neuroscience 2015 chicago

Neuroscience 2015 – Running a marathon

Tuesday, 20 October, 2015

Monday, October 19th - After my “baby steps” at my first Neuroscience meeting on Sunday, it was time for some running action. Well, honestly, I wasn’t really running around, but I do feel like I walked a marathon. I was set on seeing all the posters today; with two sessions a day, I walked down all those aisles twice. (Can you tell I am kind of proud of myself? I am totally doing this again tomorrow).

I saw research on how acupuncture can help relieve anxiety during alcohol rehab (rats actually receiving acupuncture!), and some very nice operant conditioning tasks, such as risk aversion in rats at different ages in a probability discounting app.

Satellite symposium

But of course what really made our day yesterday was our satellite symposium in the evening. We had an overwhelming amount of people attending, with all 120 seats filled. I felt bad that we had to turn people away! For those of you standing in front of a closed door, I am so sorry, but we really weren’t allowed to take in any more people because of fire regulations.

Live brain imaging

I remember a couple of years ago, optogenetics was Neuroscience Method of the year (I believe it was 2010). I thought it was awesome and groundbreaking, and that again is how I felt when I first read about imaging neuronal activity in freely moving animals (I wrote about it here). So how great is it that we now were able to have a satellite symposium about this?

Mapping out neurons

First, Dr. Joshua Jennings told us about his group’s research in the Stuber Lab. He explained the importance and added value of looking at the activity of the neurons, especially in freely behaving mice. He told us about how this research started by tagging and mapping out neurons and the combinations with several behavioral tasks and cues such as olfactory and visual.

New insights: the hippocampus and the reward system

Dr. Michael Bruchas continued this story by explaining how this new technique (using Inscopix microscope cameras) is very suitable to investigate the development and possible treatments of addictive behaviors. He described conditioned place preference testing of nicotine-induced behaviors. Interestingly, theit data suggests a key role of the hippocampus in the reward system, a brain region known for its importance in learning and memory processes, but previously thought to be of less importance in the reward system.

Dr. Mazen Kheirbek continued on about the newly found importance of the hippocampus in anxiety and emotional behavior. He described studies using both calcium activity imaging and optogenetic modulation during anxiety-tests, essentially mapping out cell-types and circuits in the hippocampus.

Mapping out the perception of pain

Dr. Grégory Scherrer finished the symposium with his presentation about the amygdala. As this part of the brain is known for its involvement in fear and anxiety, Scherrer and his fellow researchers were interested in finding out about the sensory and emotional parts of pain. How does the brain determine how unpleasant the pain actually is, and does this change during the development of chronic pain? They exposed mice to noxious and innocuous stimuli before and after peripheral nerve injury. Strikingly, only the noxious stimuli evoked certain patterns in calcium imaging before the injury, but afterwards, the patterns evoked by the innocuous stimuli were indistinguishable from the noxious stimuli.

Did you miss this symposium, but would like to find out more? Keep an eye on our website because we will be posting more information soon!

See  you tomorrow! 

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