About Us

Riverside Church

The Friedman Brain Institute and the Neuroscience Graduate Program, presents the 16th Annual Neuroscience Retreat.

The Friedman Brain Institute hosts a Neuroscience Retreat held in the spring of each year. Neuroscience is multidisciplinary by nature and, reflecting this, the scientists and physicians that contribute to the neurosciences at Mount Sinai hail from a variety of departments and campuses. The Retreat provides an opportunity for everyone in the Neuroscience community at Mount Sinai – faculty, fellows, students, researchers and clinicians – to meet and discuss their work in order to increase awareness of ongoing research and approaches, to foster new interactions, and to generate novel ideas.

For additional information, please contact Vena Persaud at vena.persaud@mssm.edu or Veronica Szarejko at veronica.szarejko@mssm.edu

Retreat Organizers

Joseph M Castellano, PhD
Associate Professor
Neuroscience and Neurology

Xiaoting (Ting) Wu, PhD
Assistant Professor


Fanny Elahi, MD, PhD
Associate Professor
Neurology, Neuroscience and Pathology, Molecular and Cell Based Medicine

Joel Blanchard, PhD
Associate Professor
Neuroscience and Cell, Developmental & Regenerative Biology

Opening Remarks

Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD
Director, Friedman Brain Institute

Paul J. Kenny, PhD
Chairman, Nash Family Department of Neuroscience

George Huntley, PhD
Director, Neuroscience Graduate Program


Helen S Mayberg, MD
Director, Nash Family Center for Advanced Circuit Therapeutics
Professor, Neurology, Neurosurgery, Psychiatry and Neuroscience

Brian S. Kim, MD, MTR, FAAD
Vice Chair of Research
Department of Dermatology
Director, Mark Lebwohl Center for Neuroinflammation and Sensation
Professor, Dermatology
Evan Schaffer, PhD
Assistant Professor
Alberto Corona, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
Anina Lund
PhD Student
Georgia Panagiotakos, PhD
Associate Professor
Neuroscience, Psychiatry and Cell, Developmental & Regenerative Biology

Ashley Cunningham
PhD Student

Mate Kiss, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
Cardiovascular Research Institute

Watit Sontising, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Paloma Bravo
Associate Researcher
Cell, Developmental & Regenerative Biology

Angela Radulescu, PhD
Assistant Professor

Retreat Administrators

Veronica Szarejko
Project Manager

Danny Roldan
Web Content Specialist

Vena Persaud
Executive Assistant

Jenny Rivera
Administrative Director


8:30 – 9:00 am


(South Hall Lobby)


9:00 – 9:05 am


(Assembly Hall)

Joseph M. Castellano, PhD and Xiaoting (Ting) Wu, PhD


9:05 – 9:20 am

Welcome Remarks

Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD on Friedman Brain Institute


9:20 – 9:35 am

Paul J. Kenny, PhD on Nash Family Department of Neuroscience


9:35 – 9:45 am

George Huntley, PhD on Graduate Student Program


9:45 – 10:15 am

Keynote Speaker I

Helen Mayberg, MD “What is Well? An Evolving Transdisciplinary Perspective from Studies of DBS for Depression”


10:15 – 10:35 am

BREAK – Coffee


10:35 – 10:55 am

Evan Schaffer, PhD (Faculty Speaker) “Stable geometry is inevitable in drifting neural representations”


10:55 – 11:15 am

Alberto Corona, PhD (Postdoc Speaker)“Stress-sensing microglia and habenular function”

Anina Lund (Student Speaker)“Establishing the Molecular Foundation of Brain Anatomy in Living Individuals”


11:20 am – 12:20 pm

Poster Session I (Scavenger hunt)

(South Hall)


12:20 – 1:15 pm



1:20 – 1:50 pm

Keynote Speaker II

(Assembly Hall)

Brian Kim, MD, MTR, FAAD – “Sensing Inflammation at the Barrier”


1:50 – 2:10 pm

Georgia Panagiotakos, PhD (Faculty Speaker) – “O Ca(2+)ptain! My Ca(2+)ptain! Ion channels, activity dependent calcium signaling and neuraldifferentiation programs”


2:10 – 2:25 pm



2:25 – 3:25 pm

Poster Session II (Scavenger hunt)

(South Hall)


3:25 – 3:45 pm

Ashley Cunningham (Student Speaker) – “Cell-Type specific roles for H3 serotonylation in the developing brain”

Mate Kiss, PhD (Postdoc Speaker) – “Insufficient sleep compromises adequate central nervous system drainage and instigates autoantibody production in brain-draining cervical lymph nodes”


3:45 – 4:00 pm

Break (raffle 2)


4:00 – 4:20 pm

Watit Sontising, PhD (Postdoc Speaker) – “Spatial metabolism in temporal lobe epilepsy”

Paloma Bravo (Student Speaker) – “Microglia contribution to sexual dimorphism and remodeling of the developing brain”


