Advisory Board

Dr. Donna M. Simmons

The New York Times article Building a Search Engine of the Brain, Slice by Slice said

To create as complete a picture as possible, Dr. Annese cuts very thin slices — 70 microns each, paper-thin — from the whole brain, roughly parallel with the plane of the forehead, moving from front to back. Perhaps the best-known pioneer of such whole-brain sectioning is Dr. Paul Ivan Yakovlev, who built a collection of slices from hundreds of brains now kept at a facility in Washington.
But Dr. Annese has something Dr. Yakovlev did not: advanced computer technology that tracks and digitally reproduces each slice. An entire brain produces some 2,500 slices, and the amount of information in each one, once microscopic detail is added, will fill about a terabyte of computer storage. Computers at U.C.S.D. are now fitting all those pieces together for Mr. Molaison’s brain, to create what Dr. Annese calls a Google Earthlike search engine,” the first entirely reconstructed, whole-brain atlas available to anyone who wants to log on.
“We’re going to get the kind of resolution, all the way down to the level of single cells, that we have not had widely available before,” said Donna Simmons, a visiting scholar at the Brain Architecture Center at the University of Southern California. The thin whole-brain slicing “will allow much better opportunities to study the connection between cells, the circuits themselves, which we have so much more to learn about.”

Donna M. Simmons, Ph.D. is Visiting Scholar at the Brain Architecture Center at USC where she engages in academic-based neuroscience/neuroanatomy research, using immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization, and other neuroanatomical methods.
Her specialities include: Neuro-histology, immuno-histochemistry, in situ hybridization histochemistry, and neuroanatomy databases (rat brain atlas). Communication of neuroscience and science in general to colleagues, students, and members of the non-scientific community. Teaching: short courses, lectures, workshops, and hands-on research methods. Consultant/advisor on specific methods in neurohistology. Informal graduate student advisor: general academic/professional topics and specific research issues.
Donna coauthored The Distribution of Cells Containing Estrogen Receptor-α (ERα) and ERβ Messenger Ribonucleic Acid in the Preoptic Area and Hypothalamus of the Sheep: Comparison of Males and Females, Dwarf locus mutants lacking three pituitary cell types result from mutations in the POU-domain gene pit-1, Expression of a large family of POU-domain regulatory genes in mammalian brain development, Basic Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF) in the Central Nervous System: Identification of Specific Loci of Basic FGF Expression in the Rat Brain, Follistatin Gene Expression in the Ovary and Extragonadal Tissues, and Cushing’s Syndrome due to Ectopic Production of Corticotropin-Releasing Factor.
Donna earned her Ph.D. in Neuroscience at the University of Southern California in 2006.