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International imaging effort unlocks brain secrets

International imaging effort unlocks brain secrets-image

Thursday, 22 January 2015

 New insights may help scientists better understand disorders such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy An international study, which included researchers from NUI Galway, has identified significant genetic factors that influence the size of structures within the brain. It is hoped these new insights may help scientists better understand disorders such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy. The research was published today in Nature magazine. NUI Galway professor of psychology, Professor Gary Donohoe, led the Irish contribution to the study, which involved a consortium of almost 300 scientists from 193 institutes - including NUI Galway. The consortium, known as the ENIGMA (Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis), shared results from analyses of genetic data and MRI scans from more than 30,000 individuals worldwide. The study looked at the size of sub-cortical brain regions that are involved in some basic functions such as memory, movement, learning and motivation. Abnormalities in these brain regions are associated with neurological and mental health disorders. According to Professor Donohoe: “For years, scientists have been fascinated by the development of different brain structures and how this changes in brain-based disorders. In this study, we have used MRI scans to look at how the size of different brain regions is influenced by our genes and obtained some fascinating results. We have found, for example, one gene variant that affects the size of the Putamen, a region near the centre of the brain which resembles the stone in the middle of a fruit.The Putamen is partly responsible for movement and learning, and is implicated in Parkinson’s disease. This finding opens up new avenues for research in this disease by giving new clues about the biological mechanisms involved.” The research was in part funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the Health Research Board in Ireland and involved collaboration between researchers at NUI Galway and Trinity College Dublin. “Knowledge about the genetic basis of these structures provides important insights into how the brain develops”, said Professor Donohoe. “These insights are important both to understanding normal human development and to understanding the basis of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy. Given the likelihood that thousands of variants are involved, large scale international efforts such as in this study are an important step in unravelling this genetic and biological complexity so as to develop new and better treatments.” “ENIGMA’s scientists screen brain scans and genomes worldwide for factors that help or harm the brain”, said ENGIMA co-founder Professor Paul Thompson from University of Southern California. “This crowd-sourcing and sheer wealth of data gives us the power to crack the brain’s genetic code.” Dr Sarah Medland of QIMR Berghofer in Australia, was senior-author on the study, and added: “Unless you know what ‘normal’ development looks like it’s hard to know how disease manifests in these sub-cortical regions. Previously it has been too expensive for any one institute to collect enough scans and genetic data to make this kind of study possible. By working together in large collaborative projects we can tackle these types of problems and further our understanding of the biology of the brain.” Five genetic variants identified The study identified five genetic variants that influence the size of structures within the brain. Of the genetic associations found, the largest effect was seen for the Putamen, a subcortical region located at the base of the forebrain, which is important for movement and reinforcement learning. This variant is located within the KTN1 gene that encodes the protein Kinectin, a receptor important for cell function. In follow up protein expression work this variant was found to alter the expression of KTN1 in frontal cortex. The study also found evidence of several variants being associated with hippocampal volume (a brain region synonymous with memory encoding and retrieval), one of which has previously been implicated in risk for schizophrenia. The article published in Nature today is ‘Common genetic variants influence human subcortical brain structures’. This research at NUI Galway was undertaken by the Cognitive Genetics and Therapy Group (Principal Investigators: Prof Gary Donohoe and Dr Derek Morris; http://www.nuigalway.ie/psychology/coggene_group.html) and the Clinical Neuroimaging Laboratory (Principal Investigators: Prof Colm McDonald and Dr Dara Cannon; http://clinicalneuroimaginglaboratory.com/). More information about the ENIGMA project is available at http://enigma.ini.usc.edu/ -ends-

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NUI Galway’s Acting Director of Student Services Awarded Prestigious Prize

NUI Galway’s Acting Director of Student Services Awarded Prestigious Prize-image

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

John Hannon, acting Director of Student Services at NUI Galway, was recently awarded the John Roberts Memorial Prize at the University of Warwick. The John Roberts Memorial Prize is awarded annually to the best student on the AGCAS/University of Warwick Certificate, Diploma or MA in Career Education, Information and Guidance in Higher Education. It is awarded in memory of John Roberts who, before his untimely death in 1995, was a very active and long-serving member of AGCAS with a strong commitment to training and professional development. The award is judged by the University of Warwick course assessment team and is given to the student who has produced the most outstanding work during the academic year of the award. Phil McCash, Course Director at the University of Warwick, said: “John achieved the highest overall performance at our last Examination Board and this is one of the main reasons he was selected for the AGCAS John Roberts Memorial Prize. He successfully completed the MA in Career Education and Guidance in Higher Education with distinction and both internal and external examiners felt this was thoroughly deserved. Throughout his time as a student with us, John also worked at NUI Galway. On a personal note, I have enjoyed working with John, both helping him and learning from him over the course of his MA. It has been a great journey for all of us and I wish him every success in the future.” -Ends-

