Archive by category | Society for Neuroscience

SfN 2009: Optogenetics – the second wave

There are heaps of posters and presentations this year about optogenetics — the technique developed just a few years ago at Stanford by Karl Deisseroth and Ed Boyden, in which neurons can be engineered to respond to light. There’s even a section of the press book on optogenetics. If this had been a year ago, I might have rolled my eyes and thought, “optogenetics is so 2005”, but it looks like the technology is riding on its second wave: it’s out there, people trust it, and now labs are using it in quite creative ways and actually discovering new things about the brain. A few people at the conference are already murmuring about a Nobel for optogenetics.  Read more

SfN 2009: NIH and neuroscience

In a first for the SfN conference, the director of the NIH — who ultimately holds the purse strings for most of the people here — made an appearance and addressed the crowd. Francis Collins began his talk with a facetious reference to some of the criticism he’s fielded since his appointment just months ago.  Read more

SfN 2009: Why fMRI is still useful

Functional MRI has been getting a bad rap lately, with recent papers and posters critical of fMRI analyses receiving a frenzy of media attention. These have generated a harsh reaction from the public; many journalist friends of mine have declared they’ll never write about an fMRI study ever again.  Read more

SfN 2009: Chicago got brains

The massive annual conference of the Society for Neuroscience hit the ground running today in sunny and crisp Chicago. It’s only day one and the conference center is already clogged with neuroscientists. Attendance is supposedly around 30,000 this year — a staggering number, but down from the conference’s peak a few years ago in Washington, D.C. when attendance almost hit 35,000 (and when travel budgets were a bit more generous).  Read more

Neuroscience 2008: Missing in action

Last year there was wild buzz about some new techniques predicted to transform biology. The Brainbow, of course, but even more the light-activated channel rhodopsins which allow you to activate or deactivate key proteins with the flash of light of particular wavelength – you could watch the consequences of opening membrane channels, for example, in a live animal. Yet close to nothing is being presented on this at this meeting.  Read more

Neuroscience 2008: Remembering memory

The History of Neuroscience lecture this afternoon was one I had been really looking forward to. McGill University’s Brenda Milner was to speak on the field of memory, which – when she began to study it in the 1950s – was rather unfashionable and certainly understudied.  Read more