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Of a mind to learn and connect
October 2010
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author
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SAN DIEGO—While the 40th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) being held in mid-November in San Diego won't look much different structurally than last year, there is plenty of new and vibrant scientific content for the expected 30,000-plus attendees to appreciate, according to the event's organizers, including such areas as optogenetics and new understandings of the genetic basis of neurological diseases—not to mention the planned attendance of actress Glenn Close, as well.

The event remains a vital one, this year as with every year, because of the critical need for neuroscientists to trade information effectively, notes Dr. Michael E. Goldberg, president of SfN and David Mahoney Professor of Brain and Behavior in the Departments of Neuroscience, Neurology, Psychiatry and Ophthalmology at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

"The thing about brain research is that it crosses so many disciplines," he notes. "I basically do neurophysiology, but I also use psychology as well because I need psychological and psychiatric techniques to do my work. I do some theoretical modeling, and I have done anatomy in the past. Unlike in many disciplines, which are relatively constrained, neuroscience is this extraordinary swath from molecules to the mind."

There are, for example, researchers focused on neural development, while others are focused on neurochemistry, and research can span the range from neurogenetics to treating the brain as a machine to evaluate the computations it does—Goldberg's own area of interest—and extending that to human disease.

"For this kind of wide-ranging information transfer, we have a huge number of posters—more than 16,000 abstracts this year, and we're expecting 32,000 participants in the meeting," Goldberg says. "Even factoring out a couple thousand vendors, that means about half the scientists coming to this meeting are presenting their own work. As such, scientists going to the meeting will have a huge panoply of things to learn from the fine points of their own field to other areas that might impact on it."

As far as topics that Goldberg finds particularly exciting this year, one that springs to his mind is the emerging field of optogenetics, which combines optical and genetic techniques to probe neural circuits within intact animals, at the millisecond-scale speeds needed to understand how the brain processes information.

"You can deliver a gene into a neuron that then makes a light-sensitive protein, allowing you to use a light source—such as an optical fiber—to gain exquisite control over neural activity," he explains. "It began to see attention a couple years ago and has spread to a lot of different animal models now, from invertebrates to mice, and some people are even using the techniques in monkeys now. I'm interested to see what new applications are emerging in optogenetics."

Another area of high interest that Goldberg highlights is the burgeoning understanding of the genetic basis of human disease, particularly in neuroscience, which he notes is particularly important with such difficult and complex diseases as schizophrenia.

"Something like sickle cell anemia is essentially based on one gene," he says, "but with schizophrenia we see that many different genes are involved, and how they interact is becoming an extraordinarily exciting area."

Also exciting is this year's speaker for the Dialogues Between Neuroscience and Society featured lecture—award-winning acress Glenn Close, whose talk is titled, "Bringing Change to Mind on Mental Illness." Close founded the website www.bringchange2mind.org to combat the stigma associated with mental illness and help the public discern fact from fiction so that more positive change can be brought to families struggling with mental illness.

"We have that 'Dialogues' featured lecture each year to bring in someone who isn't a neuroscientist to speak to the scientists on important issues in neurology," Goldberg notes. "Glenn Close herself is not only an advocate with her website, but has a sister and a nephew who deal with psychiatric disease, so she brings a very special perspective to the table."

Other "Featured Lectures" include the Albert and Ellen Grass Lecture by Dr. Lily Jan and Dr. Yuh Nung Jan of the University of California, San Francisco, titled "Dendrites, from Form to Function" and the David Kopf Lecture on Neuroethics by Henry T. Greely of Stanford University, titled "The Neuroscience Revolution and Society."

The Fred Kavli Distinguished International Scientist Lecture, "Understanding Sound Processing in the Auditory System: Advances Rooted in the Genetic Approach," will be presented by Dr. Christine Petit of the College de France and Pasteur Institute; the History of Neuroscience Lecture, "Cell and Molecular Neurobiology: Antecedents and Achievements," will be given by Dr. Victor P. Whittaker of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry; and the Peter and Patricia Gruber Lecture, "Brain Circuits for Active Vision," will be presented by Dr. Robert Wurtz of the National Eye Institute.