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NUI Galway to Hold Information Evening in Clonmel

NUI Galway to Hold Information Evening in Clonmel-image

Monday, 19 January 2015

Secondary school students interested in NUI Galway are invited to an information evening in Clonmel on Thursday, 29 January. Parents and guardians are also particularly welcome to the event which runs from 7 to 9pm in The Clonmel Park Hotel, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. The evening will begin with short talks about NUI Galway and some of the 60 courses it offers. Afterwards, current students and NUI Galway staff will be on hand at information stands to answer any individual questions in relation to courses offered by the University and about practical issues like accommodation, fees and scholarships, and the wide range of support services available to our students. The ever-increasing popularity of NUI Galway is in-part due to a suite of innovative new programmes, developed in response to the changing needs of the employment market. Unique programmes include a Bachelor of Arts in Human Rights, an Energy Engineering degree which is taught in the University’s new Engineering Building, Ireland’s largest School of Engineering, and a Maths and Education degree aimed at training Maths teachers. Visitors to the information evening will also get information on NUI Galway’s newest degree programmes, a BA in Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies, BA in Journalism, BA in Science (Physics- degree options in Applied, Astrophysics, Biomedical or Theoretical) and a Bachelor of Commerce (Gaeilge). Caroline Loughnane, Director of Marketing and Communications at NUI Galway, said: “NUI Galway has a great deal to offer. Our own students tell us our lecturers are inspirational and challenge them to achieve their full potential. The student experience in Galway is second to none, and we want to bring a taste of that to County Tipperary, while also providing all the practical information on accommodation, CAO points, fees, scholarships and courses. With so many courses on offer, this event in Clonmel is a perfect opportunity for prospective students to meet current students and lecturers to see what degree might be the right fit for them.” To find out more about the information evening in Clonmel, contact NUI Galway's Schools Liaison Officer, Celine O’Donovan on 087 239121 or celine.odonovan@nuigalway.ie. -Ends-

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Free Introduction to Computer Classes at NUI Galway

Free Introduction to Computer Classes at NUI Galway-image

Monday, 19 January 2015

NUI Galway’s free Click and Connect introduction to computer classes will resume again on the week beginning 26 January. The classes run for two-hours once a week, over a four week period, providing eight hours of training in total. The classes are aimed at those with little or no computer experience and cover topics such as introduction to the internet, online shopping and booking tickets, setting up and managing email, and using the computer in conjunction with a digital camera. In addition to the Click and Connect programme there will be a slightly more advanced Second Steps programme available to new and past learners. This programme is aimed at those whom have some computer experience or previously completed the Click and Connect programme and are seeking more computer knowledge. Second Steps is a follow up to Click and Connect providing more training to broaden learners understanding on topics such as internet, file management, and using tablets as an alternative to computers. As many of the participants have little to no computer experience the classes are run in a relaxed fun environment, which gives confidence to the new learners. Student volunteers will be on hand to provide one-to-one support to the learners in the classes. Each class is small with a maximum of twelve people and each learner is given a supporting booklet with instructions so that they can continue to develop their skills at home. All who complete receive a certificate of attendance. These free computer classes have provided training to over 600 people since the classes began.         The manager of Click and Connect is Pat Byrne, a lecturer in the discipline of Information Technology in NUI Galway. She is delighted with the feedback received from those who have completed the programme. “Our Click and Connect classes have been very successful to date, with many of our learners being older people who have not had the opportunity to use computers at school or in the workplace. They now find that a new world is opened up to them when they are shown how to use the internet. They are able to compare prices and shop online, follow their hobbies and access government services. They are also enabled to have better communication with family and friends using email and Skype. Whether they are looking for a job or searching for a new recipe, access to the internet makes their life so much easier. Everyone can pick up these basic skills and our classes provide a supportive environment in which to do so.” The classes are funded by a small grant from the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, and are offered free to participants. For further information or to book a place on one of the classes, call 087 0571967, 087 3823370 or 091 493332. -Ends-

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NUI Galway Conference on Mobile Technologies in the Classroom

