To compensate for my slightly unorthodox blog post yesterday, I’ll briefly summarize the big fascinations of day 2 and day 3 of SfN.
More Than Glue
I may be biased. I’m part of a neuron-glial interactions lab (Tolbert/Oland Lab at the University of Arizona). Going to Ben Barres talk was inspiring. The theme may be every year that “we don’t know much about glial cells,” but I’m sure we’re starting to make large strides. Carla Shatz and Beth Stevens’ talks certainly made that apparent. So far, glial researchers are starting with morphology, development, and, more importantly, interactions and modulation of neurons. Glial cells are now seen as something far from supporting cells in the nervous system. I don’t want to go too into the depths, just know that as a student, perhaps a future researcher and investigator, glial cells are something critical to look at now and the future.
The Poster Maze
After the talk I decided to head over to my first poster session as an observer. It’s intimidating. “How can there be so much information be thrown about in the air and tacked to black poster boards?” The fact of the matter is that there is. And the hours of work each student and researcher puts in to discover something new unfolds in just 4 hours (even though, as I’ve heard from my lab mates, it may seem like an eternity as a poster presenter).
I decided to speak to one specific presenter from TGen Neurogenomics Division in Phoenix, Arizona. Ryan Richholt, had a presentation about Extracellular RNA Sequencing to Identify RNA Biomarkers of Head Impact in College Athletes. In other words, looking for the presence of RNA sequences in fluids like blood and urine as an indicator of head injury or concussions among Arizona State University football players. They placed sensors in and around the college players’ gear during games monitoring size of impact and other information. They’re in their 3rd season of testing and they hope to gain some valuable data about unreported head injuries.
How Many Licks Does it Take to get to the Center of Mammalian Taste
This lecture by Charles Zuker on Receptors, Neuron, and Circuits: The Biology of Mammalian Taste has been one of my favorites. There could be much to talk about here, but I’ll start by mentioning that Dr. Zuker is terrific speaker. He maintained my interest the entire time by giving us a story to follow. He showed us how each taste receptor type lead to a specific taste neuron and subsequently lead to a circuit involving the amygdala, hypothalamus, entorhinal cortex (for taste memory) and other brain structures. Each statement he made was accompanied by a clear explanation. As a student I very much appreciated it. It’s what you hope for when you come to dense conference like this. Zuker’s talk was divided into two sections: Known published work at the beginning followed by novel unpublished work. Truly I couldn’t stop smiling from how fascinated I was by the end. I’m sure you would too if you saw Zuker manipulate neurons to cause a sweet loving rodent to perceive something repulsively bitter as something delightfully sweet.
Wobble Wobble Wobble
Prior to Zuker’s terrific talk, I ran into a poster about the Effects of cTBS on body sway and the reorganization of sensory information during light tactile interaction by David Kaulmann from Technishe Univ. Muenchen, Germany. To explain it simply, each of us has a sense of sway while standing still. You can see this best if you stand up holding on to nothing while closing your eyes. Pay attention to your body swaying. This poster showed that once you use a single finger as an anchor (touching the wall or a chair) that sway is reduced. Kaulmann has been measuring this sway in different contexts while using cTBS (a device that uses Transcranial magnetic stimulation to inhibit chosen areas of the brain). Although they had a small sample size, they hope to continue their study further.
The topic was great and something I’ve never heard of before. And it was especially nice to test out body sway right there and then in front of the poster. In terms of real world applications, I can think of one good one right now. Do you know that feeling you get when you’re back on solid land after being on a boat for a while? Everything feels as if you’re still on a boat, but of course you’re not. My high school math teacher’s wife has never been able to get rid of that feeling even years or decades after getting off her first cruise. She’s visited many doctors with no luck in getting rid of it.
Poster sessions are overwhelming places that allow you to ask personal and thoughtful questions. The presenter walks you through their thinking and guides you through the density of their findings if you’re willing to ask. It’s a great way to make connections and friends and to get a pulse of the research dynamics out there.
On day 3 I learned a lot about myself and what area of research intrigues me the most. Ultimately it made me realize sensory and behavior research is something I could see myself investigating once my student years are over. I think it might be because it’s a topic we all can relate to and understand. And because, well, it’s so cool to learn about the senses and perception of them. After all, they shape our view of the world we know.
Once again, thanks for reading!
I wanna hear from you! Are you a student here? If so, tell me something that’s made your mouth drop here at SfN! Comment below!