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SfN Blitz: Postgame Analysis
19 November 2010

Now I can get back to watching this

SfN 2010 is over, hangovers are subsiding, and - like the rain clouds here in San Diego - post-meeting illness is rolling in.

During the conference, however, the weather was absolutely beautiful! Which made it very easy to go out. Which made it very easy to get distracted. But being from San Diego, I was unfazed by the 70 degree weather in November, and had a pretty productive SfN (day 4 notwithstanding). Some thoughts:

SfN Blitz: Day 4
16 November 2010

My morning session. Science!

When I started graduate school a few years back, the plan – like most of my peers – was to pursue a career in academia. But grad school has a way of wringing the enthusiasm out of many who tread the tortuous path. Luckily (and I do think it is just that for most), my excitement and wonder is still going strong over four years in. But there are aspects of the academic job description that I’m having trouble accepting. Mainly, the ridiculous hours and incessant grant writing.

SfN Blitz: Day 3
16 November 2010

If you wanted to see any posters about optogenetics and channelrhodopsin yesterday, I hope you are very patient or very tall. Crowds were ridiculous. Wasn’t any better for the morning symposium, either.

Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Memory Allocation Neuronal Circuits = best symposium of SfN 2010 thus far. I believe someone else is going to blog about it on this site, so I’ll let her do the elaborating. But there is some pretty cool stuff going on in the Silva and associated labs.

SfN Blitz: Day 2
Jeremy Biane
14 November, 2010

SfN blitz scheme

8am comes a bit too early for this west coast grad student. I think I liked it better yesterday when the conference started around noon. But the sacrificed hours of sleep were worth it as Andrew Jackson shared some rousing data this morning about “artificially” induced cortical plasticity by pairing endogenous presynaptic firing with post synaptic activation via a neural implant. One tid bit I found interesting is that the induced plasticity, given extensive pairings, can last for about one week, max. This obviously poses a problem if your goal is to enduringly remap impaired neural circuits. Then again, is this return to baseline due to disuse of the artificial pathway in lieu of the endogenous circuit - a scenario that probably doesn’t hold when the endogenous circuit is damaged?

Is anyone else consistently mislead by some of the talk titles? I attended Silvia Arber’s “Connecting Motor Circuits” talk expecting to hear about...

RGS14 is a natural suppressor of both synaptic plasticity in CA2 neurons and hippocampal-based learning and memory
Bradley Monk
2 November 2010

Researchers who study the neural correlates of learning know that long-term potentiation (LTP) between groups of neurons that fire concurrently is tantamount to memory formation [1]. Recently, neuroscientists are starting to realize the extent of their old adage, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” A more complete maxim might roughly approximate as, “Neurons that fire together, wire together, and the more the better!” This idea continues to garner support from recent work by Lee, Ramineni, Hepler, et al.† (2010) in their PNAS article titled “RGS14 is a natural suppressor of both synaptic plasticity in CA2 neurons and hippocampal-based learning and memory” [2].

Feeling the Future Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect
Bradley Monakhos
23 October 2010

This experiment deserves comments!

Daryl J. Bem (2010). Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, in press, DOI: 10.1037/a0021524

"ABSTRACT: The term psi denotes anomalous processes of information or energy transfer that are currently unexplained in terms of known physical or biological mechanisms. Two variants of psi are precognition (conscious cognitive awareness) and premonition (affective apprehension) of a future event that could not otherwise be anticipated through any known inferential process. Precognition and premonition are themselves special cases of a more general phenomenon: the anomalous retroactive influence of some future event on an individual’s current responses, whether those responses are conscious or nonconscious, cognitive or affective. This article reports 9 experiments, involving more than 1,000 participants, that test for retroactive influence by “timereversing” well-established psychological effects so that the individual’s responses are obtained before the putatively causal stimulus events occur. Data are presented for 4 time-reversed effects: precognitive approach to erotic stimuli and precognitive avoidance of negative stimuli; retroactive priming; retroactive habituation; and retroactive facilitation of recall... all but one of them yielded statistically significant results. Skepticism about psi, issues of replication, and theories of psi are also discussed."


