Tag Archives: SFN

#Hubbian: the toy that makes navigating 20,000 abstracts fun.


Over 30,000 people attend the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting and for this reason alone people either love it or hate it. On one hand, you can learn about any type of neuroscience research imaginable. On the other hand, it can be extremely difficult to find the meaningful stuff. The online itinerary planner. It works. Kind of. Did you search the right keywords? What about that new technique you’re interested in* – it’s mentioned in 100s of abstracts – which ones are worth checking out? What are other neuroscientists looking at? And in case you’ve missed something interesting you now find yourself at the meeting, aimlessly scanning titles, just a brainstem….being pulled towards the larger crowds…failing to penetrate the bobbling masses… Continue reading #Hubbian: the toy that makes navigating 20,000 abstracts fun.

Saving the best for last: neurogenesis, plasticity and memory. #SFN11

blue dcx

Previously, I wrote about new SFN data on the role for newborn neurons in regulating emotion. The second half of the SFN meeting rounded out the story because the bulk of the functional presentations focussed on the role of new neurons in that other, classic function of the hippocampus: memory. Spanning synaptic plasticity, circuit function, and then linking it all to behavior, we have quite a complete story here.


Every time I get worked up about all various neurogenesis findings I think about one acronym that returns me to a state of inner peace: ACSF-LTP. Yes, I plagiarized that last line from my previous post. We all know about LTP right? The ability of synapses to strengthen their connections in response to activity? It has been used for decades as a physiological model of memory formation. It’s pretty well accepted that newborn neuron ACSF-LTP is a unique form of LTP – one that is insensitive to GABAergic inhibition (hence “Artificial Cerebro Spinal Fluid” LTP, in contrast to LTP that also requires inhibition of GABA neurotransmission), one that requires a the NR2B subunit of the NMDA receptor, and one that is induced more easily than that of mature neurons. ACSF-LTP has quite a history: Continue reading Saving the best for last: neurogenesis, plasticity and memory. #SFN11

Enhanced integrative properties of immature neurons #sfn11

How do the physiological properties of new neurons translate to a behavioral role? Are they just like mature neurons or are they unique? One idea that’s been thrown around is that their plastic period, their critical period, might endow them with an enhanced ability to associate information and contribute to memory formation. While we know that hippocampal neurons are already plastic and very capable of physiologically linking together different stimuli the big hope seems to be that maybe immature neurons are even better at this.


A related question is how fewer synapses and unique inhibitory connectivity affects their information processing capabilities. The verdict is out on whether new neurons are more or less involved in information processing than their mature counterparts. Currently, the best information we have is from studies looking at activity, measured by immediate early gene expression, in response to behavioral stimulation. The true measure of whether a neuron is involved in information processing / representation is if it spikes, i.e. fires action potentials, in response to a specific stimulus. Since new neurons have fewer synapses it’s very possible that they aren’t able to represent many different types of information, and therefore aren’t capable of associating information during memory formation. On the other hand, new neurons synapses are more plastic, perhaps making them better able to associate information even if they have fewer synapses. Continue reading Enhanced integrative properties of immature neurons #sfn11

What I learned while presenting at #SFN11

It’s hard to explore SFN when you’ve got your own poster to tend to. I thought I could hop around the development section before things got busy but there was no “before things got busy.” The design of the conference also can work against presenters because the presentations you’d like to see the most are being displayed simultaneously with your own. So next year I vow to present something really boring.

Of course, much can be learned while pinned down at your own poster. When you work in one lab, or one institution, your thoughts about the brain tend to have a specific focus based on the ideas of the people around you. Of course, new papers come out that challenge those thoughts but, man, papers move slooooowly. Scientists have not done a stellar job of using the internet to quickly communicate ideas. However, once a year at SFN a whole bunch of people come to your poster and give you their thoughts on the brain. Sometimes their thoughts are only presented in the language of distorted eyebrows and raised inflections but this is way better than typical social interactions with strangers, which usually go something like “You study brain cells/memory? Dude, I sure could use some more of those/that!”

So, what did my visitors think?

I had several visitors who specifically came by because they knew about me through the blog and through Twitter. Thank you for stopping by! You often never know if your online thoughts are useful, but I was happy to hear that several of you have used the blog as a teaching tool and a way to keep up with the field. I wish I could have these interactions with my readers more often than once a year at SFN. Then again I’d probably never be able to keep up with the comments so…no I didn’t say that – get engaged! I also heard one person, who does in vivo electrophysiology on my favorite brain regions, tell me that they’d tweet about neuroscience but they have nothing interesting to add to the conversation! Bollocks! Do you know how many in vivo electrophysiologists are on Twitter? Like, one? And how many experts are reviewing the literature on Research Blogging? Your knowledge is valuable. I would follow you in an instant.

