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SfN shakedown

November 15, 2010

Hooray–the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting is underway.

The main kick-off event was Glenn Close’s opening speech to the conference goers yesterday. She did a fantastic job. It was perhaps a little self-indulgent with the high volume of movie clips that she used. Of herself. In her own talk. But I can forgive her since she really is throwing her personal celebrity into such a wonderful cause, i.e., fighting against the societal stigma of mental health disorders. (As a self-indulgent aside on my part, I TOTALLY called the punchline on her main joke…Glenn described a woman coming up to her in the airport and asking her, “Are you who I think you are.” I said to my neighbor, “Meryl Streep. The punchline is that the woman thought she was Meryl Streep.” Holluh–ten points to my conference scorecard.)

For more information on the advocacy work of Close on mental health, check out the website for the organization she is promoting: Bring Change 2 Mind.

Also, the public service commercial produced by BC2M is quite touching:

Lastly, I have to give kudos to John Mayer for donating his song to such a worthy public cause.

Onto the science!…

By far, the presentation that captivated me the most yesterday (Saturday) was presented by Joana Cabral from the University of Pampeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain. The abstract for the presentation was, “Modelling the role of local oscillations in resting brain correlations.” I’m not sure that I fully buy into all of the assumptions of local oscillatory modeling that Cabral and her colleagues used for their work (I have to think more about the physiological parameters that they are trying to model with simple oscillators). But, their application of Kuramoto models–the same models that predict, for example, the synchronization of fireflies blinking–to dynamical interactions between neural regions is very clever.

Today, the presentation that caught my imagination the most was by B. Samal from the National Institutes of Health on the creation of an online atlas to catalog the transcription profiles of brain regions in humans. It is still a very early-stage project at this point. However, the opportunity to combine neural connectivity data from brain imaging with exon expression data is going to be a really neat convergence of methods, and will lead to some really powerful insights into the roles of specific genes and proteins in the way that the brain becomes uniquely wired.

For more information on the NIH brain transcriptome/atlas project, visit their website at

Today was also punctuated for me by my poster presentation (PDF link here for my poster on functional connectivity in the insula) and by happy encounters with friends from medical school.

I love conferences–it’s just great to catch up with old friends, meet new friends, talk about your research findings with receptive listeners, and explore the work of others in your field. Huzzah.


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