NIH triples up on Feinstein Institute brain specialist

Skull candy: Three federal awards will help Feinstein Institute brain pioneer Ashesh Mehta bone up on various neurological functions.

Three brain-focused research projects at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research will benefit from more than $1 million in federal funding.

The Manhasset-based Feinstein Institute, R&D arm of the Northwell Health system, announced Thursday that the NIH’s Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies initiative has allotted two stipends to support projects led by Feinstein Associate Professor Ashesh Mehta, Northwell’s director of epilepsy surgery and head of the institute’s Laboratory of Human Brain Mapping.

Mehta’s work has also attracted a third award from the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health, according to the Feinstein Institute.

The aptly acronymed BRAIN program aims to develop and apply cutting-edge technologies to create dynamic snapshots of the brain in action, providing a critical knowledge base for brain-disorder researchers.

Ashesh Mehta: Brainy type.

Mehta, widely regarded as an epilepsy pioneer, will apply a three-year, $650,000 BRAIN grant to a study exploring “Dynamic Neural Mechanisms of Audiovisual Speech Perception” and a five-year, $250,000 BRAIN award to a study involving transcranial electric stimulation, spatial focality dosing and other heady brain business.

A separate $250,000 stipend from the NIMH names the Feinstein Institute the primary research site for “Neurophysiology of Auditory Emotion Recognition in the Human Brain.”

Mehta is leading the charge on all three studies, which will also include research at the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, part of the Northwell Health Neuroscience Institute.

The studies will investigate how brain-activity fluctuations affect speech-processing functions, how the brain codes the “emotional content” of speech and how stimulating specific brain areas can potentially improve mood, among other neurophysiological topics.

“Our findings will have widespread implications for neurological and mental health, particularly in biomarker discovery and understanding how they are rooted in brain connections,” Mehta said in a statement.