SfN Launches New Brain Facts Book

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Credit: Society for Neuroscience

Interested in learning more about how your brain works? Whether you’re looking for information about psychiatric disorders, the developing brain, addiction, or other brain topics, the Brain Facts book by the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) has got you covered. Produced in partnership with The Kavli Foundation and the Gatsby Foundation, Brain Facts gives an overview of the brain and nervous system, covering a variety of important topics in understandable language. Recently, SfN launched the eighth edition of the book, which was scientifically reviewed by nine members of the Dana Alliance, among others, to make sure the information is as credible and up-to-date as possible.

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Alliance Members Awarded Kavli Prize in Neuroscience

The 2018 Kavli Prize in Neuroscience, which recognizes neuroscientists for pioneering advances in our understanding of existence at its biggest, smallest, and most complex scale, was presented to Dana Alliance member A. James Hudspeth, of The Rockefeller University, Robert Fettiplace, of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Dana Alliance member Christine Petit, of Collège de France/Pasteur Institute, for their scientific discoveries of the molecular and neural mechanisms of hearing. The Laureates used complementary approaches to unravel the mechanisms by which hair cells in the inner ear transform sound into electrical signals that can be deciphered by the brain.

Pr Christine Petit - portrait 2013 - photo William Beaucardet

Dana Alliance member Christine Petit
© William Beaucardet

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Dana Alliance member A. James Hudspeth
© Rockefeller University

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Robert Fettiplace © University of Wisconsin-Madison

The announcement on the Kavli Prize site continues:

“They have provided fundamental new insights into how our inner ear transforms sound into electrical signals – the basis of hearing – and have unveiled genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying hearing loss,” says Ole Petter Ottersen, head of the neuroscience prize committee. “Their work serves as a sterling example of how concerted efforts across disciplines and technologies can revolutionize our understanding of complex neurobiological processes.”

Hudspeth’s research has provided much of the framework for our understanding of how sound is converted into neural signals through hair cells and their ion channels. Fettiplace showed that each hair cell in the cochlea of the inner ear is sensitive to a specific range of sound frequencies and discovered the mechanistic basis of this. By exploring the genetics of hereditary deafness, Christine Petit has furthered our understanding of hair cell biology and informed deafness diagnosis and counseling. Combined, these Laureates’ work has unraveled the sense of hearing.

More details available at the Kavli Prize website.

Dana Alliance Members in Conversation: A Q&A with Eric Nestler

We spoke to neuroscientist and former Society for Neuroscience president Eric J. Nestler, M.D., Ph.D., about the bipartisan nature of biomedical research, his hopes for the future of addiction and depression, new findings on stress and depression, and more in the latest Dana Alliance member Q&A. These Q&As are part of a regular series of in-depth interviews that give readers a look into the outreach, research, and interests of the preeminent neuroscientists that make up the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives.

On why his institution, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, prioritizes outreach, Nestler said:

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2018 World Science Festival

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The annual World Science Festival is back in New York City, starting May 29 and continuing until June 3. Since 2008, the week-long festival has collectively drawn over 2.5 million visitors from all over the world with the mission of cultivating a general public informed and inspired by science. Offering an exciting series of programs featuring experts spanning science and the arts, the World Science Festival will host discussions, debates, theatrical works, musical performances, and outdoor experiences to take science out of the laboratory and into the streets and parks of New York City.

We’ve covered their brain-related events in the past featuring Dana Alliance members, TV celebrities, renowned journalists, and many more. This year, events will uncover everything from black holes in space to cells in the human microbiome that can be linked to debilitating brain diseases. Neuroscientists Nim Tottenham, Ph.D., and Carla Shatz, who are both Dana Alliance members, will be guest speakers alongside Alvaro Pascual-Leone at the May 29 event: “The Nuts and Bolts of Better Brains: Harnessing the Power of Neuroplasticity.” Tottenham and Pascual-Leone were also featured authors of two Cerebrum articles last year on emotional development and brain enhancers.

We will be attending events throughout that week, so be sure to check in for detailed coverage. If you haven’t already, look through the 2018 event list and buy your tickets! They sell out fast.

And All That Jazz: A Q&A with Michael Shadlen, M.D., Ph.D.

Guest post by Kayt Sukel 

Famed artist Barbara Januszkiewicz once said, “Jazz is the art of thinking out loud.” Is it any wonder then that jazz has made its way into a variety of neuroscience laboratories to help researchers investigate the neural underpinnings of creativity, communication, and timing?

In honor of International Jazz Day, a day designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to celebrate jazz’ ability to connect people from all over the globe, Michael Shadlen, M.D., Ph.D. , a neurologist at Columbia University (and jazz guitar player), shares his thoughts about jazz, timing, and the celebration of what our brains do each and every day in the service of cognition.

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Photo: Michael Shadlen

You are a jazz guitarist. What first got you interested in playing jazz music?

MS: I’ve always been interested in music. When I was younger, I played the violin. Later, I switched to guitar—mainly because my violin teacher wanted me to choose between basketball, girls, and violin. So I switched to guitar. I played in a rock band for a long time doing covers. We had the Bar Mitzvah circuit down!

But the drummer in our band was in the jazz band in high school. And he turned me on to it. We’d go to this amazing café called Amazing Grace in Evanston, Illinois. They had mostly folk music but also a lot of jazz acts. I remember seeing Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Pat Metheny, and all kinds of amazing artists play there. It was pretty spectacular.

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