Dana Newsletter: June 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.

Here are some stories recently posted on www.dana.org:

One of a Kind: The Neurobiology of Individuality

by Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D.

Mounting evidence suggests that brain circuits involved in our emotional responses change with experience and affect our temperament. It also suggests that psychological interventions can further harness brain plasticity to promote positive behavioral changes. From Cerebrum, our online magazine of ideas.

How Should We Be Thinking About Genetic Studies?

As the behavioral genetics field grows, we must be cautious not to oversimplify the research, warn experts, particularly in studies linking single genes to certain traits. A Dana briefing paper.

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“Your Brain” Exhibit Opens at Franklin Institute

If you’re in the Philadelphia area, or just traveling through, The Franklin Institute recently opened its largest permanent exhibit, Your Brain, in the new Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion.

Photo courtesy of Darryl Moran Photography

From the press release:

With over 70 interactive experiences, the 8,500 square foot Your Brain exhibition will be the largest permanent exhibit at The Franklin Institute, and in the country, dedicated to the most complex and misunderstood vital organ in our bodies. The exploration-driven exhibition will help visitors understand that the brain and the nervous system underlie all human behavior, appreciate that the brain is always changing, and contemplate the potential of our evolving knowledge of the brain to transform ourselves and society.

Photo Courtesy of Colin M. Lenton Photography

Photo Courtesy of Colin M. Lenton Photography

Dana Alliance members Martha Farah, Michael Gazzaniga, Liz Phelps, and John Trojanowski serve on the scientific advisory committee for the exhibit.

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Emerging Techniques to Study the CNS

paul kenny christie fowler brian lee
Paul J. Kenny, Christie Fowler, and Brian Lee

In the June Report on Progress, Drs. Christie D. Fowler, Brian Lee, and Paul J. Kenny explain the use of two emerging techniques, optogenetics (light) and DREADDs (drugs), to better study how the central nervous system works.

The ability to manipulate the activity of specific subsets of neurons in the brains of living animals is leading to significant new insights into how the central nervous system works. The recently developed yet already well-established approaches of optogenetics and pharmacosynthetics use light or small molecules, respectively, to control the activity of neurons in the brains of laboratory animals. Using these techniques, we can see how distinct groups of neurons contribute to normal behavioral states or to abnormal behavior similar to those associated with neuropsychiatric disorders.

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–Blayne Jeffries

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New in Cerebrum: What Makes Me, Me?

Cerebrum-June-Indivuality

The question of how individual differences in behavior and personality develop—especially in terms of the interaction between genes and the environment—has proved to be a formidable challenge in neuroscience. In “One of a Kind: The Neurobiology of Individuality,” the featured Cerebrum article for June, Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D., impressively summarizes mounting new imaging evidence that suggests brain circuits involved in our emotional responses are highly plastic and change with experience, affecting our disposition. He also points to new research that suggests that psychological interventions can further harness brain plasticity to promote positive behavioral changes—changes that increase resilience, well-being, and altruistic behavior.

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Staying Sharp Mandarin Inspires More Events

Public engagement continues to be a crucial part of the Dana Foundation’s mission. Dana’s public outreach arm, the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (DABI) shares information about the brain through programs like Brain Awareness Week, Lending Library, and Staying Sharp. The Staying Sharp program is a series of public talks that give people information on how the brain works and how they can maximize brain function and health. Over the past few years we shared this information with many communities, from African-American churches in Oakland, California, and Mt. Vernon, New York, to seniors living in Lexington, Kentucky. One of our most recent live forums was geared to the Chinese community in New York.

Staying Sharp Flushing panelist Xiaoyan Hu

Staying Sharp Flushing panelist Xiaoyan Hu

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