International Neuroethics Society 2014 Annual Meeting

Chelsea Ott, International Neuroethics Society Communications Manager, gives us the rundown on what to expect at this year’s International Neuroethics Society annual meeting in November in DC. Registration is open now.

Don’t miss the Annual Meeting of the International Neuroethics Society (INS) at the beautiful American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) building on November 13th and 14th—right before the Society for Neuroscience Meeting. There is a remarkable line-up of speakers and captivating topics, so be sure to check out the full agenda on our website, www.neuroethissociety.org. In addition to the panels, there are networking opportunities during breakfast, lunch, and two receptions, as well as a working group dinner on the 13th.

Remember to register before September 15th for a discounted rate! Space is limited!

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From the Archives: Kay Redfield Jamison

At the end of her recent essay in the New York Times, “To Know Suicide: Depression can be treated, but it takes competence,” Dana Alliance member Kay Redfield Jamison mentions, almost in passing, her own suicide attempt. She wrote vividly about her experiences and those of others in her book, Night Falls Fast. Ellen Frank and David Kupfer reviewed the book for us in 2000; the review includes part of the book’s epilogue:

I was naive to underestimate how disturbing it would be to write this book. I knew, of course, that it would mean interviewing people about the most painful and private moments of their lives, and I also knew that I would inevitably be drawn into my own private dealings with suicide over the years. Neither prospect was an attractive one, but I wanted to do something about the untolled epidemic of suicide and the only thing I knew to do was to write a book about it. I am by temperament an optimist, and I thought from the beginning that there was much to be written about suicide that was strangely heartening.

As a clinician, I believed there were treatments that could save lives; as one surrounded by scientists whose explorations of the brain are elegant and profound, I believed our basic understanding of its biology was radically changing how we think about both mental illness and suicide; and as a teacher of young doctors and graduate students, I felt the future held out great promise for the intelligent and compassionate care of the suicidal mentally ill.

All of these things I still believe. Indeed, I believe them more strongly than I did when I first began doing the background research for this book two years ago. The science is of the first water; it is fast-paced, and it is laying down, pixel by pixel, gene by gene, the dendritic mosaic of the brain. Psychologists are deciphering the motivations for suicide and piecing together the final straws—the circumstances of life—that so dangerously ignite the brain’s vulnerabilities. And throughout the world, from Scandinavia to Australia, public health officials are mapping a clearly reasoned strategy to cut the death rate of suicide.

Still, the effort seems unhurried. Every seventeen minutes in America, someone commits suicide: Where is the public concern and outrage? I have become more impatient as a result of writing this book and am more acutely aware of the problems that stand in the way of denting the death count. I cannot rid my mind of the desolation, confusion, and guilt I have seen in the parents, children, friends, and colleagues of those who kill themselves. Nor can I shut out the images of the autopsy photographs of twelve-year-old children or the prom photographs of adolescents who within a year’s time will put a pistol in their mouths or jump from the top floor of a university dormitory. Looking at suicide—the sheer numbers, the pain leading up to it, and the suffering left behind—is harrowing. For every moment of exuberance in the science, or in the success of governments, there is a matching and terrible reality of the deaths themselves: the young deaths, the violent deaths, the unnecessary deaths.

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Dana Newsletter: August 2014

Below is the content that appeared in the latest Dana email newsletter. You can sign up to receive this (and other Dana email alerts and/or print publications) by going here.

Students: Design a Brain Experiment

The Dana Foundation is asking U.S. high school students to submit their most creative brain experiment ideas to the fourth annual Design a Brain Experiment Competition. Submissions must test an idea about the brain, anything from examining the effects of art on the adolescent brain to exploring alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. Students should not complete their experiments, so be creative!

The Neurobiology of Resilience

Most drug development for depression has focused on undoing the bad effects of stress, but new research suggests that finding ways to induce resilience could lead to new treatments. One of our series of Briefing Papers.

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The Neurobiology of Resilience

Rather than focusing only on the bad effects of stress, should researchers also look for ways to induce resilience to treat depression and anxiety disorders? Based on recent research, Eric Nestler, Ph.D., a Dana Alliance member and chair of neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, ponders this question in our recent briefing paper, “The Neurobiology of Resilience.”

The paper looks at both Nestler’s resilience research and that of his colleague Ming-Hu Han, Ph.D., an assistant professor in pharmacology and systems therapeutics at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School, who recently published a paper on global gene expression in resilient versus susceptible mice.

For every 100 genes that changed, either up or down, in susceptible mice, 300 genes changed in resilient mice, Han says.

“This was a very interesting finding because it means that resilient animals are not actually insensitive to stress, but rather are actively using more genes during stress,” says Han.

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Design a Brain Experiment Competition Is Back!

The Dana Foundation is asking U.S. high school students to submit their most creative brain experiment ideas to the fourth annual Design a Brain Experiment Competition. The 2014 competition featured some incredible submissions, led by the winning proposal, “Investigating the implications of specific inhibition of  ß-amyloid in Alzheimer’s disease,” from Gopika Hari of Cupertino High School in Cupertino, California.FB-Icon-FINAL

Submissions must test an idea about the brain. Beyond that criterion, they can do anything from examining the effects of art on the adolescent brain to exploring alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. Students should not complete their experiments, so be creative!

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