NUI Galway Conference on Mobile Technologies in the Classroom-image

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Mobile technologies are becoming a standard teaching tool in the classroom. However, as an ever-growing range of devices and apps come on stream, many teachers are struggling with a technological skills gap. To help combat this gap, NUI Galway’s School of Education, will host the First International Conference on Mobile Technology in Initial Teacher Education (MiTE) on Friday and Saturday, 23 and 24 January, in the Galway Bay Hotel, Salthill. The two-day conference will celebrate the possibilities and explore the challenges of integrating mobile technology in teacher education and provide a forum for practitioners to come together to benchmark and share best practice. Speakers include experts in the field of mobile technology including representatives from CalStateTEACH, California State University, Apple, Google and national and international education institutions. NUI Galway’s School of Education is aware of the potential that mobile technology has for improving the teaching and learning experiences of pupils in the classroom. Seán Ó Grádaigh, School of Education, and Chair of the MiTE 2015 Conference, said: “Mobile technology offers today's students the opportunity to learn how, when and where they wish. Commonly called digital natives, the pupils of today have smart technology at their fingertips. Incorporating this technology into the classroom is a natural way to help build the pupils' engagement with their learning, thereby preparing mobile citizens for the future.” Punya Mishra, Professor of Educational Technology and Director of the Master of Arts in Educational Technology programme at Michigan State University, observes that technologies become obsolete as quickly as they arrive. This rapid rate of change is a challenge for educators and leads to an increased pressure on teachers to learn new ways to incorporate technology into their teaching. Professor Mishra, an internationally renowned pioneer in the area, will give a keynote address at MiTE. Sinéad Ní Ghuidhir, School of Education, and Conference Co-Chair, said: “The teachers role has evolved to become more facilitative in nature in order to guide students on how to access and manage the vast knowledge now available at their fingertips.” On Friday, 23 January, the conference will provide an academic platform for recent emergent research, and on the second day, Saturday 24, January, the focus will be on the practitioner application of mobile technology in the classroom. This conference is open to parents, teachers and students who are interested in seeing and hearing how mobile technologies, for example, smartphones/tablets, can contribute positively to the learning processes within our classrooms today. To find out more see www.gratek.ie/mite2015. -Ends- Comhdháil ar an Teicneolaiocht Shoghluaiste sa Seomra Ranga Gnáth-uirlis teagaisc tá sna teicneolaíochtaí nua shoghluaiste anois sa seomra ranga. Leis an oiread aipeanna agus gléasanna nua ar an margadh, áfach, is léir go bhfuil bearna eolais ann i scileanna teicneolaíochta na n-oideachasóirí. Chun díriú ar an mbearna sin, tá an Chéad Chomhdháil Idirnáisiúnta ar Theicneolaíocht Shoghluaiste in Oideachas Tosaigh Múinteoirí, MiTE 2015, á reachtáil ag Scoil an Oideachais, Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh, in Ostán an Galway Bay ar an Aoine agus an Satharn, an 23/24 Eanáir 2015. Déanfar iniúchadh thar an dá lá ag Comhdháil MiTE, ar na dúshláin agus ar na buntáistí maidir le comhtháthú na teicneolaíochta soghluaiste, ní hamháin i réimse Oideachas Tosaigh Múinteoirí ach sa teagasc agus san fhoghlaim i gcoitinne. Tabharfaidh sé deis do ghníomhairí sa réimse a gcuid taighde a roinnt agus a cheiliúradh. Beidh saineolaithe ann ó CalStateTEACH, California State University, Apple, Google, agus ó institiúidí oideachais náisiúnta agus idirnáisiúnta. Tá tábhacht agus poitéinsiúil na teicneolaíochta soghluaiste aitheanta ag Scoil an Oideachais, mar a bhaineann sé le teagasc agus le foghlaim dhaltaí sa seomra ranga. Deir Seán Ó Grádaigh, cathaoirleach MiTE 2015 “Tugann an teicneolaiocht shoghluaiste deis do fhoghlaimeoirí foghlaim ag aon am, in aon áit, agus ar aon bhealach, mar a fheileann dóibh féin. Tá an ‘teicneolaíocht chliste’ mar chuid de shaol laethúil na hóige anois agus luíonn sé le réasún go bhfuil féidearthachtaí agus leasa ag baint leis an teicneolaíocht sin a chomhtháthú san fhoghlaim ar scoil. Ní hamháin sin ach go bhfuil an litearthacht dhigiteach riachtanach don fhostaíocht agus don gheilleagar amach romhainn.” Is ceannródaí sa réimse seo é an tOllamh Punya Mishra. Is é an t-Ollamh ar Educational Technology é agus Stiúrthóir ar an gclár, an Master of Arts in Educational Technology in Ollscoil Michigan State. Sé a bharúil go bhfuil dúshláin ann do oideachasóirí dul i ngleic leis na hathruithe rialta a thagann ar theicneolaíochtaí an oideachais, agus le luas an ráta athraithe sin. Anuas air sin, áfach, is mó na buntáistí agus na féidearthachtaí a bhaineann leis an teicneolaíocht shoghluaiste don teagasc agus don fhoghlaim. Sé an tOllamh Mishra ag thabharfaidh an spreagaitheasc ag an gComhdháil ar an Aoine, an 23 Eanáír. Deir Sinéad Ní Ghuidhir, co-chathaoirleach na comhdhála, go bhfuil ról na háisitheora i ndán do mhúinteoirí. “Tá eolas fairsing ar fáil do dhaltaí go réidh agus go héasca leis an teicneolaíocht. Bíonn ar mhúinteoirí daltaí a threorú chun an t-eolas seo a thuiscint, a bhainistiú agus a úsáid go ciallmhar.” Ardán acadúil don taighde idirnáisiúnta is déanaí sa réimse seo a bheidh ann ar an Aoine 23 Eanáir agus ar an Satharn 24 Eánái, díreofar ar chur i bhfeidhm na teicneolaíochta soghluaiste sa seomra ranga, i sraith ceardlanna éagsúla. Chuirfeadh idir mhúinteoirí, thuismitheoirí agus dhaltaí suim faoi leith in ábhar na Comhdhála seo, go háirithe iad siúd ar spéis leo an fhoghlaim dhigiteach shoghluaiste nó fiú iad san a bhfuil smartphone ina bpóca acu! Fáilte roimh chách. Tuilleadh eolais ar fáil ag www.gratek.ie/mite2015 -Críoch-

