a disability researcher who came from IDD, so I’m excited about the possible expansion of our programs through that school and the opportunity to support the new SPH with our active researchers’ participation there.

Our next step is to connect with service providers, brokerages, and the state to bring these interventions to the community. We’re trying to do more outreach and with the OHSU community and state to connect disability to the rest of the campus and community. We’re working with OCTRI to ensure people with disabilities are included in clinical trials and community work. NIH has made this a priority, so the IDD hopes to take the lead role in ensuring the inclusion of disability among the vulnerable populations targeted.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
I like outdoor sports and do quite a bit of hiking and cycling. I’m also involved in the arts and just started back up with ballet, taking a class once a week. I’ve also noticed that people like to come to Portland so I’ve been hosting a lot and doing touristy things with out of town guests. It’s a great way to get to know the city! I have two active teenagers so they and their exciting lives soak up all the rest of my time when I am not in the CDRC building!




OHSU researchers receive NIH BRAIN initiative funding

Haining Zhong, Ph.D.

Haining Zhong, Ph.D.

Haining Zhong, Ph.D.,  and Tianyi Mao, Ph.D., assistant scientists with OHSU’s Vollum Institute, were awarded a grant as part of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative. The grant given to OHSU — an award totaling $1,156,556 over three years from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke within the NIH — will allow the investigators to further explore their research in neuromodulation, a key mode of chemical communication between neurons in the brain.

Tianyi Mao, Ph.D.

Tianyi Mao, Ph.D.

This research has great relevance to potential treatments for diseases associated with defects in neuromodulation including Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, addiction, and depression. Because neuromodulation originates from a small group of cells without redundant pathways that would allow surrounding areas to compensate, damage to these cells can have devastating consequences. Parkinson’s disease is perhaps the most dramatic example of this disease process, where the loss of neurons that produce dopamine, a key neuromodulator, influence the entire cortex leading to progressively debilitating symptoms.

Neuromodulation events, which regulate neuronal excitability and plasticity, have been extensively studied from the standpoint of individual neurons, but their actions and effects on systems are poorly understood because there is no effective way to record these events in living animals. The purpose of the research team’s  study,  “A novel approach to examine slow synaptic transmission in vivo,” is to create a method for visualizing the signaling events induced by neuromodulators in vivo, thereby gaining a mechanistic understanding of the neural circuitry.

To accomplish this, the team aims to combine and improve several lines of multi-disciplinary cutting-edge technology including novel mouse genetic strategy and advanced imaging.  First, they will create transgenic mice by inserting DNA that encodes a fluorescent sensor of neuromodulatory signaling targeting neuromodulators such as norepinephrine and dopamine. They will then use 2-photon fluorescent microscopy which the team predicts will enable more precise imaging than traditional methods. This will enable the team to see how cells receiving neuromodulator input behave in normal situations, what the dynamics are, and how their motor behaviors change. By establishing a baseline, researchers can then compare normal functioning with what transpires when diseases slow transmission, paving the way for potential treatments.

NIA applies new strategy to address funding scarcity

In the face of increasing and intense competition for research funding, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) is employing a new short-term strategy to improve investigators’ chances of obtaining long-term funding. In a Sept. 30 blog posting, NIA’s Director of the Division of Extramural Affairs, Robin Barr, Ph.D., announced, “We are aggressively using the NIH R56 activity code for the first time…This award program provides one or two years of support to allow investigators to collect more data, develop more publications, or conduct any activity that allows them to respond to comments made in the review. ”

The NIH R56 mechanism was created roughly 10 years ago as funding lines began their precipitous decline, with awards made in order of how applications performed in review. Now, NIA is using this mechanism to fund proposals most likely to be improved by a single year of funding. The intent is for these short-term awards to generate productive research advances as well as improved applications. Also, by receiving this funding, R56 awardees who return with successful applications will then have funds distributed over two or more budget years rather than competing with the general pool of applicants for funding in the same budget year.  Note: Investigators cannot apply for an R56 grant. Applications will be selected for conversion as described above.

