PhD Students Seminar

We cordially invite you to the Ph.D. Seminar, which will be held on May 17, 2024 at 10.30 in the Konorski room (2nd floor). There will be 2 presentations:

  1. MSc. Maciej Gaca
  2. MSc. Dominika Kawka

Information regarding speakers together with abstracts can be found below.


MSc.  Maciej Gaca
Laboratory of Brain Imaging
Supervisor: Prof. Artur Marchewka, PhD., DSc. 

Title: Learning to Read Braille: Neuroplasticity and Sensory Integration in the Sighted and Blind



Braille reading leverages cross-modal plasticity, emphasising the brain's ability to reallocate functions across sensory domains. It engages motor and sensory areas, as well as language and cognitive centres. Regions traditionally involved in visual reading, like the visual word form area (VWFA), also activate during Braille reading.

Despite these insights, no study has used a complex reading task to monitor neural activity shifts during the first three months of Braille training to understand cross-modal plasticity. Using the Lexical Decision Task in an fMRI scanner in sighted learning tactile Braille, we observed that VWFA activation - considered an indicator of cross-modal plasticity - was not detected until six weeks into the course, suggesting that proficiency in tactile reading influences the onset of cross-modal plasticity. However, once this activation was achieved, the peak level of VWFA engagement remained stable, even after a three-month break from Braille learning. A comparison of blind and sighted Braille readers revealed high activity in both groups in the VWFA, underscoring its modality-independent role.

The findings illustrate cross-modal plasticity, with visual processing areas repurposed for tactile input, enabling linguistic comprehension through tactile modality. This research contributes to our understanding of neuroplasticity, revealing converging adaptations in both the blind and the sighted.



MSc. Dominika Kawka
Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research PAS, Olsztyn; Group of Hormonal Action Mechanisms
Supervisor: Prof. Monika M. Kaczmarek, PhD, DSc 

Title: The impact of maternal diet during lactation on the functioning of the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axis in female offspring across multiple generations



Adequate nutrition during critical periods of development, such as fetal and early postnatal life, is essential for the proper formation of organs and the establishment of hormonal pathways. Malnutrition during these sensitive periods can disrupt reproductive development and function, potentially leading to subfertility and other reproductive health challenges later in life. To determine the impact of transient malnutrition during early postnatal life, resulting from deficits in the maternal milk (generation F0), body composition, puberty attainment, reproductive performance, and the functioning of the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis was assessed in the female offspring (generation F1). In addition, the consequences of the parental nutritional history were evaluated in the subsequent generation of mice (F2), which were not directly exposed to postnatal malnutrition. Inadequate maternal nutrition during lactation not only affected body weight (F1, F2) and composition (F1) of female offspring but also resulted in delayed puberty (F1, F2) and hormonal imbalance (F1). Furthermore, molecular alternations in the hypothalamus and gonads were observed, with some effects still evident in F2 females. The oocytes of undernourished female offspring (F1) displayed higher lipid content and enhanced mitochondrial activity, as well as altered redox status. Interestingly, some of these changes persisted in the oocytes of subsequent generation of females. Effects observed in the F1 and F2 generations align with the principles of nutritional programming. Even though the nutritional insult was no longer present in subsequent generation, the nutritional history of parents was still evident in HPG axis functioning. The most striking differences were observed at the gonadal level. Oocytes retained the memory of scarce food availability, likely in preparation for future increased demands for cellular components and constituents essential for reproductive success.

Date of publication
9 May 2024
Date of event
Nencki Institute