Sumantra “Shona” Chattarji, Ph.D.
Through a range of administrative and organizational roles (sections 6-7), I have gained layers of experience that, I hope, has prepared me well to contribute to the Society’s mission in the areas of professional development, diversity, international partnerships, and public outreach. I founded and headed the Centre for Brain Development and Repair, an international collaborative research centre with the University of Edinburgh and Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain. This experience helped me better understand how international collaborations can drive neuroscience research in exciting new directions. This also aligned well with my longstanding commitment to mentoring talented and motived young scientists to be part of active exchange and training programs abroad. I have learned valuable lessons from my service on several Society for Neuroscience committees, as well as in my home institution. My administrative responsibilities included chairing IAECs, planning and managing animal care facilities, serving on various regulatory/steering committees, and recruitment and budgetary decisions. At the national level, I served as a Co-Chair of the Task Force on Neuro-Disease Biology and Coordinator for the National Mouse Research Resource Facility funded by the Indian government. I have also interacted actively with funding agencies, media outlets, policymakers and educational institutions as part of my public outreach efforts in India and abroad. While the Society’s origins are in North America, it has evolved into a vibrant organization with a significant international footprint. Thus, my various roles and experiences across diverse scientific and social milieus will add a global perspective to shaping policies of the Society.
Degree, Institute, Year Earned
|B.S. in Physics||Calcutta University||1984|
|M.S. in Physics||Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur
|Ph.D.||Johns Hopkins University & The Salk Institute||1993
- Neurobiological mechanisms of emotional symptoms in stress-related psychiatric disorders
- Animal and human stem cell models of neurodevelopmental disorders
- Synaptic plasticity mechanisms of learning and memory
Current Position(s) at Your Current Institution
Earlier this year I stepped down as Senior Professor after 25 years on the faculty of the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bangalore, India. I have just taken up a new position as the founder director of a research center for translational neuroscience, called CHINTA. This new center is part of the TCG Centers for Research & Education in Science and Technology, located in Kolkata, India.
|Society for Neuroscience||Member
Member - Donald B. Lindsley Prize Selection Committee
Member - Committee on Animals in Research
Member - Workforce and Training Working Group
Member - Professional Development Committee
Member - Women in Neuroscience Subcommittee
Member - Advisory Group on Member Value
Member - Annual Meeting Advisory Group
Member - International Affairs Committee
|International Brain Research Organization (IBRO)||Joint Committee of International Affairs Comm./SfN and U.S. National Academy of Sciences||2008-2009|
|International Union of Physiological Sciences (IUPS)||Fellow||2021|
|European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO)
|Molecular & Cellular Cognition Society (MCCS), Asia
||Past President & Secretary|
|Molecular & Cellular Cognition Society, USA
||Past Council Member|
|Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives
|Indian Academy of Science
|The Santa Fe Institute||International Fellow||2000|
|ACS Chemical Neuroscience||Associate Editor
Editorial Advisory Board
|British Journal of Pharmacology||Editorial Board||2020-present
|Current Opinion in Physiology||Editorial Board||2017-present|
|Journal of Physiology||Editorial Board||2016-2018
|Journal of Neurophysiology||Editorial Board||2012-2015|
|IBRO Neuroscience Reports||Editorial Board||2016-present|
|Journal of Neuroscience Methods||Editorial Board
|Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience||Associate Editor||2010-2015|
|Neural Plasticity||Editorial Board||2006-2008|
|Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience
||Editorial Advisory Board|
Other Service Positions:
|Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain, University of Edinburgh, UK||Member, Strategic Advisory Board & Visiting Professor
|School of Clinical Sciences, University of Edinburgh||Honorary Professor||2014-2015
|Gordon Research Conference on “The Amygdala in Health and Disease”||Chair
|Welcome Trust-DBT India Alliance||Early Career Fellowship Selection Committee
|Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India||Co-Chair, Task Force on Neuro-Disease Biology||2015-2016
|Ashoka University, India||Science Advisory Group
Advisory Group, Department of Psychology
|Pfizer, India||Scientific Advisory Board||2011-2012|
|Indian-American Kavli Frontiers of Science Symposium||Chair, Organizing Committee||2011|
|International Center for Theoretical Physics, Trieste||Faculty, Workshop on Development & Evolution of Nervous Systems||2008-2010|
After completing my MSc degree in Physics from the Indian Institute of Technology, I switched to neuroscience as a graduate student in Terry Sejnowski’s laboratory at Johns Hopkins University and later at the Salk Institute. During post-doctoral research at Yale and MIT, I got interested in the contrasting effects of stress on different types of memories. Stress impairs memories of facts and events, which depend on synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus. In contrast, stress amplifies emotional memories, particularly aversive memories, which are processed by the amygdala. But little was known about the synaptic basis for this contrast when I started my laboratory at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, India. Using behavioral, morphometric, molecular and electrophysiological tools we identified novel neural correlates of stress-induced modulation of amygdalar structure and function — from synaptic mechanisms to their behavioral consequences – in rodents. Our findings point to unique features of stress-induced plasticity in the amygdala, which are in striking contrast to those seen in the hippocampus, and have long-term consequences for the affective symptoms seen in stress-related psychiatric disorders (J. Neurosci. 2002, 2013; Nature Neurosci., 2015, 2015; PNAS 2005, 2006, 2019; eLife 2018).
We also extended our research to explore a neurodevelopmental disorder – Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) – that too is characterized by cognitive and affective dysfunction. In one of the first analysis of the neural basis of amygdalar dysfunction in FXS, we identified synaptic defects in the basolateral amygdala (PNAS, 2010; Curr. Opinion Neurobiol., 2011) that are distinct from those reported earlier in the hippocampus. We also found presynaptic mGluR5 in the amygdala, activation of which reversed deficient synaptic transmission and plasticity, thereby restoring normal fear learning in FXS rats. This highlights the importance of modifying the prevailing mGluR-based framework for therapeutic interventions to include circuit-specific differences in FXS pathophysiology (Cell Reports, 2021). Though findings from animal models of FXS have provided valuable insights, they have not always translated into effective clinical outcomes for patients. This underscores the need for alternative strategies to model FXS using human-based platforms. We recently identified an important cell non-autonomous contribution of human astrocytes in correcting aberrant electrical activity in human FXS neurons, thereby suggesting a framework for exploring new therapeutic strategies aimed at human neuron-glia interactions (Cell Reports, 2023).
Finally, this scientific journey benefited from the support and generosity of others. Our work would have been impossible without the very talented and motivated trainees I had the good fortune of working with in India and abroad. Our early work in India depended mostly on training students/post-doctoral fellows with no background in neuroscience, including those from the physical/engineering sciences. Many of these young Indian neuroscientists have later pursued careers abroad or returned home to start their labs. Our research was also enriched by collaborations with labs in the USA and Europe. Together, this experience has given me a unique global perspective on neuroscience research and education that is in alignment with the Society’s mission in the areas of professional development, international partnerships, mentoring, and diversity.
The full CV for this candidate can be found within the ballot.