Joey Jo-Jo jr. Shabbadu
5 November 2009

One of the most prevalent assumptions we make as neuroscientists is that the brain communicates using a binary code. That is, either a neuron fires and action potential and passes along information (1), or it doesn’t (0). Presumably, information is stored and conveyed by the pattern of neurons that are active at any particular time. For example, let’s say we have 10 neurons. Neurons 2,4,6 and 8 represent an apple, while neurons 3,5,6 and 9 represent a banana. If 2,4,6,and 8 are active at one time point, we identify an apple. If only neurons 2,4 and 8 fire, we would probably still identify an apple due to activation of the entire network via pattern completion. But the point is a neuron has to fire an action potential in order to convey information. Right?

(Purge articles)

Current Spotlight

When Henry Molaison woke up the morning this picture was taken, he looked in the mirror and had no idea why he was not 27 years old

Circa 1948 Wilder Penfield suggested that certain aspects of human memory can be stored in descrete brain regions. Penfield, a neurosurgeon specializing in focal epilepsy treatment, developed a technique for removing epileptic tissue while avoiding/minimizing damage to areas involved in patients mental processing. Applying local anasthetic to various brain regions of conscious patients, he determined that areas of the medial temporal lobes seemed to be important for memory. Although this idea was met with controversy, a number of neurosurgeons were inspired by Penfield’s work, among them were William Scoville and Brenda Milner. The duo of Scoville an Milner report the extraordanary story of the patient H.M. (His name is Henry Molaison. Only in death will we have our own names since only in death are we no longer part of the effort. In death we become heroes).

If HM ever played guitar, he would have been the only living member of the Forever-27 Club. His tragic accident that lead to the bilateral removal of his medial temporal lobes at the age of 27 would inform the field of neuroscience at a level deserving of a Nobel Prize. First HM showed us that the medial temporal lobe was important for converting short term memories into long term memories. He then showed us that there was various other types of learning and memory that did not include the hippocampus. At 1:00 pm tomorrow (Wednesday, 11.17.2010), Suzanne Corkin, Ph.D. is presenting a special lecture on how HM shaped the science of memory. Do not miss out!

Spotlight by


OneSci is pleased to announce that we have begun to publish our own open source empirical research findings which include open user comments and commentary.

Local increase in cortical ACh signaling during performance of a motor skill learning task.
Biane, J. (2010). The OneSci Journal 1(A), e1-e4.

We have new conference posters up!

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Habenular Nuclei comprise a small group of nuclei that are part of the epithalamus of the diencephalon, situated at the posterior end of the thalamus, on its upper surface. The habenular nuclei are typically divided into the lateral and medial habenular nucleus. The pineal gland is attached to the brain in this region. Nerve impulses from the habenular nuclei are transmitted to the septal nuclei via the stria medullaris, which is found on the medial surface of the thalamus.

The medial habenular nucleus is a major cholinergic pathway, expressing the choline transporter gene Slc5a7 more densely than any other brain region. The high affinity choline transporter is responsible for taking up choline into the presynaptic terminal of cholinergic neurons, where it can be synthesized into the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

Open the tab below to view Slc5a7 expression in the medial Habenula (MH) in the mouse brain. The MH is located just below the hippocampus.

Lane 1 is a negative control, and contains only DNA. Lane 2 contains protein as well as a DNA fragment that, based on its sequence, does not interact. Lane 3 contains protein and a DNA fragment that does react; the resulting complex is larger, heavier, and slower-moving. The pattern shown in lane 3 is the one that would result if all the DNA were bound and no dissociation of complex occurred during electrophoresis. When these conditions are not met a second band might be seen in lane 3 reflecting the presence of free DNA or the dissociation of the DNA-protein complex.

An Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assay (EMSA) is a common affinity electrophoresis technique used to study protein-DNA or protein-RNA interactions. This procedure can determine if a protein or mixture of proteins is capable of binding to a given DNA or RNA sequence, and can sometimes indicate if more than one protein molecule is involved in the binding complex. A mobility shift assay is electrophoretic separation of a protein-DNA or protein-RNA mixture on a polyacrylamide or agarose gel for a short period (circa 2 hr). The speed at which different molecules (and combinations thereof) move through the gel is determined by their size and charge, and to a lesser extent, their shape.

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