Call for BIRC Seed Grants

BIRC provides seed grants to facilitate the future development of external grant applications. Seed grants are provided in the form of a limited number of allocated hours on MRI, EEG and/or TMS equipment at BIRC. These hours are intended to enable investigators to demonstrate feasibility, develop scientific and technical expertise, establish collaborations, and, secondarily, publish in peer-reviewed journals. Seed grants are intended for investigators with experience in the proposed methods, as well as those with little or no experience who have developed a collaborative plan to acquire such experience. New investigators are encouraged to consult with BIRC leadership early in the development of their project.

The Fall 2019 call for BIRC seed grants is now open. Please submit applications by November 8, 2018.
Please note that the application has changed from previous cycles and that seed grants may now be used to request support for high density EEG and/or TMS at BIRC, either separately or in conjunction with MRI time. We expect to begin charging for the use of EEG and MRI systems in the near future.

More information and the application form are available at

Tour the Brain: BIRC at the International Dyslexia Association 2018 Annual Conference


The BIRC is thrilled to announce its first community outreach event. UConn BIRC is partnering with the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) and Neuroscape to host a virtual reality tour of the brain. Join us in making neuroscience fun and accessible to the public!

The VR tours will take place at the IDA Massachusetts and Connecticut booth located in the exhibit hall at Foxwoods Resort and Casino  October 24th through 26th.

For additional information, including registration, please visit IDA’s website.


Talk: Linking Late-Life Depression, Cognitive Impairment, and Dementia

David C. Steffens, M.D., M.H.S.

UCONN Health, Department of Psychiatry

Wednesday, November 7 2018 1:30-2:30PM Arjona 307

Abstract: Depression in late life has been associated with cognitive decline and new onset of dementia. Recent studies have linked the presence of neuroticism with cognitive decline among older depressed adults. Structural Imaging studies in geriatric depression have found that hippocampal volume and burden of white matter hyperintensities are associated with cognitive outcomes. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has recently been used to study late-life depression. Preliminary findings of fMRI in older adults have examined the relationships of neuroticism and depression, identifying the medial prefrontal cortex as a key area in emotion regulation and susceptibility to depression.

Speaker Bio: Dr. Steffens has been funded by the NIH for over twenty-five years. His research focuses on links between late-life depression and subsequent cognitive decline and development of dementia. Assessments include structural and functional brain imaging, neuropsychological testing, blood work for peripheral markers and genetics, personality assessment, functional status, and measures of stress and social support.

Visitors from UCHC are encouraged to use the UCHC-Storrs shuttle service. Talks can also be joined remotely. Please contact us if you are interested in meeting with the speaker.

Tips You Won’t Get at Grant Writing Courses, 10/3 1:30-2:30pm

The second BIRC Speaker Series talk of the term will be this Wednesday 10/3 1:30-2:30 in Arjona 307. Please join us for this talk and the complete series!

Tips You Won’t Get at Grant Writing Courses: Presentation and discussions on NIH, NSF, foundation grants and philanthropy
with speakers Emily Myers PhD, James Magnuson PhD, Fumiko Hoeft MD PhD, and Rachel Marshall and Louis Bach from UConn Foundation.

Vistors from UCHC are encourage to use the UCHC-Storrs shuttle service. Talks can also be joined remotely.

Talk: Functional MRI Studies of Memory and Navigation

Chantal Stern, D.Phil

Boston University, Psychological and Brain Sciences

Wednesday, September 19 2018 3:30-4:30PM in BOUS A106


Stern is an expert in human brain imaging and was a member of the research team that pioneered the development of functional magnetic resonance imaging, including early work focusing on the human hippocampus. Her lab’s primary goal is to study how the normal brain encodes, stores, and subsequently recognizes visual, spatial, and verbal information. In addition to studies of normal memory processes, including long-term and short-term memory processes, Stern and her team are studying basic science questions that include understanding spatial navigation, rule-learning, and interactions between memory and attention. Her translational work focuses on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Thanks to a $1.6 million National Science Foundation instrumentation grant that Stern secured in 2016, her center showcases a Siemens 3 Tesla Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanner—a fundamental tool for studying the human brain. (Biography courtesy of

Vistors from UCHC are encourage to use the UCHC-Storrs shuttle service. Talks can also be joined remotely. Please contact us if you are interested in meeting with the speaker.

