A quick post during a simulated lunch break:
What’s hot at Neuroscience 2008? Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll.
Let’s decode the ’60’s motif in terms of 21st century interests:
Sex: Neuroscientists are busy looking at neuropeptides and their effects on mating and long term animal bonding and attachment practices. It seems oxytocin and vasopressin release in small animals (voles) point up to “social” practices of trust and the sticky principle of alliance! Monogamy seems to trump extra “marital” wandering at the neurochemical level of animal behavior!
Drugs: In light of the toll drug abuse takes on human life and society, neuroscientists are conducting a large array of cortical studies that show the epigenetic and neurochemical factors that show up in drug addiction. There have been some pretty fascinating presentations, noting the “circuitry” of addiction cycles in mice and rats in administered and self-administered rodent trials. The drug of choice: Cocaine…. Food for thought: Jane Taylor of Yale mentioned a comparative study of cortical damage shown in cases of drug addiction and in cases of brain lesions.
Rock n’ Roll: The coupling of genetics and neurochemistry is producing new understandings of factors contributing to loss of motor control and imbalance. Of the several diseases that affect sensori – motor circuitry, Parkinson’s Disease has figured strongly in this conference, highlighted best by the conference organizers bringing in choreographer Mark Morris to teach neuroscientists about his movement classes for Parkinson’s patients! For the somanauts reading this blog, it’s worth noting as well, a presentation by Dr. Kadivar at Louisiana State U, noting the success of theraputic intervention in Parkinson’s patients through the use of auditory, rhythmic beats to stimulate patient walking!
Given the slow, arduous nature of scientific studies and rigor with which the outcome of studies is handled in the public sphere, it’s clear that in the vast universe of brain and central nervous system exploration, certain topics of study push the hot button of funding interests and social concerns. Joining bonding, addiction and disturbed sensor motor control in the 2008 topics list, one finds Autism, Traumatic Brain Injury, Neuroplasticity (in the Sensory and Prefrontal Cortex), and of course, the technologies that advance and afford the imaging and computation of norms and disturbances in all brain functions, namely the frontier fields of Neuroinfomatics.
With an eye on the technologies that afford us new possibilities of inquiry of time/space correlates in brain function, I’m happy to report there have been focused sessions on neuroinfomatics and neurotechnology — including new schematic imaging projects like the Brain Navigator project produced by Elsevier (a publishing group based in Amsterdam) in partnership with the Seattle based Allen Institute for Brain Science — the same center whose spinal cord atlas project was previously mentioned on this site.
The take home message: New and Better Maps show more of the territory!