4:20 – 4:40 pm

Angela Radulescu, PhD (Faculty Speaker) – “Reinforcement learning as a model of cognitive and affective dynamics in mental health”


4:40 – 5:00 pm


(Assembly Hall)

Camille Casiño (Psychiatry)
Jacqueline Overton (Neuroscience)
Xuran Wang (Psychiatry)


5:00 – 5:30 pm


(South Hall)


5:00 – 6:00 pm

Networking / Social reception
with live music by Dianne R. Carr
(Pianist) and Amelia McNiven (Violinist)


Amelia McNiven (Violinist)

Amelia is from Ontario and is a Columbia University Student studying pre-medical sciences after completing a Bachelors in Violin Performance at the University of Toronto. She has played extensively in orchestras, chamber groups, and events such as weddings. Most recently she performed at the Lincoln Center with the Columbia University Orchestra, and at Carnegie Hall as a chamber music competition winner.

Dianne R. Carr (Pianist)

Dianne R. Carr is a native New Yorker, a classically-trained musician and is thrilled to join Amelia McNiven Fontani, Violinist, in supporting the April 26th Retreat at Riverside Church!  Good health and life to all! 


Our awards ceremony is one of the highlights of the retreat. We are thrilled to honor the outstanding students, postdocs and faculty that make up the Friedman Brain Institute membership.

MiNDS Brain Fair Booth Competition: This award is given by the MiNDS leadership team to a laboratory that has demonstrated outstanding community outreach through their involvement in Mount Sinai’s annual Brain Fair. The laboratory selected developed and staffed a novel booth for the fair, and this award highlights their commitment to making neuroscience education exciting and accessible to students of all ages. 

Philip Hausfeld Memorial Scholarship Award ($5,000)

Brain Award ($2,000): The Brain Award is given to a student with the best record of achievement in neuroscience.

Neuroscience Mentorship Distinction Award (NMDA) ($500): The Neuroscience Mentorship Distinction Award (NMDA) is presented to a Neuroscience MTA faculty member that exemplifies exceptional mentorship, dedication to trainee well-being, and career development and commitment to the educational mission of Mount Sinai and the community.

Best Poster
Postdocs – Two awardees – $200
Students – Two awardees – $200


Best Images  

  • FIRST PLACE – $200
  • SECOND PLACE –  $100
  • THIRD PLACE –  $50

Most “Liked” Social Media Image: Every image that is submitted is uploaded to all of the Friedman Brain Institute’s social media platforms – Facebook | Twitter | Instagram * The image that receives the most combined “likes” will win! *

  • FIRST PLACE – $200
  • SECOND PLACE –  $100
  • THIRD PLACE –  $50

Art of the Brain Scavenger Hunt – Match the images with the posters located in the South Hall. The first person to submit the correct answers wins a framed Art of the Brain image. Submit your answers here.



Camille Casiño

Camille Casiño is an associate researcher in the Morishita Laboratory. After falling in love with neuroscience as a teenager, she went on to get a BA in Neuroscience from the University of Chicago in 2021 but maintained her love for music by studying music theory and analysis. Her research interests include the development of social behavior, learning and memory, and synaptic physiology. Outside of the lab, Camille also works as a professional editor. A born and raised New Yorker, Camille spends her free time playing the piano, reading ergodic literature, and adding to her list of favorite places to eat in the city.

Jacqueline Overton

With a passion for understanding the intricate relationships between brain, body, and behavior, I bring extensive expertise in neuroscience research, spanning sensation, perception, interoception, behavior, physiology, decision making, development, and aging. I am a creative problem solver with a gift for communicating across diverse teams. By bridging the gap between neuroscience and user experience, I aim to drive innovative solutions for mental wellness and behavior change.

My current research focuses on harnessing the power of slow breathing exercises and invasive recordings in human neurosurgery patients to probe the neural mechanisms of interoception, with the goal of uncovering potential therapeutic targets for neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Personally, my journey has been enriched by over 20 years of dedicated meditation and yoga practice, during which I have experienced firsthand the transformative influence of mindfulness on my healing and personal growth. I recently attained a 200-hour yoga instructor certification and am currently exploring advanced breathwork techniques, aiming to not only enhance my own practice but also to inspire and uplift others through the sharing of my diverse lived experiences.

Xuran Wang

Xuran Wang is an Assistant Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, affiliated with Department of Psychiatry with a secondary position at Department of Genetics and Genomic Science and the SEAVER Autism Center. Her research focuses on developing advanced statistical methods and computational tools to address the challenges posed by emerging biotechnologies in the field of neuro-psychiatric disorders. Prior to her current position, Xuran completed her Postdoctoral research at Carnegie Mellon University. She holds a PhD in Applied Mathematics and Computational Science from the University of Pennsylvania, where she gained expertise in applying mathematical and computational approaches to address complex scientific problems.