Also of special note are the four presentations among the Presidential Special Lecture offerings: "Adventures in Nontranslational Research: Neuronal Differentiation and Mechanosensory Transduction in C. elegans," by Dr. Martin Chalfie of Columbia University; "Learning to See Late in Life," by Dr. Pawan Sinha of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; "Motivational Neuronal Circuits for Value, Salience, and Information," by Dr. Okihide Hikosaka of the National Eye Institute; and "Tuning Depression Circuits Using Deep Brain Stimulation," by Dr. Helen S. Mayberg of Emory University.

Also on tap is a special presentation by U.S. Rep. Patrick J Kennedy, D-R.I., titled, "A Neuroscience 'Moonshot': Rallying a New Global Race for Brain Research." Kennedy will highlight his vision for a new campaign for brain research, the urgency of helping a generation of veterans affected by PTSD and TBI and explain why the broad brain community must join forces to advance national and global research agendas.
 


Child-care and youth programs available at Neuroscience 2010
 
If you plan to have pre-teen children along for the ride to the 40th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) in San Diego, be aware that on-site child-care and youth programs will be available at Neuroscience 2010 for children ages 6 months to 12 years. The service provider, KiddieCorp, is a national firm with more than 20 years experience in on-site conference child care, and is doing a "Science Camp" theme with this year's child-care activities.

According to SfN, "KiddieCorp services will provide attendees with flexibility in their meeting schedules and with a reliable, affordable and trustworthy option for child care during the annual meeting."

Details, pricing and reservation information are available on the KiddieCorp-Neuroscience 2010 Web page at www.kiddiecorp.com/neurokids.htm. The early registration deadline is Oct. 15, and space fills up fast, so KiddieCorp and SfN advise that attendees not wait until getting there to sign up.


Plan ahead with the Neuroscience Meeting Planner

To get a leg-up on your preparations to attend the Neuroscience 2010 meeting in San Diego, SfN has provided its Neuroscience Meeting Planner online. Attendees can use the Neuroscience Meeting Planner to search abstracts and to create a personalized itinerary. New features this year to the Neuroscience Meeting Planner include the ability to download to Outlook or iCal.


Revised SfN ethics policies available online

Prepared by the Responsible Conduct Working Group and approved by the Society for Neuroscience Council on July 20, revisions to SfN ethics policies are now available online. These updated include replacements for the SfN's "Policy on Ethics" and the "Guidelines for Responsible Conduct Regarding Scientific Communications."

In addition, a new document has been added, called "Procedures for Dealing with Allegations of Unethical Scientific Conduct."

SfN notes that these ethics policies "are educational resources for SfN members, describing the responsibilities for maintaining the highest level of integrity in scientific activities."

 
What's going on

Several events may beckon while you're in San Diego


No doubt you'll find some time to explore the city and perhaps the surrounding areas, so let us fill you in on a few things going on around town in November.

First, if you plan to stay a bit after Neuroscience 2010, you might want to enjoy the 7th Annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival, which runs from Nov. 17 to Nov. 21. There you can enjoy, among other things, 170 winemakers, 70 of San Diego's top chefs and various gourmet food producers, authors, media personalities and celebrity chefs. For more information on the San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival, you can call (619) 342-7337 or visit the festival website at www.worldofwineevents.com.

Another annual tradition you might want to sample would be the Julian Apple Days Celebration, which honors the historic San Diego County mountain town's famous homemade apple pies and ciders. The festival itself was held in early October, but the overall celebration runs Sept. 15 to Nov. 15, so visitors can still enjoy acres of fall foliage, art shows, quaint antique shops and more.

For the more artistic at heart, the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture's Gotthelf Art Gallery is featuring "From Desert to Desert: Southern California Artists from Israel" through Nov. 19. The show highlights Moshe Elimelech, Sharon Ben-Tal, Rhea Carmi, Malka Nedivi, Gali Rotstein, Lidia Shaddow and Guri Stark as examples of "the strong and vital part that American Israeli artists play in the contemporary West Coast art scene."

Another art exhibition is "Liquid: Richard Gleaves" at the Oceanside Museum of Art Parker Gallery, which finishes its run Nov. 21. The idea of the exhibit is to experience the feeling of being underwater. Gleaves has filled the Parker Gallery with a floating 8-foot cube constructed from 19,000 feet of monofilament fishing line, and this cube creates what the artist calls "a tactile field of simulated liquid" which abstractly represents the properties of water. Viewers are encouraged to not just look at the artwork, but also to walk through it and under it to experience the sensation of liquid.