“At first there was agreement on the behavioral function of neurogenesis but now everything is going in different directions.” Yes! Adult neurogenesis is a great example of the more you learn the more confused you get! Things may have seemed congruent 5 years ago but that was when there was only half a dozen studies that had examined the problems that arise when new neurons are ablated. Since then people have gone on to study more types of behavior and, as is also the case with the hippocampus, new neurons have been found to contribute to more and more types of behaviors. This has also given us additional opportunities for failed replication, and therefore doubt and confusion. One visitor commented on the recent paper that found memory impairments only if you kill new neurons after learning and we agreed that killing new neurons before behavioral testing could allow for other neurons to compensate, and make it appear that these new neurons are not doing anything significant. Of course, we have shown that often (e.g. at “baseline”) new neurons may be dispensable but that when an animal is stressed they are critical. And so explanations are emerging as to why some observe a behavioral function for new neurons and others do not, it’s just that it seems to be unbearably slow or remarkably fast depending on your mood.

I learned that there’s someone out there studying neurogenesis as related to maternal behavior….IN SHEEP! And they find that these neurons mature very slowly, like, primate slow. I love it when we think we have things completely figured out and then the data goes a totally different direction when you throw wool into the equation. Like, if we put cute little wool sweaters on our mice, would that make new neurons mature slower? One of the next big questions. Testable. Do it.

For those that missed my poster, fear not, for I have submitted it to Nature Precedings and will notify you here when they’ve posted it (couple days). For those that came to my poster today, sorry, you didn’t have to come to my poster.


Saturday Nov 12, #SFN11, poster A27 = me

Update: The poster is now available at Nature Precedings.

Still acquiring histological images for my SfN poster. My recurring problem is that I end up taking pictures of things because they’re pretty and not because they have anything to do with the task at hand. Today’s case in point:

Well, this does relate to my SfN poster a little bit. Red shows cell nuclei, most of which are dentate gyrus granule neurons. And white is GFAP immunostaining, which largely labels astrocytes but in this part of the brain also labels radial glia, the stem cells (or to be less controversial, “precursor” cells) of the hippocampus. Radial glia can be identified by the long process (almost like a dendrite) that they extend through the granule cell layer. There are a few in the above picture. Continue reading Saturday Nov 12, #SFN11, poster A27 = me

SFN 2011 Neuroblogging

The annual most insanely huge neuroscience meeting is rapidly approaching and I am pleased to announce that I will be blogging about the meeting again this year, here at Functional Neurogenesis. The meeting will be held at the Washington DC convention center, located in “China” town, which is cool because in addition to learning about neuroscience attendees will have the opportunity to also learn the Chinese characters for “Starbucks” and “TGI Fridays.”  Below is a list of the “official” neurobloggers, chosen by SFN, where you can keep up with some of the most exciting neuroscience presented and discussed at the meeting. For the most part, only 1 neuroblogger was chosen per theme and so you can be sure that there wil be a lot of non-official coverage throughout Twitter and the blogosphere. For starters I would stay tuned to the official hashtag #SFN11 but also check out this list of active bloggers and tweeters that will be covering the meeting. Nature Publishing Group will also be aggregating posts at the Action Potential blog. And the bloggers are:

A: Development – Functional Neurogenesis@jsnsndr

B: Neural Excitability, Synapses, and Glia: Cellular Mechanisms – Brainteresting@brainteresting

C: Disorders of the Nervous System – Neurobytes@neurobytes @rimrk

C: Disorders of the Nervous System – Scicurious: Scientific American Scicurious: Scientopia@scicurious

D: Sensory and Motor Systems – Paula’s Piece of Mind@Paulineddra

E: Homeostatic and Neuroendocrine Systems – Dormiviglia@Beastlyvaulter (protected)

F: Cognition and Behavior – Future Dr. Science Lady@Drsciencelady

G: Novel Methods and Technology Development – Guitchounts@Guitchounts

H: History, Teaching, Public Awareness, and Societal Impacts in Neuroscience – Neuroflocks@Scipleneuro

SUN: Student Undergrad Neurobloggers – SUN@Astroglia

#SFN10 day 1 feat. CIA Human Brain Control presentation

Today was great because there was a ton of hippocampal-cortical posters I was excited to check out except I was also presenting so I couldn’t actually check them out. Plus, it wasn’t like I could just pop over when my crowd died down because they were all the way in aisle KKK (worst aisle name ever ). Fortunately there were a couple of special presentations I was able to visit, namely the CIA is Demon guy, who had his brain controlled by the CIA. This sounded really interesting but unfortunately I didn’t have time to check out the data – I had a poster to set up.

Brain Control
Brain Control

Continue reading #SFN10 day 1 feat. CIA Human Brain Control presentation

SFN2010 Itinerary Pt. 1

I have 62 items in my itinerary and I expect to add to it in the following weeks. There are always great presentations I find out about last minute and undoubtedly others that never see the light of (my) day. So fill me in if you have any tips. It’s not always the data that’s the most interesting part but often the presenter themselves, their ideas, methods, or the fact that you’ve known them since undergrad and you want to see baby pictures. My plan here is to share some of the potentially (you never know til you’re there) interesting presentations in my itinerary, bit by bit, over the next couple weeks.

