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Kathy Wilets

Email: kathy.wilets@hsc.utah.edu
Phone: 801-581-5717

Mar 18, 2014 9:29 AM

A Utah neuroscientist who specializes in dopamine has received a 2014 Sloan Research Fellowship. Adam Douglass, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy, is among the 126 American and Canadian researchers who will receive $50,000 to further their research. 

The prestigious awards identify scientists and scholars early in their careers with the potential to become future leaders in their field. Dozens have gone on to win a Nobel Prize and other awards.

“These researchers are pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge in unprecedented ways,” said  Dr. Paul L. Joskow, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Douglass studies how dopamine influences behavior using a genetically-encoded, fluorescent voltage indicator on larval zebrafish. The simple fish are in their first week of life. Their transparency works well with optical research techniques.

“One of the areas where we’re really lacking in describing what dopamine does to the entire brain,” he said. “The technique we’re developing will let us do that while maintaining cellular resolution. That allows us to investigate the contribution of individual neurons.”

Dopamine is critical to certain behaviors. The disruption of dopaminergic neurotransmission is intricately connected to diseases such as Parkinson’s and schizophrenia. 

The voltage indicator allows the lab to record neuron activity without using electrodes.  Researchers have built a microscope that can image this indicator in thousands of neurons in one experiment. The Sloan dollars will assist the lab in paying for staff.

For more information about the award, go to:  www.sloan.org/sloan-research-fellowships/2014-sloan-research-fellows.