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Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind (part one)
October 2013
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author
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Neuroscience 2013
43rd Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience
San Diego Convention Center
November 9-13, 2013  
 

 
SAN DIEGO—Sure, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) is mostly about the human nervous system rather than psychology, but it seems that in planning the event, listening was key for SfN organizers, just like it would be for any good therapist dealing with matters of the mind.  
 
"Listening to our members is critical to how we improve," says SfN President Dr. Larry Swanson, noting that "last year, the graduate school fair and dynamic poster presentations were very popular, so we have expanded them this year. Another popular feature last year was the Art of Neuroscience exhibit, which will also be expanded."  
 
SfN also took advice from last year's attendees to enhance the free mobile app that visitors can use to set up their schedule while at the meeting, and made improvements to the way users can search through and read the more than 15,000 abstracts, he adds. But even beyond listening to direct suggestions, the society keeps its ear close to the ground to know what's important educationally.  
 
"SfN recognizes that researchers are being asked to do more with less," Swanson says, noting that some prominent presentations at the 43rd annual meeting reflect that. "Neuroscience 2013 features two panels on advocating for science, geared toward those who would like to become involved. I will co-host 'Enhancing Global Cooperation on Advocacy,' with Sten Grillner of the International Brain Research Organization. We will be discussing the importance of biomedical research funding, and will examine ways to raise public awareness and advocate for government support for neuroscience across the globe."  
 
Another presentation in that vein is "Public Advocacy Forum: Policy Implications for the Science of Aging and End of Life," which focuses on "the profound challenges raised by an aging population and the rise in conditions such as Alzheimer's disease," Swanson says—an issue that stands to cost the healthcare market billions and thus will present researchers and clinicians with more than their share of doing more with less. The forum is moderated by Anne Buckingham, who is searching for a treatment for Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Swanson says, and the forum is open to the public.  
 
Looking toward the needs of DDNews readers, who mostly fall into the discovery, development and diagnostics camps, Swanson note that the Presidential Special Lectures that he had a hand in organizing are of potential interest, as they focus on the "connectome," a comprehensive diagram of how brain cells and brain regions are connected.  
 
"The human brain is a network of extraordinary complexity, and understanding its connectivity will have profound implications on disease treatment, drug targets and the development of diagnostic tools," Swanson notes. "[The Presidential Special Lectures program] also focuses on the latest research at the basic level of brain science, which is important for researchers and clinicians who need to know about the development of the complex neural pathways at the core of the challenges they face in correcting disorders. These lectures provide new answers in fundamental brain science, and will help researchers reach the next level in their own work."
 
In addition, attendees will also have the opportunity to view more than 15,000 presentations, plus workshops and symposia, spanning the depth and breadth of the neuroscience field, he points out.
 
"It is an incredibly exciting time to be involved in neuroscience, no matter your research specialization. Our SfN Special Presentation, which is open to the public, will have global leaders from the field discussing the important investments of President Obama's BRAIN Initiative and the European Commission's Human Brain Project, and how those projects are likely to affect scientific advances," Swanson says.  
 
Also, he says, the intersection of neuroscience with other areas of society is always of interest to SfN, and this year the "Dialogues between Neuroscience and Society" speaker will be Ed Catmull, president of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios. Catmull will discuss "The Creative Culture" and the dynamic balance between technology and art, and his lecture is open to the public.  
 
As for why researchers in discovery, development and diagnostics should strongly consider attending this year's meeting or future ones, Swanson notes, "We can't provide drugs for what we don't understand. Neuroscience 2013 is the world's largest marketplace of ideas and tools for global neuroscience. Attendees can make connections with more than 30,000 professionals, including researchers, medical doctors, chemists, linguists, mathematicians, engineers and others from neuroscience-related disciplines from nearly 80 countries."  
 
Several lectures and presentations fall under themes that speak directly to those who work in drug discovery, drug development and diagnostics, he notes, such as Theme C, which focuses on disorders of the nervous system, and Theme G, which focuses on Novel methods and technology development.  
 
 

 
SOCIETY FOR NEUROSCIENCE NEWS:
 
SfN gets $525,000 for Latin American neuroscience training  
 
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) has been awarded $525,000 from The Grass Foundation to create a Latin American Neuroscience Training Program. The five-year initiative will serve hundreds of promising young regional scientists, providing knowledge, networking and tools to help them advance in their careers and contribute to the global neuroscience community.  
 
