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It is with great sadness that I write to tell you that Steven Hsiao, Professor of Neuroscience and Scientific Director of the Mind Brain Institute, died on Monday of complications from lung cancer. Steve was a dear friend to many of us, as well as a generous colleague and an accomplished neuroscientist. He was 59.
Steve has been a defining part of Hopkins brain science for over three decades. As a graduate student in the 80s, he helped Kenneth Johnson set up a laboratory to study how the brain processes 2D tactile shape (e.g., braille patterns) and texture. He joined the faculty of the Zanvyl Krieger Mind/Brain Institute in 1992, and continued to study brain mechanisms of touch perception. His research branched out into many exciting directions, including 3D tactile shape perception (our remarkable ability to recognize objects with our hands alone), tactile attention (our ability to focus on specific objects and ignore most touch information, such as pressure from chairs), tactile motion (perceiving how things are moving across our skin) and fine texture discrimination (e.g., telling silk from linen). His work shed light on how the brain processes complex information, knowledge that can help in devising somatosensory prosthetics with improved control of artificial limbs.
Steve was universally regarded as a world leader in the brain mechanisms of touch perception. He carried forward the preeminence of Hopkins in this field, which was founded here by Vernon Mountcastle in the 1950s and continued by Ken Johnson. Together with Ken, he played a major role in training the next generation of researchers in this field. His easygoing, friendly personality made him a favorite among graduate students in the Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering programs, and he long served as co-director of the Neuroscience graduate program. He was highly valued as a friend and collaborator by his faculty colleagues. Since 2007, he has been the scientific director of the Zanvyl Krieger Mind/Brain Institute, guiding overall research directions, hiring, and student affairs.
Steve had a great sense of humor and an infectious laugh. He was a long time Orioles and Ravens fan, a great cook and loved sailing his boat "Brain Waves.”
Our deep condolences go out to Steve's wife, Jocelyne DiRuggiero, an associate research professor in the Department of Biology at Johns Hopkins University, and his two sons, Kevin and Andrew.
In lieu of flowers the family has requested that charitable donations be made to the “Steve Hsiao Memorial Fund” in the Department of Neuroscience. Donations can be made to the "Johns Hopkins University," c/o Fund for Johns Hopkins Medicine, 855 N. Wolfe St., Rangos 550, Baltimore, MD 21205, with a note indicating the donation is in memory of Dr. Steven Hsiao.
The family is having a private memorial service, and a university memorial symposium will be held in the fall.
Director, Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience
If you would like to submit remembrances of Steve (words and/or photos) to be posted to a memorial web page please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
MBI Researcher Edits Book
A book co-edited by MBI Professor Ernst Niebur was just published by Wiley. The volume, titled “Criticality in Neural Systems,” contains contributions by the field’s foremost authorities exploring the computational theory of criticality and how it pertains to understanding the functions of the brain from experimental and theoretical approaches.
Research from MBI published in Nature Neuroscience
A new article from the Knierim laboratory was appeared in Nature Neuroscience. The paper demonstrated that place fields of the hippocampus could be formed or strengthened in a one-trial manner tied to a specific investigatory experience of a rat. This phenomenon may be related to the known role of the hippocampus in episodic memory formation in humans.
Joseph D Monaco, Geeta Rao, Eric D Roth & James J Knierim. Attentive scanning behavior drives one-trial potentiation of hippocampal place fields. Nature Neuroscience 17, 725–731 (2014).
See also commentaries:
New Book Edited by MBI Researcher
A book edited by MBI Professor Jim Knierim was just published by Springer. The volume, titled “Space, Time and Memory in the Hippocampal Formation,” is a collection of chapters by international researchers investigating how the hippocampus encodes space and time and, in interaction with other brain structures, uses these resentations to underlie declarative memory.
New grant awarded to MBI researcher
MBI Director Ed Connor was awarded a new 4-year grant from the National Eye Institute to study how the visual cortex represents environmental shapes. The title of the grant is "Neural Coding of 3D Object and Place Structure in Two Cortical Pathways"
Research from MBI published in Neuron, featured on NPR
A research article from the Lee Laboratory of MBI and collaborators at the University of Maryland appeared in the journal Neuron. This work, which demonstrated that visual deprivation can change the physiological properties of neurons in auditory cortex, was covered by NPR's All Things Considered (http://www.npr.org/2014/02/05/272092118/hard-of-hearing-a-few-days-in-the-dark-may-help).
Emily Petrus, Amal Isaiah, Adam P. Jones, David Li, Hui Wang, Hey-Kyoung Lee, and Patrick O. Kanold (2014) Crossmodal Induction of Thalamocortical Potentiation Leads to Enhanced Information Processing in the Auditory Cortex. Neuron. Published online Feb 5, 2014 (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S089662731301091X).
See also coverage in JHU's HUB (http://hub.jhu.edu/2014/02/05/blindness-hearing-loss)
Research from MBI highlighted in This Week in Psychological Science
A recent research article by the Hsiao Laboratory and JHU School of Medicine collaborators was highlighted in the weekly newsletter to members of the Association for Psychological Science.
JM Yau, P Celnik, SS Hsiao, JE Desmond (2014) Feeling Better: Separate Pathways for Targeted Enhancement of Spatial and Temporal Touch. Psychol. Sci. Published online before print January 3, 2014, doi: 10.1177/0956797613511467.
Hsiao Laboratory awarded new grant on neural prosthetic research
Congratulations to the Hsiao laboratory, which was awarded a new grant from the National Institutes of Health entitled Sensory Feedback for Upper Limb Neuroprosthetics
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