University of Pittsburgh

Department of Neuroscience


Bita Moghaddam has been elected to Council of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP), a leading professional society dedicated to advancing the scientific understanding of and facilitating communication about disorders of the brain and behavior in order to advance their prevention and treatment. Her 3-year term will begin at the end of the ACNP annual meeting in December.


Dr. Anthony Grace has received the 2016 Gold Medal Award from the Society of Biological Psychiatry. This award, given out annually at the Society’s annual meeting, is awarded “for an internationally distinguished career of outstanding research and advancing knowledge in the field of psychiatric neuroscience”.


Professor and Neuroscience Chair, Alan F. Sved, has won the Tina and David Bellet Teaching Excellence Award in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences for 2016

The annual Bellet Award was established in 1998 to recognize outstanding and innovative teachers of undergraduate students in Arts and Sciences. Nominated by Neuroscience majors, Corina Andriescu, Meredith Monsour and Swati Rajprohat, and supported by letters from colleagues, Dr. Sved’s award acknowledges his outstanding influence on undergraduate students and their intellectual development both within and outside the classroom. His generous and unfailing advice and mentoring are also recognized with this award. Dr. Sved shares the 2016 Bellet Award with Dr. Lorraine Denman in the Department of French and Italian Languages and Literatures and with Dr. Andrew Lotz in the Department of Political Science.

Watch here


Hot Metal Bridge Post-Baccalaureate Program:

Application deadline is April 15, 2016.

Please visit the School of Arts and Sciences' Diversity Initiatives HMB program page for more information.


Pitt News Release: October 13, 2015

Pitt's Yan Dong Earns Award for His Investigation of Addiction

Will receive the Waletzky Award at Neuroscience 2015

His research into how drugs such as cocaine can hijack the brain’s circuitry, leading to addiction, has earned University of Pittsburgh neuroscientist Yan Dong the Society for Neuroscience’s Jacob P. Waletzky Award.

“I am deeply honored receiving this prestigious award,” Dong says. “I greatly appreciate the Waletzky family for their vision in promoting basic research in drug addiction.”

Dong, associate professor of neuroscience in Pitt’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, will receive the $25,000 award at Neuroscience 2015, the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting, which will be held in Chicago Oct. 17-21. The award was established in 2003 and is given annually to a scientist who has conducted research or plans to conduct research in the area of substance abuse and the brain and nervous system.

“Society for Neuroscience is pleased to recognize Dr. Yan Dong and his extraordinary contribution to the field of addiction research,” Society for Neuroscience President Steven Hyman said. “His research has expanded our understanding of brain mechanisms that underlie motivation and how drugs of abuse can impact these mechanisms.” Read More ......


Pitt News Release: June 29, 2015

Why Does the Teen Brain Value Reward Over Risk?

Maybe it's not the dopamine rush

Why does the promise of a reward - basically any kind of fun - cause teens to hurl caution into the wind?

Contemporary scientific theory suggests that teenagers are risk takers because they crave the feel-good rush of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers. That theory, however, has been based on a long line of studies on the adult brain.

The University of Pittsburgh's Dr. Bita Moghaddam and her research group have taken a look at the teen brain - the teen rat's brain, specifically - and found that scientists' presumptions may be off base.

"The adolescent brain doesn't work the way we think it does," she says. "we have a set of predictions about it that keep proving to be wrong, that they seek pleasure because dopamine is more active. This study shows that may not be the case." Read More ......


Marlene Cohen receives 2015 McKnight Scholar Award


Congratulations to Marlene Cohen, a recipient of the 2015 McKnight Scholar Award. The Award is granted to young scientists in the early stages of establishing their own independent laboratories and research careers and who have demonstrated a commitment to neuroscience. The Endowment Fund seeks to support innovative research designed to bring science closer to the day when diseases of the brain can be accurately diagnosed, prevented, and treated. The McKnight Scholars will each receive $75,000 per year for three years.


Congratulations to Dr. Anthony A. Grace!


