Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program
The George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience, funded by a generous gift from Tom '75 and Cathy Ryan, will capitalize on the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program, where faculty are actively involved in a wide range of neuroscience research. Research at the Ryan Institute will focus on discovering therapies and preventative approaches to combat neurodegenerative diseases.
Unravel the mysteries of the brain and nervous system in our graduate-level Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program.
Offering a Master of Science (M.S.), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree or a Certificate in the Neurosciences, the program allows you to integrate neuroscience expertise into your current professional development, or to specialize in one of several areas of focus. You'll graduate with depth and breadth of training in the neurosciences, as well as practical, hands-on laboratory skills and significant research experience.
As an interdisciplinary neuroscience student, you'll receive broad instruction across several neuroscience disciplines from the biological sciences and chemistry, to engineering and pharmacy, to psychology, physical therapy, communicative disorders and more. You'll take coursework in experimental design, neuroscience laboratory techniques, and areas of special interest to you. You'll participate in a colloquium and journal clubs that provide training in the critical evaluation and presentation of the latest developments in neuroscience. And your work will culminate in a substantial research thesis or dissertation.
Neuroscience is one of the most exciting and intensive areas of investigation around the world. Though they represent a diversity range of disciplines, neuroscientists collectively are interested in studying how the nervous system is organized and how it functions. At URI, our Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program is developing researchers/ entrepreneurs who will add to existing knowledge about the physiological basis of behavior and develop solutions for the most debilitating brain disorders, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, epilepsy, schizophrenia and more.
Meet some of our faculty
Nasser Zawia - Pharmacology
Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology and Dean of the Graduate School
Nasser Zawia has made major discoveries about Alzheimer's disease that have garnered international attention. His latest research on an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat migraines in Europe has led to it being scheduled for human clinical trials as a treatment for Alzheimer's. In 2005, Zawia announced in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health that Alzheimer's disease has its foundations in infancy when babies are exposed to low levels of lead. Nine years of follow-up studies and $2 million in grant funding later, he has proven conclusively that infant exposure to lead results in late-age cognitive decline and pathology linked to Alzheimer's disease. According to Zawia, one of the keys to stopping Alzheimer's disease is early detection. "If we can diagnose the illness earlier," he said, "then we might be able to minimize the disease's effects."
Lisa Weyandt - Psychology
Professor of Psychology
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic neuro-developmental disorder characterized by impulsivity, restlessness, and an inability to focus. It's a disorder that Lisa Weyandt says causes academic and social challenges not just for young children, but also for college students. A leading researcher on the effects of ADHD on young adults, Weyandt is involved in an NIH-funded study of college students with ADHD. Unfortunately, many students who have not been diagnosed with ADHD take medications prescribed for the disorder because they think it will improve their academic performance. But, Weyandt warns, "There are known health risks associated with taking these medications--it decreases appetite and causes difficulty sleeping--and they're doing it without scientific evidence that it is truly enhancing their cognitive abilities and academic performance." Weyandt and her students were the first to identify specific psychological variables associated with those that misuse prescription stimulants.
Walter Besio - Biomedical Engineering
Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Thanks to his patented invention, Walt Besio can readminds. His bull's-eye electrode is so sensitive that it can translate a person's thoughts into electrical impulses that can be read by a computer. This will enable people who are paralyzed to use their thoughts to control their phone, television, or other devices in their environment. Besio's electrode can detect brain signals not discernible with currently used EEG equipment, which has promising implications for improving the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy. Besio's invention can pinpoint where on the brain a seizure originates, helping to diagnose disease. It can also be used to administer an electrical stimulus to a precise location in the brain to control seizures. Besio, who became a biomedical engineer to help his brother regain mobility after becoming paralyzed in a car accident, says "My goal is to help alleviate pain, disability, disease, and suffering in society."
Leslie Mahler - Communicative Disorders
Associate Professor of Communicative Disorders
Every week, about 20 people living with Parkinson's disease spend an hour with Leslie Mahler and her graduate students in a clinical support group aimed at helping the patients overcome the speech disorders that typically result from the disease. Dubbed the Loud Crowd, they work on strategiesto correct their slurred or monotone speech, breathy or hoarse voice, and reduced vocal volume, all of which result from underlying neural mechanisms. Mahler, who spent 23 years working as a speech pathologist in a hospital before coming to URI, leads several programs like this one, addressing communication issues that arise from neurological disorders. "I study treatments that help people speak more clearly," said Mahler. "Our behavioral treatments incorporate principles of motor learning to drive changes in neuroplasticity and change not only speech behaviors but how the brain controls those behaviors."