Weather report

San Diego maybe be cool in November by local standards, but it tends to be pretty comfortable for Americans who may be breaking out their snow shovels and snow blowers—perhaps right after they get back from Neuroscience 2010.

Average high-temperatures are just a hair under 70 degrees Fahrenheit (about 21 degrees Celsius) and average lows are around 53 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius). There are on average four rainy days a year in November, and just an inch of rain for the entire month most years, so chances are you won't need an umbrella.

 
Brain food
 
The old wives' tale isn't so fishy, so let's celebrate with a seafood tour of the San Diego area

You know the old bromide about how fish is "brain food." Well, if you're a researcher, scientist or physician in the field of neuroscience—and if you're attending Neuroscience 2010, you likely are—you probably also know that some research supports this notion.

A study a few years ago of 135 mothers and their infants at Harvard, for example, found that the more fish the mothers ate during their second trimesters, the better their infants did on tests when they were 6 months old. Another study around the same time found that elderly people who ate fish at least once a week did better on tests of memory and mental acuity than their peers who did not. Also, surveys suggest that groups with the highest fish consumption have the lowest rates of depression. And those are just a few examples.

So, with the Society for Neuroscience holding its 40th annual meeting so close to the Pacific Ocean, what better way to honor neuroscience—gastronomically, at least—than by giving you a roundup of some of the more well-known, and in many cases highly regarded, restaurants in the area that are known for seafood.

Pacifica Del Mar, San Diego
A couple of the ocean-borne delicacies that have gotten nods here are barbecued, sugar-spiced salmon with Chinese beans and mustard sauce, as well as tempura black tiger shrimp with granny smith apples, mustard seeds, pickled onions and Japanese Hamachi with frozen grapes, toasted almonds and chile oil—and more. And there are beef, chicken and gnocchi entrées available for those who don't have a taste for the seafood. It also doesn't hurt Pacifica that the venue is perched high atop the Del Mar Plaza, offering patrons ocean views along with their meals. The July 2010 article, "Guide to San Diego North County Dining" at DiscoverSD.com says Pacifica Del Mar "offers some of the city's most exquisite dining from its ocean view deck."

Sally's Seafood on the Water, San Diego
Located where the Gaslamp Quarter and Seaport Village meet, this restaurant is said to mix a cosmopolitan mindset with the natural and tranquil vibe of the sea nearby. The menu blends Pacific Rim, contemporary American and European influences. Offerings include a lobster pot pie with Canadian lobster tails, vegetables and boursin cheese; the lobster bisque with crčme fraiche and rosemary foam; and chili-cumin Maine diver scallops with sautéed asparagus, rice, lime glaze and white wine butter sauce—in addition to other seafood fare and a smattering of "land-lubber" cuisine.

Ocean Room, San Diego
In addition to a sushi and an oyster bar that overlooks an open kitchen, this restaurant is well-known for preparing various shellfish using a kettle steaming technique that is common in the southern United States—such as in Louisiana—but not frequently used in on the West Coast.

Blue Point Coastal Cuisine, San Diego
Reportedly, this was the first seafood and oyster bar in the Gaslamp Quarter when it opened its doors in 1995, and SanDiegoRestaurants.com says that with a selection of steak and chops, "both the menu and interior call to mind an old-fashioned supper club with nautical flair."

Truluck's
, San Diego
Located in the University City area, Truluck's offers a pretty even mix of seafood and non-seafood fare, but the restaurant, which has multiple locations in the United States, is renowned for its seafood, as the owners operate a 16-boat crabbing fleet off the coast of Naples, Fla. In terms of entrées, the gifts of the sea here include a yellowtail roasted and served with baby artichokes, sunchokes, creamed leeks and argan oil; a Texas striped bass in parmesan crust fried golden brown and served over Truluck's rice with smothered baby gulf shrimp, crawfish tails and fresh crab meat; a grilled fillet of Scottish salmon topped with fresh crab meat, gulf shrimp and jalapeńo bčarnaise sauce; and a South Georgia Chilean seabass served with crab fried rice and chilled cucumber slaw.

Todai, San Diego
Designed as an upscale all-you-can-eat Japanese seafood buffet restaurant, Todai can seat up to 500 patrons and features a 160-foot seafood buffet counter with several dozen kinds of sushi, more than a dozen salads and hot entrees and a dessert bar with more than 20 different cakes and fruit. Reviews from patrons online run the gamut from great to awful, suggesting that one's reaction to the restaurant may depend on one's tolerance for the smell of fish and how much of a sushi snob you are—as well as whether your all-you-can-eat appetite will justify what many patrons call a high price.