The program builds on the historic strengths of the SfN Ricardo Miledi Program, a Grass Foundation-funded training initiative that ran from 2003 to 2012, and incorporates new formal partnerships with two regional bodies of the International Brain Research Organization as well as institutions that will host the program. It is projected to serve approximately 650 trainees from Latin America and the Caribbean over five years. Each year, 15 outstanding students will be selected to participate in an onsite, advanced three- week training program. Additionally, more than 100 students from across the region will participate in an online training program, which will include webinars, videos, networking and discussions on professional development and the latest science.  
 
The new program's approach and curriculum were developed with input from a core group of leading scientists from the Latin American neuroscience community. Additionally, the course will cover a wealth of professional development topics, including manuscript publishing, the responsible use of animals in research, research ethics and scientific conduct and Brain Awareness Week activities.  
 
"The Latin American Neuroscience Training Program will advance the progress of science and understanding of the brain, and we thank The Grass Foundation for their investment in the bright future of Latin American science," SfN President Larry Swanson said. "By training the region's most promising young scientists, the seeds for advancement planted here will have a positive impact on the trainees and on the future of neuroscience in the region for decades to come."    
 
SfN announces winners of brain awareness video contest  
 
WASHINGTON, D.C.— SfN recently announced the winners of the third annual SfN Brain Awareness Video Contest, with winning topics covering a little-known brain disorder, the mystery of memory and the question of mind reading. The video submissions were evaluated by scientists for creativity and scientific accuracy, and will join more than 1,000 resources available on BrainFacts.org. These resources are intended to engage visitors about the wonders of the brain and mind, such as brain anatomy, how the brain drives the senses and our behavior and how diseases cause brain function to go awry.  
 
The first-place video, "Congenital Anosmia," describes a condition in which people are born without a sense of smell. Scientists know that olfactory stimuli travel from the nose through a few parts of the brain before ending up in the frontal cortex, but they still do not know how or why the signal gets lost along the way. The video's creator, Travis Grenier, a film student at Full Sail University, won $1,000 and a trip to SfN's 2013 annual meeting. Grenier worked with SfN member Pat Trimmer of Virginia Commonwealth University to submit the video.
 
 
The winners for second and third place were too close to call, so the judges declared two second-place winners. The two videos—"Sketch of a Memory" by graduate students Xavier Viñals and África Flores of Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Spain and "Population Coding: Mind Reading and More" by Vania Cao, who completed her Ph.D. at Brown University—each earned a $375 prize.  
The top ten videos from this year's contest will also go on to compete for SfN's $500 People's Choice Award. The public is invited to view and vote for their favorite video at BrainFacts.org/BAVC, but voting closes Oct. 16.  
 
"This year's video submissions reflect enormous excitement about brain research," said Jim McNamara, chair of SfN's Public Education and Communication Committee. "And they are a valuable tool for the neuroscience community to share the wonders of emerging research with the general public, whose support is critical to these endeavors."
 
 

 
ADDITIONAL PRE-SHOW COVERAGE OF NEUROSCIENCE 2013:
 
Co-headquarter hotels  
 
Hilton Bayfront
1 Park Boulevard, San Diego

Manchester Grand Hyatt
1 Market Place, San Diego
 
San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina
333 W. Harbor Drive, San Diego  



Presidential Special Lectures  
 
The Mind of a Worm: Learning from the C. elegans Connectome
Scott W. Emmons, Ph.D.
Saturday, Nov. 9, 5:15 p.m. to 6:25 p.m.
The connectome of the roundworm C. elegans reveals the neural pathways that underlie its motivated and purposeful behavior. New connectomics data suggest the topology of a neural network contributes to integration of multiple sensory inputs in a decision-making process that guides a multistep behavioral pathway. Determining the wiring diagram of the nervous system of a tiny animal is a first step toward learning how patterns of connectivity contribute to the rapid, robust and economic function of the brain.  
 
A Molecular Geneticist's Approach to Understanding the Fly Brain
Gerald M. Rubin, Ph.D.
Sunday, Nov. 10, 5:15 p.m. to 6:25 p.m.
To probe the workings of the nervous system, we will need to be able to assay and manipulate the function of individual neuronal cell types. The intellectual framework for such an approach has been apparent for many years, but the available tools have been inadequate for the job. This lecture addresses efforts to develop and apply an advanced set of tools that will be required for a comprehensive analysis of the anatomy and function of the fly brain at the level of individual cell types and circuits.
 
 
Connectomics: What, How and Why
Jeff W. Lichtman, M.D., Ph.D.
Monday, Nov. 11, 5:15 p.m. to 6:25 p.m.
Connectional maps of the brain have value in modeling how the brain works and fails when subsets of neurons or synapses are missing or misconnected. Such maps also provide information about how brain circuits develop and age. Efforts to obtain complete wiring diagrams of peripheral motor and autonomic axons provide insight into the way mammalian nervous systems mold in response to experience.  
 