Barr has been tasked with evaluating the effectiveness of this strategy and will be sharing what he learns in future posts. In the meantime, he wants to hear thoughts from the research community on whether this strategy is well-conceived and how to best evaluate its success. Lend your voice here.

2015 Tanabe Address: Juan Enriquez, Nov. 4

“We are the primary drivers of change. We will directly and indirectly determine what lives, what dies, where, and when. We are in a different phase of evolution; the future of life is now in our hands.”

Juan Enriquez “Evolving Ourselves”

Join futurist Juan Enriquez as he conducts a sweeping tour of how humans are changing the course of evolution—sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.

Juan Enriquez: Evolving Ourselves
Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015
7 p.m.
Newmark Theater
1111 SW Broadway in Portland

$25 – Public
$10 – Students w/ID
$20 – OHSU staff w/ID (limit one per staff member use promo code “OHSU”)
Get tickets here

For more information, call 503 248-4335

The Calvin and Mayho Tanabe Address was established in 2014 to offer differing perspectives on important topics. Each year a speaker is selected to bring diverse ideas to the community and encourage a free exchange of ideas.

OHSU researchers identify enhanced functional connectivity in the brain after methamphetamine exposure

Damien Zuloaga, Ph.D., a former post-doctoral fellow in the Raber lab, and colleagues at OHSU published results of a study examining the effects of methamphetamine (MA) on the sleep-wake cycle. The article, “Enhanced functional connectivity involving the ventromedial hypothalamus following methamphetamine exposure,” appearing in the 23 September, 2015, edition of Frontiers in Neuroscience, identified MA-induced alterations in coordinated activity in the brain, particularly connectivity involving the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH). The VMH is the portion of the brain involved in satiety, thermoregulation, and fear.

MA exposure is known to both disrupt and restore circadian rhythms. Previous studies showed that sleep patterns are drastically altered almost immediately following exposure and can persist over the long term when exposure occurs during developmental phases. Other studies illustrated that the sleep rhythms in mice or rats that are arrhythmic due to damage in the portion of the brain that controls circadian cycles, the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN), can be regenerated with MA treatment. These findings suggested there may be an MA-sensitive Circadian Oscillator (MASCO) somewhere in the brain that is separate from the SCN. But the location and exact mechanisms were completely unknown.

To test this hypothesis, Zuloaga, Raber, and the team assessed neuronal activation in various parts of the brain following MA exposure under both day and night conditions. They found that such activation was stronger in the light phase than in the dark phase and that–interestingly–functional connectivity between the VMH and other brain areas, including other parts of the hypothalamus as well as the amygdala, was enhanced following MA exposure. These results, along with past findings that show that the VMH is involved in synchronization of circadian rhythms of circulating levels of insulin, glucose, and triglycerides, suggest a role for the VMH in the MASCO. They also suggest new ways to address the effects of MA exposure on the brain. The alterations in coordinated brain activity following MA exposure may play an important role in the substance’s deleterious effects such as anxiety, confusion, and psychotic or violent behavior.

The findings of increased activation effects during the day compared with the night also provide new information about designing studies on MA, highlighting importance of time of day as an experimental condition.

Together, these findings are an important step in unraveling the precise action MA has on the brain. They also shed light on the nature of functional connectivity to better inform assessments of neural activity patterns. Functional connectivity is an important topic of research as part of the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) initiative, aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain and leading to new ways to treat and prevent brain disorders.

Read more about the research team their findings here.

Research team: Damian G. Zuloaga, Ph.D., Ovidu D. Iancu, Ph.D., Sydney Weber, Desiree Etzel, Tessa Marzulla, Blair Stewart, Charles N. Allen, Ph.D., Jacob Raber, Ph.D.



NIH seeks input on large-scale clinical trials on aging and the elderly   

The NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA) wants to hear from the research community regarding needs for large (over $2 million direct and/or over $3 million total costs per year) clinical trials on topics related to aging and the elderly. Suggestions will be used to help select high priority research areas that would greatly benefit from such trials to determine risks and benefits of treatments for conditions in the elderly.

The Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Geronotology (DGCG) within the NIA comprises three research areas: geriatrics, clinical gerontology, and clinical trials. The clinical trials branch is responsible for planning and administering clinical trials on age-related research with a focus on interventions including those to prevent disability, address problems associated with menopause, slow rates of age-related declines in function in early and midlife, and more. Suggestions to assist the DGCG in planning these clinical trials can include but are not limited to:

  • The topic area and current state of science indicating the need for a large scale clinical trial or trials to obtain definitive information about the benefits and risks of intervention or interventions in elderly in the topic area;
  • The prospective study population and a potential intervention or interventions and any preliminary information supporting the need for testing such an intervention or interventions in a large scale trial in the proposed population.  Drugs, devices, lifestyle modifications, and other interventions could be proposed;
  • Rationale for the selection of endpoints (clinical, functional, or surrogate). There is no need to propose specific outcome measures;
  • Estimation of sample size, duration and costs of trial(s); and
  • Any additional comments or suggestions that you think would be useful.

Please submit comments no later than May 9, 2016. See full announcement for further details and instructions.


Michael Lauer, M.D., selected as NIH’s new Deputy Director for Extramural Research

Michael Lauer, M.D.

Michael Lauer, M.D.

Last week, we reported on Sally Rockey’s departure from NIH and the last of her blog postings on Rock Talk. Today, NIH director Francis Collins announced that Michael S. Lauer, M.D., will replace Rockey as Deputy Director for Extramural Research. According to Collins, Lauer “brings both research expertise and administrative skills to the job, as well as keen insights into the world of extramural research.”

Lauer has served in leadership roles and exhibited a strong commitment to health research throughout his career. He is a board-certified cardiologist and an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation.  He is the current director of the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at NIH and has held this position since 2009. Prior to arriving at NIH in 2007, Lauer served as the director of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation Exercise Laboratory and was vice chair of the clinic’s institutional review board. He also served as co-director of the Coronary Intensive Care Unit and director of clinical research in the clinic’s department of cardiology. Lauer also participates on various committees within PCORI, is actively involved in human subjects protection, and served as a contributing editor for the Journal of American Medical Association for seven years.

Read the full announcement to find out more about Lauer’s research interests, honors, and positions he’s held.

NIH to host webinars on grant application submission and review, Nov. 5 & 6

The NIH Center for Scientific Review (CSR) is hosting two webinars for new NIH applicants, mentors, and grant administrators. This opportunity is designed to give participants insights into the application submission and peer review processes.

The Nov. 5 webinar will focus on university research administrators. The webinar on Nov. 6 will focus on research project grants (R01s). Both sessions will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. PST, which includes a 30 minute Q&A period.

The CSR experts will present on the following topics”

  • The Review of Your NIH Grant Application Begins Here
  • What You Need to Know about Application Receipt and Referral
  • How Your Application Is Reviewed
  • Key Things to Know About the NIH Grants Program
  • Jumpstart Your Career with CSR’s Early Career Reviewer Program (R01 webinar only)

Register by Oct. 29. You may submit questions for the Q&A session before or during the webinar by sending them to the moderator at

Research Policy Board proposed to ease regulatory burden on research universities

More research administration news: If there’s one thing that political opponents in Washington DC can agree on, at least in theory, is that research is over-regulated. Study after study after study has shown that research faculty spend about 40% of their time performing administrative duties, many of which are related to research regulations (think effort reporting) that are perceived to get in the way of actual discovery–the thing that scientists are funded to actually spend their time on. (As an aside, the number of burden studies has also increased, and Sally Rockey once quipped to your friendly Research News editors that someone needed to do a burden study of all the burden studies.) So what’s the answer? You’ll be unsurprised to learn that a Congressionally appointed committee is recommending forming a Research Policy Board to help ease the regulatory strain on federally funded institutions. While adding another layer of regulation may seem onerous, the goal for the Board would be to streamline and harmonize existing regulations to reduce complexity. Let’s call it an experiment.

Welcome to the Research News Blog

Welcome to the Research News Blog

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