SFN 2015: Saturday’s Recap

It’s only been one day and I already have SO much I want to write about. Today, highlights from the sessions. Tomorrow, more in-depth focus on memory engrams.

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Professional Development – Careers Beyond the Bench: 

  • A book for those considering careers beyond the bench, recommended by MD Benton: So What Are You Going to Do With That?
  • The Individual Development Plan or “myIDP” is an online tool on the ScienceCareers website. Set concrete goals and follow through here.
  • BEST = Broadening Experience in Scientific Training – an NIH initiative helping train graduates for careers beyond the academy. I was delighted to learn that my own school UC Davis (represent!) happens to be one amongst 17 in the nation to be piloting this.

Neuroscience & the Law: Strange Bedfellows: 

  • In the past, brain science was too readily accepted by the courts and then subsequently shown to be invalid and even harmful (examples cited: eugenics, recovered memories)
  • As a result, judges are now more hesitant about integrating neuroscience into their decision making. According to Judge Rakoff, “the blame goes both ways”
  • Regarding the current use of neuroscience in the courtroom, Judge Rakoff stated:

“My own view is that neuroscience is not yet at the stage where it can be introduced in individual cases with much scientific validity. Conversely, I am very much of the view that neuroscience has advanced to the point where it can make founded generalizations that can inform policy”

  • The prison systems are overpopulated. Solitary confinement is deleterious and backfires in terms of recidivism. We need research to inform whether or not this practice continues or is recommended for termination.

Making, Breaking, and Linking Engrams with Sheena Josselyn or S-Jo (the new J-Lo):

  • Lashley, the man who popularized the term “engram” came to the conclusion that the memory engram was specifically everywhere and nowhere at once.
  • With more modern tools, we have been able to update this view – specifically showing that fear memories are sparsely coded and that they do indeed exist in specific areas.
  • CREB is important because it helps regulate excitability of cells and thus the chances that they will/won’t be recruited into a memory engram.
  • The formation of memory engrams is dependent on a competitive process. Or in the words of Sheena: The winning neurons are encouraging the loss of the losers. The winners are inhibiting the loser neurons. For a spoiler, see paper here. Or else, stay tuned, I’ll fill you in tomorrow.

Until then, remember: “Losers can become winners with the help of optogenetics.” ~ S-Lo

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