USD gets $8 million grant for neuroscience research

USD gets $8 million grant for neuroscience research (AP) � The University of South Dakota is getting an $8 million federal grant to expand its research into changes in the brain.

The National Institutes of Health will award the funding over a five-year period. It will be used by researchers in the USD School of Medicine and the Department of Biology.

Research will focus on the effects environmental changes have on the brain, said Joyce Keifer, grant director.

"This is a very large grant," Keifer said. "It will allows us to establish a center at the University. We will be able to bring in the neuroscience faculty and put them under the same umbrella."

USD competed for one of about 15 grants that were awarded.

The grant was available to states that typically do not receive a large percentage of federal funding for research, said Dr. Ronald Lindahl, USD School of Medicine Dean of Basic Biomedical Sciences.

"I would have to say it is probably the biggest single grant in the area of scientific research to the university … or close to it," he said. "For sure it is the biggest the School of Medicine has received."

Eight investigators will lead five interrelated projects. Each group of researchers will explore five areas related to the nervous system and how it adapts behavior to changes in the environment.

As part of the grant, four new faculty members will be added, as well as new research equipment and support staff. Some of the money also will be spent on symposiums and events that otherwise could not be held, Keifer said.

"It allows the University School of Medicine and the Department of Biology to build a critical mass � faculty-wise and support staff-wise," Lindahl said.

A research center devoted to neuroscience will be a drawing card for prospective graduate students and post-doctorate fellows, Keifer said.

"The area of neuroscience is really one of the largest areas of research in the world," Keifer said.

Investigators and research projects that received the NIH grant are:

* Keifer, USD School of Medicine associate professor, who is studying structural reorganization of brain pathways during learning and memory;

* Brian Christie and Tim Clark, USD School of Medicine assistant professors, who are examining how the birth of new neurons during exercise contributes to improved learning;

* Evelyn Schlenker, USD School of Medicine professor, who is interested in how the brain adapts breathing patterns to conditions of reduced oxygen or high altitude (Sharon Coles, assistant professor, was also interested in this subject and was to be involved in the research, however, she died Sept. 23 after an accident at her home);

* Robert Morecraft, USD School of Medicine associate professor, who will study structural changes that occur in the brain that are responsible for motor disorders such as facial dyskinesias;

* Cliff Summers, professor of biology, and Ken Renner, associate professor of biology, who will examine how reproductive behavior is suppressed during conditions of stress.

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