1) 99.8/JJJ44 – The hippocampus is required for social recognition but not object recognition in Octodon degus
1Doshisha Univ., Kyotanabe City, Japan; 2RIKEN BSI, Lab. for Biolinguistics, Wako City, Japan

Huh? Octogon what? They’re rodents unlike any other rodent. They perform communal digging, nurse each other’s young, are born with their eyes open, and are intolerant of sugar and get diabetes. Even more interesting is the fact that they can switch their circadian rhythms between nocturnal or diurnal patterns and they’re apparently able to use tools (at least according to Wikipedia). So, basically I want to chat about Degus with these guys.

2) 100.19/KKK35 – Hippocampal granular neuron recruitment during the evocation of a recent or remote object recognition memory
1Neurobiologia Conductual y Cognitiva, Inst. de Neurobiologia, Univ. Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Queretaro, Mexico; 2Neurobiologia Conductual y Cognitiva, Inst. de Neurobiologia UNAM, Queretaro, Mexico

Victor Ramirez-Amaya has done some interesting work on learning-related structural plasticity in the hippocampus and he’s also shown that the plasticity-related protein Arc is expressed in a delayed fashion after experience, probably as a part of the process of memory consolidation. Since there’s an emerging role for the dentate gyrus and neurogenesis in long-term memory I’m interested in this poster, which looks at activity-dependent Arc expression in the dentate gyrus and in young neurons after recent and remote(ish) memory retrieval.

3) 101.6/KKK46 – Spatial representation along the proximo- distal axis of CA1
1Kavli Inst. Sys Neurosci, Ctr. Biol of Memory, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway; 2Univ. Arizona, NSMA, Tuscon, AZ

The hippocampus is a convenient structure to study because its anatomical boundaries are distinct – the dentate gyrus doesn’t abut any other principal cell layers. CA3 and CA1 are easily distinguished from each other based on cell packing density. Probably for this reason there has emerged the assumption that these subregions are homogeneous in function. However, at least for the dentate gyrus it has become clear that it’s two blades are very different. And now, this abstract reports that the CA1 neurons that border region CA3 carry more spatial information than those at the other end, near the subiculum. I’m not entirely sure why I’m interested in this, but it may be because it suggests a certain level of care must be taken in future experiments (e.g. being consistent in where measurements are made) and it argues for better reporting in methods sections as to how measurements were made (because we now know that not all areas of CA1 are equivalent).

SFN2010 Neuroblogging List

So today the list of “official” SFN neurobloggers was released at the SFN website. And it immediately created a bit of an uproar. My initial beef was that I couldn’t ever seem to find the SFN blogging info without using Google. And also, I would like to know which other bloggers will be writing about SFN but I can’t seem to find this info.

For my part, Functional Neurogenesis is slated to post on the Theme A topic, development. But I will also post on more general topics in the neurobiology of behavior (mainly in animals – e.g. place cells, plasticity, structural or functional correlates of behavior). Posts are to be at least daily, following SFN’s guidelines. Which (if you know my frequency) means I will be taking full advantage of the big brown vats of lukewarm Starbuck’s coffee. No, seriously, I will probably take the streetcar to a cafe in old town to avoid the lines. And still make it to the poster session faster. Oh, also, there will be tweets.

This year’s SFN meeting marks the 1-year anniversary of the decision to startup Functional Neurogenesis. And it feels like things are only getting started – from within the scientific community FN has gotten some great feedback for which I’m thankful. The blogosphere is a whole different story. .

And now, because I haven’t made a list in weeks, and because there will be much coverage by non-official bloggers…

These bloggers will all be at the meeting. No guarantee that they’ll actually be blogging the meeting though. Let me know in the comments or email jasonscottsnyder (gmail) if you should be on here (or not).

Functional Neurogenesis / @jsnsndr
Genetic Expressions / @geneticexpns
Blogging on the Brain (@hillaryjoy
Fresh Eyes
House of Mind / @houseofmind
Pascal’s Pensees / @Pascallisch
Neuromusings / @neurodilettante
David Deriso / @davederiso
Dormivigilia / @Beastlyvaulter
Blogging Behavior / @aechase
Stanford Neuroblog / @stanfordneuro
SFN2010 / @thekhawaja

Fumbling Towards Tenure Track / @doc_becca
Some Lies / @Tideliar
Drugmonkey / @drugmonkeyblog
Neurocritic / @sarcastic_f
Bjorn Brembs / @brembs
Neurokuz / @kuzyx
Juniorprof / @juniorprofblog
Oscillatory Thoughts / @bradleyvoytek
Ferris Jabr / @ferrisjabr
Neuron Culture / David Dobbs
Danio Reri

Twitter lists of SFN attendees:
@stanfordneuro’s list
@mocost’s list
@noahWG’s list