New VKC podcast season highlights student/trainee research from VKC Member labs

The Promise of Discovery on yellow gold background

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s (VKC) podcast, The Promise of Discovery, has returned with its fourth season of episodes to highlight disabilities research conducted by students and trainees working in the labs of VKC Members. The goal of the podcast is to make research more accessible to a community audience and to highlight why the research matters in the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families.

While Seasons 1-3 highlighted faculty research, Season 4 aims to give students and trainees a platform for sharing their work.

“We’re excited to share research conducted by students and trainees, who are working under the supervision of our members, on the VKC podcast,” said Jeffrey Neul, M.D., Ph.D., Annette Schaffer Eskind Chair and director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. “Not only does their participation educate the public on important research areas in disabilities, but it also gives students a chance to gain skills in communicating and speaking plainly about their work. It allows them to gain even more skills that will assist them in advancing academically and professionally.”

In Season 4, listeners will hear from trainees conducting research through the labs of Paul Newhouse, M.D. (Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences), Fiona Harrison, Ph.D. (Medicine), Blythe Corbett, Ph.D. (Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences), Colleen Niswender, Ph.D. (Pharmacology), and more.

The first episode, “Investigating markers of Alzheimer’s in individuals with Down syndrome,” features the work of Jason Russell, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow in Psychiatry. His work explores a neurotransmitter system called the cholinergic system that is vitally important for cognition and known to decline early in Alzheimer’s disease in the neurotypical population. Understanding the progression of these different markers associated with Alzheimer’s disease will provide essential data for future therapeutic trials in adults with Down syndrome.

In the second episode, Adriana Tienda, lab manager in the Fiona Harrison Lab, discusses her work on how chronic developmental manganese exposure alters responses to amphetamine and methylphenidate. Manganese is essential for brain development and human health. However, excess manganese can be toxic. The episode highlights how manganese exposures can alter the response to some drugs currently used to treat intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Episode 3 focuses on the associations between executive functioning (EF) impairments and anxiety symptoms among youth with autism. This is research led by Christina Burroughs, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow working with Blythe Corbett. Many people with autism experience EF impairments, and its widely acknowledged that these challenges play a significant role in autism. Anxiety symptoms are highly prevalent and impairing challenges for autistic youth, and emerging evidence suggests EF impairments exacerbate anxiety. This study examines how everyday EF impairments are related to specific anxiety symptoms in autistic youth.

In the latest episode, Xia Lei, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Colleen Niswender, discusses her research examining mGlu7, a transmembrane receptor involved in several neurodevelopmental disorders, such as Rett syndrome, ADHD, schizophrenia, and Neurofibromatosis Type 1. Her project looked at the mechanism of mGlu7 activation by allosteric modulators in an effort to develop new treatments and help guide drug discovery efforts.

Upcoming episodes will focus on the support needs of siblings (May), peer victimization and/or gender diverse youth (June), and social exclusion in schizophrenia spectrum disorder (July).

Subscribe to The Promise of Discovery on your favorite platform: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Soundcloud. Once subscribed, each episode will download automatically to your device.

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