Penn Researchers ID Grid Cells that Help Guide Us

If you don’t know how you got anywhere before GPS, the problem might be your grid cells.

In an article in Nature Neuroscience, Penn Psychology Professor Michael Kahana and his team have identified a new type of cell in the brain that helps people to keep track of their relative location while navigating an unfamiliar environment.

The “grid cell,” which derives its name from the triangular grid pattern in which the cell activates during navigation, is distinct among brain cells because its activation represents multiple spatial locations. This behavior is how grid cells allow the brain to keep track of navigational cues such as how far you are from your starting point. This type of navigation is called path integration.

The researchers took advantage of a rare opportunity to study brain recordings of epilepsy patients who had electrodes implanted in their brains as part of their treatment. The study participants played a video game, riding a virtual bike across a terrain displayed on a laptop, while their brain activity was recorded. The game challenged them to navigate from one point to another to retrieve objects and then recall how to get back to the places where each object was located.

The team studied the relation between how the participants navigated in the video game and the activity of individual neurons. Understanding could help researchers understand why people with Alzheimer’s disease often become disoriented, and show how to improve brain function in people suffering from the disease.

Read the full story here.

Arts & Sciences News

Two Penn Arts and Sciences researchers have been selected as 2018 Andrew Carnegie Fellows

Daniel Q. Gillion and Beth Simmons have been selected to receive the fellowship, allowing them to devote as long as two years to research and writing.

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The Power of Penn Arts & Sciences

On April 12, 2018, the Power of Penn Arts & Sciences fundraising campaign was announced by the Board of Overseers. Launched in conjunction with the University’s Power of Penn campaign, it aims to raise $550 million for the School of Arts and Sciences.

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2018 Penn Arts and Sciences Dean’s Scholars

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Joseph Subotnik Named Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor

Joseph Subotnik, Professor of Chemistry, has been named Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor of Chemistry. A theoretical chemist who focuses on electronic processes in the condensed phase, Dr. Subotnik has made key contributions in electronic structure theory, chemical dynamics, and statistical mechanics.

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Two Penn Arts and Sciences Professors Named Guggenheim Fellows

Charles L. Bosk, Professor of Sociology, and Charles Yang, Professor of Linguistics and Computer Science, have been awarded 2018 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowships.

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Ahmad Family Endowment Supports Penn Global Seminars

Hyder Ahmad, W’90, and his family have made a generous gift to establish the Ahmad Family Endowment for Penn Global Seminars in Arts and Sciences.

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Abraham Nitzan Named Donner Professor of Physical Sciences

Abraham Nitzan, Professor of Chemistry, has been named Donner Professor of Physical Sciences. Nitzan’s research focuses on the interaction of light with molecular systems, chemical reactions in condensed phases and interfaces and charge transfer processes in such environments.

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2018 Teaching Award Recipients Announced

Steven J. Fluharty, Dean of Penn Arts and Sciences, and Paul Sniegowski, Stephen A. Levin Family Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, have announced the recipients of the 2018 awards for distinguished teaching in the School.

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College Graduation Speakers for 2018 Revealed

Angela Duckworth, G’03, GR’06, Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology, will address the Class of 2018 at the graduation ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences on Sunday, May 13, 2018. She will be joined by student speaker Helena von Nagy, C’18.

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Individualized Care Will Become the Standard for Depression Patients

In a new paper for the Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, researchers Robert DeRubeis, Samuel H. Preston Term Professor in the Social Sciences, and Zachary Cohen of Psychology, address precision medicine, also known as customized-care, in the context of treatment for depression.

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Restoring Vacant Lots Reduces Gun Violence and Crime

In cities across the U.S., about 15 percent of land is considered vacant or abandoned. These areas can foster criminal activity, and urban residents, especially those in low-income neighborhoods, often view vacant land as a threat to their health and safety.

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Robert DeRubeis: Samuel H. Preston Term Professor in the Social Sciences

Professor of Psychology Robert DeRubeis has been named the Samuel H.

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