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Duke Scientist Receives Award for Innovation in Neuroscience

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

The Society for Neuroscience awarded a Research Award for Innovation in Neuroscience to Ryohei Yasuda, PhD, an assistant professor in Duke University Medical Center’s Department of Neurobiology, during the society’s annual meeting.

The award honors Yasuda for innovative, imaginative research with the potential to generate new ideas and breakthroughs in neuroscience. Supported by the Astellas USA Foundation, the award includes $25,000 for Duke’s neurobiology department.

Yasuda, who started his laboratory at Duke in 2005, has been a pioneer in researching synaptic plasticity, which is the ability of the connection, or synapse, between two brain cells to change in strength.

The modification of synaptic connections between neurons is considered critical to both normal (e.g., forming memories) and abnormal (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease) brain functions.

“I am thrilled about receiving the award,” Yasuda said. “I would like to continue developing new optical techniques that allow us to monitor biochemical processes within individual synapses in a living cell, and hope to reveal the molecular mechanisms through which synaptic connections are regulated in healthy and abnormal synapses.”

“Dr. Yasuda has developed and used two-photon fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy, which allows measurement of protein-protein interactions in a living cell at single synapses in complex brain tissue,” said James McNamara, MD, chairman of the Duke Department of Neurobiology.

“Technical advances like this will enable scientists to unravel how synapses – and the brain -- function in health and disease.”

As a postdoctoral fellow, Yasuda sought to understand the ways in which synapses are activated. The fluorescence microscope he developed lets researchers measure the activity in individual synapses in real time.

Yasuda was named a 2009 HHMI Early Career Scientist by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and has won the New Investigator Award from the Alzheimer's Foundation of America.

Yang Dan, PhD, a professor of neurobiology at the University of California, Berkeley, and Tim Holy, PhD, an assistant professor of neurobiology at Washington University School of Medicine, also won research awards this year.

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