Adele DeNicola

Ph.D. 2019

Thesis Title:

Altered MD-PFC thalamocortical network dynamics in an NMDAR antagonist animal model of cognitive control deficits in schizophrenia.

Current Position:

Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Minnesota

Undergraduate Institution and Major:

Boston College, B.S. in Biology and B.A. in Psychology with Honors, Neuroscience Concentration, 2010

Graduate Advisor:

Matthew Chafee, Ph.D. Department of Neuroscience

Description of Graduate Research:

My lab studies the neural mechanisms of cognitive control in the context of psychiatric disease. Neuronal activity and information transfer within neural circuits are not well understood in the context of psychiatric disease. My thesis work looks at the underlying mechanisms within the thalamo-cortical network during performance of a cognitive control task to better understand how the thalamus affects cortical processing of cognition.  I will also examine this network in the context of psychiatric disease and whether deep brain stimulation can reduce cognitive deficits associated with psychiatric disease.

Graduate Level Publications:

  • Blackman RK, Crowe DA, DeNicola AL, Sakellaridi S, Westerberg JA, Huynh AM, MacDonald AW 3rd, Sponheim SR, Chafee MV. Shared neural activity but distinct neural dynamics for cognitive control in monkey rrefrontal and parietal cortex. J Neurosci. 2023 Mar 9:JN-RM-1641-22.
  • Zick JL, Crowe DA, Blackman RK, Schultz K, Bergstrand DW, DeNicola AL, Carter RE, Ebner TJ, Lanier LM, Netoff TI, Chafee MV. Disparate insults relevant to schizophrenia converge on impaired spike synchrony and weaker synaptic interactions in prefrontal local circuits. Curr Biol. 2021 Oct 20:S0960-9822(21)01363-4.
  • Kummerfeld E, Ma S, Blackman RK, DeNicola AL, Redish AD, Vinogradov S, Crowe DA, Chafee MV. Cognitive control rrrors in nonhuman primates resembling those in schizophrenia reflect opposing effects of NMDA receptor blockade on causal interactions between cells and circuits in prefrontal and parietal cortices. Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging. 2020;5(7):705-714.
  • DeNicola AL, Park MY, Crowe DA, MacDonald AW 3rd, Chafee MV. Differential roles of MD thalamus and prefrontal cortex in decision making and state representation in a cognitive control task measuring deficits in schizophrenia. J Neurosci. 2020;40(8):1650-1667.
  • Zick JL, Blackman RK, Crowe DA, Amirikian B, DeNicola AL, Netoff TI, Chafee MV. Blocking NMDAR disrupts spike timing and decouples monkey prefrontal circuits: implications for activity-dependent disconnection in Schizophrenia. Neuron. 2018;98(6):1243-1255.
  • Blackman RK, Crowe DA, DeNicola AL, Sakellaridi S, MacDonald AW III, Chafee MV. Monkey prefrontal neurons reflect logical operations for cognitive control in a variant of the AX continuous performance task (AX-CPT). J Neurosci. 2016;36(14):4067-79.

Professional Oral Presentations:

  • Probing a spike-timing theory of schizophrenia: thalamocortical PFC network dynamics in a primate model. Oral Presentation at 1st Annual Brain Camp, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, July 21, 2017
  • Characterizing the neural correlates underlying cognitive control in the MD, ACC, and dlPFC. Oral Presentation at Department of Neuroscience Colloquium Series, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, May 3, 2017
  • Characterization of neural correlates of cognitive control in the mediodorsal nucleus of the thalamus. Oral Presentation at the Wallin Neuroscience Discovery Day, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, February 3, 1017.
  • Cognitive control performance errors and thalamocortical dynamics in a monkey model of schizophrenia. Oral presentation at Department of Neuroscience Colloquium Series, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, May 25, 2016
  • Career Panel, Oral presentation at Department of Biology, Augsburg College, Minneapolis, MN, December 4, 2015
  • Characterization and modulating primate thalamocortical network dynamics underlying cognitive control. Oral presentation at Department of Neuroscience Colloquium Series, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, May 6, 2015.

Graduate Level Abstracts:

  • DeNicola AL, Chafee MV. Behavioral dissection of the dot-pattern expectancy task (DPX) in non-human primates. Abstract poster presentation, Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA, 2016.

Graduate Level Awards and Honors:

  • F31 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, 2015
  • American Legion Brain Sciences Family Award, 2015
  • Sping and Ying Ngoh Lin Award, 2015
  • MnDRIVE Neuromodulation Graduate Student Fellowship, 2014

GPN Committees:

  • Marketing and Recruitment Committee, Founding Member, 2015 - 2017
  • Admissions Committee, 2015 - 2017
  • Mentorship Committee, 2014 - 2016
  • Student Board, First-Year Representative, 2012 - 2013

Professional Outreach:

  • Volunteer at the Minnesota State Science Bowl, St. Paul, Minnesota, February 2016
  • Volunteer at the Annual Brain Bee Competition, Minneapolis, MN, 2016
  • Brain Awareness Week Instructor, various Schools across the Twin Cities 2013- Present
  • Science Fusion Presenter, Science Museum of Minnesota, October 2014 and 2015
  • Brains at the Fair, Minnesota State Fair University of Minnesota Booth, August 2015
  • MnDrive at the Fair, Minnesota State Fair University of Minnesota Booth, August 2015

Professional Memberships:

  • Society for Neuroscience, 2015 – present

Thesis Committee Members:

Research Categories:

  • Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neuroengineering
  • Neuropsychiatric Disease


Why Did You Choose UMN?

I chose the UMN because of the interdisciplinary nature of the program and the collaborative environment portrayed to me during the interview weekend. I also very much enjoy all the Twin Cities has to offer outside of the GPN.

What Advice Would You Give a First Year Graduate Student?

Give weight to the advice offered up by the upperclassmen; they know what they are talking about because they have been in your shoes.

Adele DeNicola