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UPR Neuroplasticity Center receives more than $5M

University of Puerto Rico (UPR) President Luis Ferrao has announced an allocation of nearly $5.3 million in federal funds from the U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIH-NIGMS), through the Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (Cobre) program. The funds will be used for the final phase of the UPR Neuroplasticity Center’s development.

“With the approval of this federal proposal, the UPR Neuroplasticity Center is on track for sustained development to become an international neuroscience research center,” Ferrao said. “This historic effort in the development and evolution of the center has been made possible through strategic alliances between the UPR Medical Sciences Campus, the Río Piedras Campus and other UPR campuses.”

An additional $250,000 equipment supplement has also been assigned. Ferrao said that this is the first time a center in the NIH/NIGMS Cobre programs has completed phase 2 with “great success,” specifically highlighting the institutional development and the expansion of the neuroimaging and electrophysiology facilities. The third phase will now be kicked off, Ferrao added.

Dr. José A. Lasalde-Dominicci, director of the Neuroplasticity Center and principal investigator, noted that during phase 3, the center will continue to provide researchers with state-of-the-art facilities, scientific capacity and collaborations for the treatment of neurological and neurodegenerative diseases.

“Our projects are incorporated in conducting cutting-edge studies on neural circuits that control behavior, the origins of neurological and mental health disorders, as well as the molecular basis for neuroadaptation, addiction and neuroprotection, among others,” Lasalde said.

The current proposal, encompassing an administrative center, a neuroimaging and electrophysiology center, and three pilot project and seed centers, will affect dozens of researchers and numerous departments in local and international institutions. 

Throughout phases 1 and 2, the center has brought together 25 researchers, generating more than 130 publications in high-impact scientific journals, securing $15 million in external funding for various research projects, and aiding 51 students in obtaining their doctoral degrees using the center’s facilities.

The center offers specialized training in electrophysiology and microscopy to researchers in Puerto Rico and beyond, as well as to students from public and private schools in Puerto Rico.

The project team comprises several leaders: Lasalde-Dominicci serves as the director and principal investigator, from the Biology Department of UPR Río Piedras. Dr. Mark Miller, from the Department of Anatomy-Neurobiology at UPR Medical Sciences, serves as the administrative director. Dr. Jorge Miranda, from the Department of Physiology at UPR Medical Sciences, is the director of the Imaging and Electrophysiology Center. Lastly, the director of the pilot project and seed projects is Dr. Walter I. Silva Ortiz, also from the Department of Physiology at UPR Medical Sciences.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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