Dr. Benjamin Arenkiel, a researcher at the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute (NRI) at Texas Children’s has received a 2017 Michael E. DeBakey, M.D., Excellence in Research Award, a prestigious honor given annually to Baylor College of Medicine faculty who have made the most significant published scientific contribution to clinical or basic biomedical research during the past three years.
“Arenkiel is an extraordinarily gifted scientist who has made many exciting and notable discoveries in the area of neuroscience,” said Dr. Huda Zoghbi, director of the NRI who nominated Arenkiel for this prestigious award. “The papers he published in the last couple of years open up new exciting areas of research into sensory maps as well as the circuits of feeding behavior.”
Since joining the Baylor faculty, Arenkiel and his team have published and/or co-authored 32 manuscripts. In addition, the Arenkiel lab now focuses on three areas of science that each have resulted in publications in high-impact journals including Developmental Cell, Neuron, Nature, and Nature Neuroscience.
Arenkiel was presented with the DeBakey Excellence in Research Award on May 15. To learn more about the scientific research that garnered Arenkiel the DeBakey award, see below:
Nature Neuroscience: Using contemporary genetic approaches, the Arenkiel lab has recently described novel roles for neuropeptide signaling in synaptic remodeling within the adult nervous system. Synapse and circuit formation and function serves as a platform for their ongoing work. Arenkiel and his lab found that, in contrast to the refinement observed for excitatory maps, inhibitory sensory maps became broader with maturation. However, like excitatory maps, inhibitory sensory maps are sensitive to experience. These data describe the development of an inhibitory sensory map as a network, highlighting the differences from previously described excitatory maps.
Developmental Cell: In this paper, Arenkiel capitalizes on the olfactory system circuits system to understand how newly born neurons integrate into an existing network in the adult brain. Using the rodent olfactory system as a model, their work strives to understand how the circuits that comprise and modulate the olfactory bulb contribute to olfaction. This research shows that local corticotropin hormone signaling onto adult-born neurons promotes and/or stabilizes chemical synapses in the olfactory bulb, revealing a neuromodulatory mechanism for continued circuit plasticity, synapse formation and integration of new neurons in the adult brain.
Nature: Most recently, Arenkiel has initiated new and creative experiments to further probe neuronal synapse and circuit formation in the mouse brain. His lab has discovered a novel mechanism by which cholinergic signaling in the basal forebrain exerts a strong influence on body weight control. His group has serendipitously uncovered novel circuits that govern convergent hypothalamic circuits that influence feeding behavior, sensory processing and stress. He has since taken a keen interest in the feeding behavior circuits. This manuscript has been positively received by the scientific community as well as the pay press and was highlighted in the Wall Street Journal.