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Influence Of Nature, Nurture On Early Brain Development Topic Of University Of Pittsburgh’s 85th Mellon Lecture


Neurobiologist Dr. Carla Shatz to present at Science2006: Feel the Power

PITTSBURGH, September 22, 2006 — A leader in research on the factors that influence fetal brain development will present the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s 85th Mellon Lecture at 4 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 5, as part of Science2006: Feel the Power. Carla J. Shatz, Ph.D., who is known for her work exploring the early formation of synapses and connectivity in the neural pathways responsible for vision, will speak in Alumni Hall, 4227 Fifth Ave., on Pitt’s Oakland campus.

Dr. Shatz is one of four prominent scientists who will present plenary lectures during the two-day science showcase, which is scheduled Oct. 5 and 6. All Science2006 events are free and open to the public.

In her lecture, “Dynamic Interplay between Nature and Nurture in Brain Development,” Dr. Shatz will discuss how the spontaneous waves of activity generated by certain cells in a developing fetus can initiate the formation of cellular patterns that provide the foundation for sensory perception, which is then further refined after birth by the input of external signals and experience.

Much of Dr. Shatz’s work has focused on development of the visual system. Most recently, she investigated how the visual system is shaped by experience over time, determining that visual deprivation during the “critical period,” which lasts roughly from the time a child is nine months old until age 2, can result not only in undeveloped vision but also in diminished activity in genes that respond to visual input.

Since 2000, Dr. Shatz has been the Nathan Marsh Pusey Professor and chair of the department of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. After earning her bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Radcliffe College and her doctorate in neurobiology from Harvard Medical School, Dr. Shatz spent nearly 15 years at the Stanford University School of Medicine before moving to the University of California-Berkeley, where she served as a professor of neurobiology. In 1994, she was named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Among Dr. Shatz’s numerous professional accomplishments is her election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Institute of Medicine.

The Mellon Lecture was established in 1915 with initial support from Richard B. Mellon and has continued in recent years with support from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. The lectureship provides an opportunity for eminent investigators and scholars to lecture at the University of Pittsburgh on the science of medicine.

Science2006 showcases the University of Pittsburgh’s academic strengths in science, medicine, engineering and computation, and the growing potential they hold as catalysts for economic development in the region. This year’s theme, “Feel the Power,” emphasizes the capacity that scientific research has for driving the development of innovations in medicine and technology.

The other plenary speakers for Science2006 are Stanford University’s Roger D. Kornberg, Ph.D., an expert on protein transcription; Baldomero M. Olivera, Ph.D., distinguished professor of biology at the University of Utah and an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies; and Nathan S. Lewis, Ph.D., George L. Argyros Professor, professor of chemistry and principal investigator of the Beckman Institute Molecular Materials Resource Center at the California Institute of Technology.

The program also includes spotlight sessions presented by scientists from Pitt and Carnegie Mellon University; a technology showcase highlighting recent inventions now available for licensing; a career development workshop for emerging scientists; and various networking and social events.

Complete details about Science2006 and registration information can be found online at .


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