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Eukaryon

BBB: Brain Bridging Business

Alexia Pickens-Desouza
Lake Forest College
Lake Forest, Illinois 60045

The Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience Scientific meeting was held on April 19th, 2019 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Students from multiple high schools, undergraduate, graduate, and postdoc schools came together to attend this prestigious meeting in the city of Chicago. Some of these schools being: Loyola University Chicago, DePaul University, Northwestern University, Midwestern University, Wheaton College, University of Chicago, Rush University, and the one and only Lake Forest College. The purpose of this meeting was to get students of all different levels of education, professors, and those interested in neuroscience to learn about the new developments in the vast field of neuroscience. I attended this meeting because I, myself, am interested in neuroscience and wanted to expand my knowledge in the field. 

The conference began with the presidential symposium and keynote speaker. I did not attend these two sessions, but I did attend the following. The conference continued with the poster session where hundreds of students presented their posters. Next, the graduate student symposium began with six different student speakers, who gave talks about their research. Following this, the afternoon symposia proceeded with many other presentations of professors’ or other individual’s research. The conference ended with a reception and business meeting where awards, recognitions, and election results were announced. 

The poster session was the first event I attended. One poster I visited was titled, “Your face and my emotions: an adolescent perspective.” Uliana Solovieva and Alessandra Passarotti, undergraduate students at the University of Illinois at Chicago, looked at differences in how adolescents observe various facial expressions. Interestingly, they found that anger is the hardest emotion to detect for adolescents, while happiness is one of the easiest emotions to identify. They also found that extreme expressions were easier to identify than mild expressions. The implications of this study were that adolescents could interpret negative emotions as the absence of emotions, which reflects the development of emotion regulation skills. 

The graduate student symposium then proceeded. The first speaker, J. A. Schreiber, presented research on “Reduced Anti-Inflammatory Capacity: An Early Event in Binge Alcohol-Induced Neurodegeneration.” The purpose of this study was to test whether phospholipid-mediated neuroinflammatory changes exist from alcohol without neuroinflammation present. They knew that selective degeneration of dentate granule cells in hippocampus, pyramidal cells in entorhinal cortex, and olfactory bulb neurons happens in adult male rats who are exposed to severe alcohol binges over 4 days. Results showed that iPLA2 knockout are important to indicate brain neuroinflammation due to binge drinking. Additionally, they found that other changes in iPLA2 may also cause other things to go wrong which could lead to neuroinflammation. 

The last speaker, Elliot Layden, from the University of Chicago spoke about “Interhemispheric Functional Connectivity in the Zebra Finch Brain, Absent the Corpus Callosum in Normal Ontogeny.” Homotopic functional connectivity (FC) is bilaterally symmetric intrinsic brain activity. It is a common feature of a mammal’s brain. Mammal’s homotopic FC is regulated by the corpus callosum. The purpose of this study was to test whether the zebra finch has homotopic FC even though they lack a corpus callosum. They found that the zebra finch exhibits homotopic FC throughout the brain during development. This changes the original belief that the corpus callosum regulates homotopic FC. They found that there is potentially an indirect connectivity across the anterior commissure. This finding allows researchers to understand coordination between the two hemispheres across phylogeny. This study was especially interesting to me because it furthered my understanding of the role of the corpus callosum, being that it illustrates that the corpus callosum is necessary for the connection between the two hemispheres. 

Following this, the afternoon symposium took place which highlighted neuroinflammation and brain disorders. The first speaker, Hande Ozdinler, from Northwestern University spoke about the importance of non-neuronal cells have in ALS. Studies have shown non-neuronal cells, such as astrocytes and microglia, to have an important role in clearing up the dead cells from the tissue towards the end-stage of the diseases and in early involvement. They also performed studies that proved that there were interactions between vulnerable upper motor neurons and non-neuronal cells, particularly those involved with immunity. Ozdinler also discussed that TDP-43 pathology in the motor cortex causes cells of one part of the body to infiltrate the bloodstream and travel to other vulnerable upper motor neurons. This relates directly to the group project my peers and I worked on all semester in our Biology 130 course. We researched ALS and established the importance of glial cells, more specifically oligodendrocytes, to the pathogenesis of ALS. TDP-43 was also acknowledged as a pathological hallmark for ALS and helped prove the importance of glial cells to ALS pathology. In conclusion, Ozdinler’s research highlights the importance of non-neuronal cells to ALS pathology.

The Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience Scientific meeting was extremely impactful because it educated all who attend no matter their education level and helped further advances in the field. As a freshman at an undergraduate university, Lake Forest College, a lot of the research presented was not completely understood by me. However, my past knowledge of brain anatomy and various research papers on neurodegenerative diseases helped me to understand enough to be able to follow along and take analytical notes. I furthered my knowledge in ALS, microglia, neuroinflammation, brain anatomy, and many other neuroscience topics. My peers learned a tremendous amount as well. Sharona Kolesnikov, a freshman at Lake Forest College, states, “Without that Biology 130 course we took this semester, I would never have been able to understand all the information presented in these talks.” Sharona was able to learn a lot during the conference due to her extremely rewarding Biology 130 class. One of our peer mentors Sam Gascoigne, a junior at Lake Forest College, emphasized, “First year I came here I was not able to understand almost anything. If you are able to understand a good amount of the conference, you guys are in a better shape than I was in my freshman year.” Sam is one of the people I look up to and aspire to be like in terms of being well versed in neuroscience and being able to take part in extensive research with professors. This gave my peers and I hope as to how much we will learn these next two years and how the conference furthers undergraduates’ knowledge despite the lack of extensive knowledge in the field of neuroscience when first attending the conference. 

Overall, this conference had a powerful impact on everyone who attended it. My peers and I found that it expanded our previous knowledge learned at Lake Forest College and deepened our interest in the inner workings of the brain. The professors learned from other professors and college students who discovered major breakthroughs and will take that information with them for future research. Students who presented their research learned from those who presented and allowed them to present their research to other students and professors. Those who are merely interested in new neuroscience findings were able to expand on their knowledge and interest in the field. I can conclude that everyone who attended benefitted from the symposium. 

Disclaimer

Eukaryon is published by students at Lake Forest College, who are solely responsible for its content. The views expressed in Eukaryon do not necessarily reflect those of the College.

Articles published within Eukaryon should not be cited in bibliographies. Material contained herein should be treated as personal communication and should be cited as such only with the consent of the author.