Northern Michigan University

02/21/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/21/2024 15:38

Student Co-authors 'Nature' Publication

Vanessa Steigauf

Northern Michigan University undergraduate student Vanessa Steigauf, originally from Singen, Germany, co-authored an article in Nature, a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology.

Steigauf is neuroscience-cell and molecular biology student. She was one of six credited for the article "Phylogenetic comparative analysis of the cerebellocerebral system in 34 species highlights primategeneral expansion of cerebellar crura I-II."

Steigauf was selected for an internship at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany. with Dr. Sofie Valk and doctoral student Neville Magielse (both co-authors on the paper) in the Otto Hahn Group of Cognitive Neuroscience in summer 2022.

"The study I helped with included the comparison of cerebellar and cerebral volumes throughout primate evolution," said Steigauf in a previous interview.

In the study, Steigauf and her team looked at chimpanzees and human cerebrums and cerebellums. They found that both chimp and human brains evolve at a similar rate.

"A certain area of the [human] cerebellum evolves faster, we hypothesize that it had to do with more advanced functions, like social cognition, language and emotion. This is new because we assume that the cerebellum is just for balance and movement, simple tasks, now, that area is for something more advanced… this study was important because we only have a rough outline of what the brain can do, there is still a lot we do not know.

"My main work was working on 63 MRI primate scans data and putting them in a 3D program, then segmenting the specific areas. I kind of mark the area of interest, and that was my main work, looking at the data and making it as visual as possible."

Steigauf is also on NMU's Swim and Dive team, mainly competing in mid-distance freestyle races. She also writes for Swimming World magazine, putting science into a simple language relevant to athletics.

"Most of the time it's really hard to understand what cool findings means for sports," Steigauf said. "I love authors who write what sounds interesting and actually help you feel better in the water, especially as female athletes."

She became interested in neuroscience because it was the "in-between" of psychology and biology. She will graduate with her bachelor's this May. She plans to return to NMU to get her master's in integrative biosciences, doing research with the department of Human Health and Performance.

Steigauf loves outdoor activities including: hiking, skiing, climbing, running and biking. She said she loves the calm environment at NMU and never struggles to find someone to explore the Upper Peninsula with.

Prepared By

Bridgette Bowser
Student Writer
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Categories: Around NMU