New York University College of Dentistry’s (NYUCD) Dr. Donna Albertson, a tenured professor of oral and maxillofacial Surgery and a member of the Bluestone Center for Clinical Research (BCCR) faculty and the NYU Oral Cancer Center (NYU OCC) faculty, has been awarded the American Academy for the Advancement of Science’ 2013 Newcomb Cleveland Prize for her co-authorship of an article, “The Connectome of a Decision-Making Neural Network,” which appeared in the journal Science 27 July 2012.
Albertson and her colleagues’ research featured a comprehensive map of neural connections in the posterior nervous system of an adult male nematode (Caenorhabditis elegans). This wiring diagram, known as a connectome, reveals the circuits in the animal's tail that influence nematode mating behavior.
The researchers used a series of 5,000 electron micrographs to reconstruct every neuron and synapse, including chemical synapses and gap junctions, in the tail ganglia of a male roundworm. The resulting network highlights various classes of neurons, such as sensory neurons with specialized external structures; motor neurons that communicate exclusively with muscles or gonads; and interneurons that form connections with other neurons. This connectome helps to explain how sensory neurons interpret signals from the environment and translate them into mating behavior, including locomotion, posture and insemination.
The Newcomb Cleveland Prize annually recognizes the author or authors of an outstanding paper published in the Research Articles or Reports sections of the journal Science between June and the following May. The 2013 Newcomb Cleveland Prize was presented at the 180th AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois, in February 2014.
The paper, "The Connectome of a Decision-Making Neural Network," by T.A. Jarrell; Y. Wang; A.E. Bloniarz; M. Xu; D.H. Hall; S.W. Emmons at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York; J.N. Thomson; D.G. Albertson at Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, United Kingdom; A.E. Bloniarz at University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, California; D.G. Albertson at University of California, San Francisco in San Francisco, California; C.A. Brittin at the University of Leeds, School of Computing in Leeds, United Kingdom can be found online.
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