Talk: Neuroimaging Markers of Cognitive Reserve and Brain Aging

Lihong Wang PhD
UCONN Health, Dept of Psychiatry
Wednesday September 5, 2018 1:30-2:30pm in Arjona 307


Our brain can reorganize its function and neural resources to counteract neural damages. The ability of reorganization of brain function depends on cognitive reserve capacity. To examine dynamic changes of cognitive reserve over time, we developed a new measure for evaluating neural compensatory capacity, a core factor of cognitive reserve, using independent component analysis and a cognitively very challenging task in older adults. Interestingly, we find higher neural compensatory capacity to be related to working memory function. In another study, we show a one-month physical exercise training to improve working memory as well as neural compensatory capacity through activating addition neural networks, i.e., the cerebellar and motor cortex. We believe the new measure on neural compensatory capacity can be applied to broad lines of research on neuroplasticity. Other imaging markers related to brain aging and cognitive decline will also be discussed.


Dr. Wang obtained her Ph.D. degree in neurology from Japan and has six years of experience as a neurologist in China. She has performed neuroimaging-related research in depression at Duke University for over 12 years, primarily focused on geriatric depression and cognitive neuroscience. Her recent research centers on neural signatures of depression vulnerability and neural plasticity in patients with late-life depression and mild cognitive decline.

Vistors from UCHC are encourage to use the UCHC-Storrs shuttle service. Talks can also be joined remotely. Please contact us if you are interested in meeting with the speaker.

Download and post a flyer in your area.

Introducing the new Scientific Director (August 2018)

The BIRC is delighted to welcome our new Scientific Director: Dr. Fumiko Hoeft, M.D./ Ph.D. She is a cognitive neuroscientist, with theoretical interests in the neurobiological mechanisms underlying individual differences in brain maturational processes and the acquisition of skills such as reading (and dyslexia). She will be leading the BIRC, and joining the Department of Psychological Sciences. She brings an impressive track record of externally-funded research and development, and a dynamic vision for the future of BIRC.  Welcome, Dr. Hoeft!

Talk: Stephen Wilson 4/4 3:30

Stephen Wilson, PhD

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Imaging the language network: functional neuroanatomy, acquired aphasia, and recovery

What is the functional architecture of the language network? How is it impacted by damage to its various nodes and connections? And when it is damaged, how can it reorganize to support recovery of language function? To address these questions, we have carried out a series of multimodal neuroimaging studies in individuals with acquired language deficits of diverse etiologies–stroke, neurodegenerative disease, and resective surgery–as well as neurologically normal volunteers. Our findings, along with those of others, reveal a complex, variegated language network in which numerous distinct regions and tracts in the temporal, frontal and parietal lobes play distinct functional roles. Yet the network is strikingly resilient to most patterns of damage, indicating that in many cases, functional specialization is graded rather than absolute. Our findings suggest that recovery from aphasia depends primarily on reconfiguration of spared language regions, rather than macroscopic reorganization of the whole system.

Talk: Evelina Fedorenko 3/28 3:30pm

Evelina Fedorenko, PhD
Assistant Professor
Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital

Wednesday March 28, 2018
3:30-5:00pm, BOUS A106

The cognitive and neural architecture of the human language system

Brain regions that support high-level language processing are strikingly selective. This selectivity rules out a few prominent hypotheses — e.g., that left frontal lobe structures support language via domain-general executive processes, or that language relies on an abstract syntactic processing mechanism shared by other domains — but leaves open the nature of the exact computations that the language system supports. I will discuss three lines of work that, in tandem, suggest that the language network is fundamentally concerned with meaning, including both the processing of individual word meanings and semantic composition.
First, both lexical and combinatorial processing elicit robust responses throughout the fronto-temporal language network (e.g., Fedorenko et al., 2010; Blank et al., 2016). Further, some language regions show stronger responses to lexico-semantic processing and represent lexico-semantic information more robustly than structural information (Fedorenko et al., 2012), but no regions show the opposite pattern. In recent work (Mollica et al., in prep.), we further found that stimuli that are not well-formed but interpretable elicit as strong a response as intact sentences, in line with current sentence comprehension models whereby our interpretation mechanisms are robust to signal corruption (e.g., Levy et al., 2009; Gibson et al., 2013).
Second, intracranial recordings from the surface of the human brain show that neural activity, indexed by gamma power, increases monotonically over the course of a sentence across the language system (Fedorenko et al., 2016). Having ruled out a number of alternative explanations of this effect in terms of generic attention, working memory, and cognitive load, we argue that the most likely explanation is that this response increase reflects the increasing complexity of the evolving representation of the sentence meaning and is thus a candidate neural marker of complex meaning construction.
And third, we have recently developed a new approach for decoding linguistic meanings from the brain (Pereira et al., in press), based on a procedure for broadly sampling a semantic space constructed from massive text corpora. After the system was trained on imaging data of individual concepts, it could decode sentences from a wide variety of topics. These decoded representations were sufficiently detailed to distinguish even semantically similar sentences. Thus, we established the viability of using distributed semantic representations to probe meaning representations in the brain, laying a foundation for future development and evaluation of precise hypotheses about how concepts are represented and combined.
We encourage members of our MRI community, including students, to schedule a meeting; please email with your availability.