Understanding Cortical Hierarchies: The Six-Piece Puzzle of Face Perception
Doris Y. Tsao, Ph.D.
Tuesday, Nov. 12, 5:15 p.m. to 6:25 p.m.
How the brain distills a representation of meaningful objects from retinal input is one of the central challenges of systems neuroscience. Functional imaging experiments in the macaque reveal that one ecologically important class of objects, faces, is represented by a system of six discrete, strongly interconnected regions. Electrophysiological recordings show that these "face patches" have unique functional profiles. By understanding the distinct visual representations maintained in these six face patches, the sequence of information flow between them and the role each plays in face perception, we can gain new insights into hierarchical information processing in the brain.    
 

 
Featured Lectures
 
 
Dialogues Between Neuroscience and Society
The Creative Culture
Ed Catmull, Ph.D.
Saturday, Nov. 9, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Many think creativity is the result of singular genius. However, the reality of creativity is far more complex and interesting. The central issues include removing hidden barriers to creativity and candor. We pay special attention to protecting barely formed ideas; the dynamic balance between technology and art; the necessity of structured processes to get the job done; and the random, unpredictable nature of what we do. In particular, we need to give thoughtful attention to the culture itself, for out of this culture arises new technology, new ideas and artistic expression.
 
 
Peter and Patricia Gruber Lecture
Understanding Circuit Dynamics: Variability, Modulation and Homeostasis
Eve E. Marder, Ph.D.
Sunday, Nov. 10, 2:30 p.m. to 3:40 p.m.
Circuit function arises from the interplay between the intrinsic properties of neurons and their synaptic connections. This lecture will present combined experimental and computational work suggesting that robust circuit performance can arise from highly variable circuit components. Animal-to-animal variability in circuit parameters raises interesting challenges for reliable neuromodulation and responses to environmental perturbation but allows important substrates for evolution.  
 
David Kopf Lecture on Neuroethics
Blaming the Brain: Behavioral Sciences in the Courtroom
Nita A. Farahany, J.D., Ph.D.
Monday, Nov. 11, 10 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.
Recent scientific progress has dramatically advanced our understanding of biological, neurological and environmental contributions to normal and deviant human behavior. This lecture will present the first comprehensive empirical study on the use of biosciences in the United States and other legal systems. Focusing on criminal law and tort law, the lecture will cover the nature of claims being advanced, shifting attitudes toward scientific evidence in the legal system and future implications for the relationship between law and neuroscience.  
 
Albert and Ellen Grass Lecture
The Neural Circuitry of Sex and Violence
David J. Anderson, Ph.D.
Monday, Nov. 11, 3:30 p.m. to 4:40 p.m.
Arousal states are integral to our emotional responses. Both mating and fighting are associated with high states of arousal and, furthermore, these behaviors can reinforce one another. However, at the same time, these behaviors are typically mutually exclusive. How can these behaviors be so opposed while reinforcing each other? This talk will describe efforts to address this problem by elucidating the functional neural circuitry underlying aggression and its relationship to circuits controlling mating behavior in both mice and fruit flies.  
 
History of Neuroscience Lecture
Reward Circuitry in the Brain
Roy A. Wise, Ph.D.
Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2:30 p.m. to 3:40 p.m.
The discovery that rats would work for brief electrical stimulation of the brain led to the notion of specialized brain circuitry for the "stamping in" of learning. Longer stimulation at the same brain sites induced drive states for feeding, predatory attack and other motivated behaviors. Subsequent pharmacological and parametric studies implicated forebrain dopamine systems as the final common path for these effects. These findings formed the early basis for our current view and new optogenetic studies of the special role of dopamine in learning, motivation and addiction.    
 

 
Special Presentation
 
Understanding New Brain Initiatives in the U.S. and Europe
 
Monday, Nov. 11, 1:15 p.m. to 3 p.m.
 
The Special Presentation will feature a panel discussion about emerging neuroscience projects in the United States and Europe. The panel will include key leaders from the U.S. Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative and the Human Brain Project, which is part of the European Flagship Programme. Learn more about recent investments in brain research initiatives, the scientific foci and the public policy implications and opportunities in neuroscience.  
 
Panelists:
 
  • Thomas Insel, M.D., U.S. National Institute of Mental Health
  • Story C. Landis, Ph.D., U.S. National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke
  • Geoffrey Ling, M.D., Ph.D., U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
  • Cora Marrett, Ph.D., U.S. National Science Foundation
  • Daniel Pasini, Ph.D., European Commission    
(To view part two of this pre-show coverage, click here)
 
Code: E101328

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