The William K. Warren Research Award is given every 2 years to a senior investigator, who has made outstanding contributions to our understanding of schizophrenia.

At the 2015 meeting of the International Congress of Schizophrenia Research,

Dr. Anthony A. Grace was named the recipient of the award for 2015.


Marlene Cohen receives 2015 University of Pittsburgh Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award


Patrick Gallagher, University of Pittsburgh Chancellor awarded a dozen Pitt faculty members with 2015 chancellor’s awards for research, teaching and service. In the junior scholar category, Marlene Cohen, assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience in the Dietrich school was awarded $2,000 cash prize and a $3,000 grant in support of her research. Chancellor Gallagher recognized Marlene's research as “scientifically rigorous, highly creative and novel” work that is making a substantial impact on the field of sensory processing and perception. “Not only have you been extremely successful in obtaining funding for your research, but you have also amply demonstrated that you are an independent, creative and talented scientist who is emerging as one of the true leaders in your field,” he wrote. Read More...


Congratulations to Dr. Yan Dong!

Dr. Dong's research is featured in the Winter 2015 issue of the PITT magazine. According to the article, Dong and his research team "sought to explain the brain mechanisms of cocaine craving. The findings suggest that it may be possible to clinically manipulate certain brain neurocircuits to weaken post-withdrawal cocaine relapse."

Hot Metal Bridge Post-Baccalaureate Program adds Neuroscience as an option. Application deadline is April 30, 2014.

Please visit the School of Arts and Sciences' Diversity Initiatives HMB program page for more information.


Congratulations to Dr. Anthony Grace!

Dr. Anthony A. Grace, has been named the 2013 winner of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) Julius Axelrod Mentorship Award. This award is presented for outstanding contributions to Neuropsychopharmacology by mentoring young scientists. Dr. Grace was presented with the award during the President's Plenary session at the Annual Meeting in Hollywood Florida. Congratulations Tony!


Congratulations to Dr. Bill Yates!

We are delighted to announce that Dr. Bill Yates, Professor of Otolaryngology and Neuroscience has been appointed as Editor of Journal of Neurophysiology, effective July 2014.



Matt Schaff Receives Goldwater Scholarship!

As reported in the Pitt Chronicle, April 2, 2012, Matthew A. B. Schaff, a junior majoring in neuroscience and economics, is one of three University of Pittsburgh Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences' students to be named a 2012 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship winner for his exceptional independent research in the natural sciences. The students were nominated for the scholarships through the auspices of Pitt’s University Honors College.

Patricia White writes, "Schaff, a Pitt Honors Scholar from Strafford, Pa., is an undergraduate researcher in Pitt’s Neuropsychopharmacology of Nicotine Addiction Laboratory. He studies the reinforcement-enhancing effects of nicotine on rats through operant conditioning techniques under the direction of Alan Sved, a professor and chair in Pitt’s Department of Neuroscience, and Eric Donny, a professor in Pitt’s Department of Psychology.

Schaff also spent two summers conducting research at the University of Pennsylvania’s Neuropsychiatry Laboratory.

An intern/contractor at The Foundation for Biomedical Research in Washington, D.C., Schaff inaugurated the “Research Outreach Initiative,” which encourages scientists to perform K-12 outreach. He is a service volunteer in the Pitt Department of Biological Sciences and Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s Mobile Science Lab Program. Schaff’s honors include the Center for Neuroscience Summer Undergraduate Fellowship and the University Honors College Fall Research Fellowship. He serves as president of the Pitt Neuroscience Club.

Schaff plans to earn a PhD in neuroscience and to conduct research on the causes of drug abuse, directing the focus of his future research toward understanding the way the brain processes and responds to rewarding stimuli, particularly commonly abused stimulants such as nicotine and cocaine. He hopes to teach at the university level".


Pittsburgh Regional Science and Engineering Fair, March 30-31, 2012

Department of Neuroscience sponsored awardees for the 73rd Pittsburgh Regional Science and Engineering Fair which took place at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA are David Shipe and Julia Reese.

