Benjamin De Corte, Ph.D. student, Neuroscience
Uncovers passing of time in the brain
• Hometown: New Orleans, LA
• Faculty mentor/advisor: Dr. John Freeman and Dr. Krystal Parker
• What is your degree program and expected graduate date? Neuroscience / August 2021
• Please describe your research: I study the neural circuits that allow us to perceive time as it passes. This is a difficult question to answer because timing appears to rely on a large neural-network, requiring many brain areas to coordinate with one another.
• In simple terms, why does this research matter? Timing is disrupted in a variety of neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, and autism spectrum disorder. Hopefully, my research will shed light on how these conditions impact the brain.
• How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I was able to get started on my research immediately after starting at the University of Iowa.
• How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? The resources that I have access to at the University of Iowa have been critical for building my career as a neuroscientist. I have been able to conduct cutting-edge research that will allow us to better understand the brain and, hopefully, boost our ability to treat brain dysfunction.
• What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? My next step will be to continue building my research program and skillset as a post-doctoral researcher. Ultimately, I hope to become a faculty member at a University where I can start a lab of my own.
• Does your research have connections to or implications for COVID-19? Please explain. To some degree, yes. Timing is a complex cognitive function. Unfortunately, many COVID-related symptoms–such as oxygen deprivation, mild ischemic events, or strokes–cause cognitive impairments. Even mild cognitive deficits can dramatically impact how well patients are able to function in daily life. In the future, I hope to evaluate whether prior COVID patients show long-term cognitive impairments using timing tasks and whether our knowledge of the neural circuits that support timing can help us understand and treat these symptoms.
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