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NUI Galway Welcomes Minister Damien English

NUI Galway Welcomes Minister Damien English-image

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Briefings on the University’s extensive research activities and industry collaborations Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English T.D. visited NUI Galway on 8 January for a briefing on the University’s extensive research activities and industry collaborations. Minister English was welcomed to campus by University President, Dr Jim Browne and Vice-President for Research, Professor Lokesh Joshi. Detailed discussions were held with research leaders in the University and some of the key industrial partners. Discussions centred on research in biomedical science and engineering, medical devices, clinical research, life course and society, big data, neuroscience and graduate studies around key enabling technologies and smart specialisation. After his visit Minister English stated: “The huge potential for day to day social and economic benefits from NUI Galway’s research were of particular interest to me, and were clear to see. It was a pleasure to meet with senior industrial collaborators and to see first-hand that NUI Galway researchers and industries have a very healthy and productive relationship that benefits Galway City, the West and our country overall. From my visit it is clear that NUI Galway are to the fore in drawing down National and EU monies for vital research projects and matching this with private investment.  I look forward to NUI Galway excelling under the new Horizon 2020 funding stream.” Industry partners who attended included representatives from HP, Alkermes, Altocloud, Aerogen Ltd, Avaya and Fuijitsu.    Speaking after the Minister’s visit, NUI Galway’s Professor Lokesh Joshi said: “The Minister is keen to promote the culture of innovation, enterprise, education and excellent research across Irish educational institutions. I believe he was pleased to see that NUI Galway is living his vision of integrating these principles. The Minister was impressed with the breadth of excellent research activities and in particular the connection between research and its impact on society through industry, clinical and government policies.”  The Minister met two recently announced European Research Council (ERC) starter grant awardees. Dr Eilionóir Flynn of the Centre for Disability Law is undertaking a project which aims to make visible the experiences of people with disabilities who have been denied legal capacity. Martin O’Donnell, Professor of Translational Medicine, has a project underway which seeks to clarify how much sodium (salt) intake is optimal for health.  Senior representatives from Insight, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centre for Data Analytics, were on hand to brief the Minister. The newest SFI Research Centre at NUI Galway, CÚRAM, was represented by Professor Abhay Pandit who spoke about the next generation of medical devices. A number of other research leaders briefed the Minister on the latest developments in their areas. This was Minister English’s second visit to campus since he became Minister for State last summer.   -ends- 

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