Julia Reese, a junior from Freeport Senior High School in Freeport, PA, presented a project entitled, "Zebrafish Embryo Use to Test Rx Drugs" in which she conducted experiments to determine if zebrafish embryos can successfully identify drugs with potential human cardiotoxicity. The results indicated that zebrafish embryos were able to identify the human cardiovascular effects of the majority of the drugs, showing that they can possibly be used tas models for human drug research.

David Shipe, a sophomore from Freeport Senior High School, presented a project entitled "Excessive Breeding Affect Cognitive Ability of Mice?" in which he conducted experiments to determine and compare the cognitive ability of inbred, outbred and pet store mice.




Pitt News Release: January 18, 2012

Teenagers' Brains Make Them More Susceptible to Addiction, Depression Than Adults

As published by Drs. Bita Moghaddam and David Sturman in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science research "compared the brain activity of adolescents and adults in rats involved in a task in which they anticipated a reward". The study found "that not only is reward expectancy processed differently in an adolescent brain, but also it can affect brain regions directly responsible for decision-making and action selection". 


Dr. Edward Stricker, Dean of the University Honors College and Professor of Neuroscience, to deliver Honors College address - January 11, 2012

As reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today Dr. Edward Stricker describes family influences on his life, his passion for education, his academic and research years and his plans to address the University community of the state of the Honors College.

Neuroscience in the News

Why Obama's Brain Mapping Project Matters

MIT Technology Review - April 8

Obama calls for $100 million to develop new technologies to understand the brain.

Do Brain Games Work?

Popular Science - April 8
A few new studies, including one meta-analysis, suggest brain games don't make you any better at anything but playing brain games.

Exercising body and brain boosts memory and thinking in older people, study shows

The Washington Post - April 8

Exercising body and brain may improve memory and thinking in older people.

Brain Scans May Reveal Early Signs of Schizophrenia

Psych Central - April 6

As much as a decade before most schizophrenia patients begin showing symptoms, brain scans may be able to detect signs of the disease.

Brain Shape Confirms Controversial Fossil as Oldest Human Ancestor

Scientific American - April 4

A seven-million-year-old skull found in the Djurab Desert in Chad may indeed represent the earliest known member of the human family.

Upcoming Seminars and Events

For a complete list of seminars please visit the CNUP Website.

Department of Neuroscience Seminar:

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

4:00 p.m.

Lin Mei , PhD


Department of Neurosience and Regenerative Medicine

Medical College of Georgia

Augusta University

Seminar Title: Neuregulin 1/ErbB4 signaling in neural development and plasticity and its implication in schizophrenia

Location: 1695 Biomedical Science Tower

Sponsor: Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Neuroscience

Department of Neuroscience Seminar:

Ph.D. Dissertation Defense:

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

11:00 a.m.

D. Wonjae Chung

Center for Neuroscience

University of Pittsburgh

Seminar Title: Role of ErbB4 splicing in Parvalbumin

Location: A219B Langley Hall

Sponsor: Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Neuroscience


Department of Neuroscience Seminar:

Thursday, April 21, 2016

4:00 p.m.

Stephen Traynelis , PhD


Department of Pharmacology

Emory University

Seminar Title: NMDA receptor mutations in early onset epileptic encephalopathy illuminate channel gating mechanisms

Location: 169 Crawford Hall

Sponsor: Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Neuroscience

Department of Neuroscience Seminar:

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

10:00 a.m.

C. I. (Chris) de Zeeuw, MD, PhD


Erasmus Medical Center

Erasmus University Rotterdam

Seminar Title: Yin and Yang in cerebellar in motor learning: to excite or to suppress, that is the question

Location: A219B Langley Hall

Sponsor: Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Neuroscience

Department of Neuroscience Seminar:

Ph.D. Dissertation Defense:

Tuesday, March 22 , 2016

9:00 a.m. .

Nathan Hall

Center for Neuroscience

University of Pittsburgh

Seminar Title: Short wavelength cone activity to and through the superior colliculus

Location: A219B Langley Hall

Sponsor: Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Neuroscience