King's Fish House, San Diego
According to SanDiegoRestaurants.com, the way to envision this restaurant is to "Think harbor fish market meets fifties diner." Seafood offerings include soups, salads, sushi and pastas—as well as steak, chicken and burgers. Oysters, crabs and lobsters are regulars on the menu, but there are also "regional specials" that change daily.

Crab Catcher, La Jolla
Just as we started with a restaurant that has a commanding high-profile view of the ocean, we'll finish with this one, which sits atop an oceanside bluff that overlooks the La Jolla Cove. Crab Catcher offers many shellfish and non-shellfish options, with just a few of them being an ahi napoleon, oysters Rockefeller, macadamia prawns, king crab wontons, cioppino and lobster pasta. SanDiegoRestaurants.com notes, "The atmosphere, if anyone can take their eyes off the view or the dishes, is comfortable and quaint, almost intentionally unpretentious so as to let the view and cuisine shine."


New technologies and services debut at the show

Research solution for neurobiology
Lonza Group Ltd.

A complete research solution for neurobiology including cryopreserved Clonetics Primary Neural Cells, serum-free PNGM Primary Neuron Growth Media, Amaxa Nucleofector Technology for efficient non-viral transfection of primary neural cells and StellARray qPCR Arrays for gene expression profiling of key genes in neuroscience diseases.

Lonza Group Ltd.
+41 61 316 81 11
www.lonza.com/neuralproducts
Visit us at Neuroscience booth #2512


NIMBUS96 compact automated liquid handler
Hamilton Robotics

Hamilton announces the new NIMBUS96, an affordable and compact automated liquid handler now featuring the CO-RE II 96-channel pipetting head. NIMBUS96 offers precise pipetting and an unmatched 1ul to 1000ul dynamic range. Access a full rack of 96 tips, individual columns, rows or even a single tip. Gripper with extended reach allows for efficient labware handling and integration to third-party devices.

Hamilton Robotics
(800) 648-5950
www.hamiltonrobotics.com/DDN4
Visit us at Neuroscience booth #1612


XF Mito Stress Test Kit
Seahorse Bioscience Inc.

Now it's easy to determine the reserve respiratory capacity of resting and stressed neural cells in a microplate. The XF Mito Stress Test Kit measures the bioenergetics of primary neurons, astrocytes, glia and more. Pretested reagents, intuitive software, step-by-step instructions. Confidently determine the four parameters of mitochondrial function—basal respiration, ATP-turnover, proton leak and reserve respiratory capacity—in real time.

Seahorse Bioscience Inc.
(978) 671-1600
www.seahorsebio.com
Visit us at Neuroscience booth #3000


Transcriptome sequencing services
LC Sciences
 
RNA-Seq is a powerful new tool to identify and quantitatively decode the entire population of RNAs in your total RNA sample. LC Sciences provides a turnkey solution for transcriptome sequencing using the latest in RNA-Seq technology, including all sample handling and library preparation, RNA sequencing and advanced bioinformatics analysis. Detect and quantify rare RNA sequences and sequence variants in your samples.

LC Sciences
(888) 528-8818
www.lcsciences.com/rna-seq or www.lcsciences.com
Visit us at Neuroscience booth #1628


PDEScreen assays
Caliper Discovery Alliances & Services

Caliper Discovery Alliances & Services offers PDEScreen, a panel of 16 fully optimized LabChip Phosphodiesterase assays for screening, profiling, IC50 determinations and mechanism of action studies. Phosphodiesterases are expressed in the CNS and represent a very attractive source of new targets for the treatment of neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders.

Caliper Discovery Alliances & Services
(508) 283-0267
www.caliperls.com
Visit us at Neuroscience booth #2613


Hybrid Multi-Mode Microplate Reader
BioTek Instruments Inc.

BioTek's new Synergy H1 Hybrid Multi-Mode Microplate Reader offers a quad monochromator optical system supporting absorbance, fluorescence top/bottom and luminescence read modes, as well as a filter-module enabling FP and TRF applications. An optional dual reagent dispenser is available.

BioTek Instruments Inc.
(888) 451-5171
www.biotek.com
Visit us at Neuroscience booth #321

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