Poster Highlights: Theme F (Integrative Physiology and Behavior)
This morning I had the pleasure of exploring some posters for Theme F--Integrative Physiology and Behavior, specifically on the topics of Sexual Differentiation in Neuroendocrine Processes, as well as Stress Modulated Pathways (hypothalamus, amygdala, and BNST). The majority of the posters I observed today were from animal studies, which are less familiar to me as a clinical researcher. This is the benefit of SfN--you can both share your expertise in your own field, as well as learn applicable skills or advancements outside of your field all at the same conference. One poster that particularly stood out to me was TT15, which discussed the role of maternal buffering during fear conditioning. As our research team (STARC--Wayne State University) has identified a relationship between maternal stress and the psychological symptoms of her children in Syrian and Iraqi refugees, I was interested to hear more. Amanda White, from the University of Michigan, shared her work replicating findings that presence of the mother mouse during fear conditioned pups resulted in decreased freezing behavior when the pup was again exposed to the unconditioned stimulus (an odorant). She added that this effect was only observed for female offspring, and that male offspring did not seem to benefit from maternal buffering. In an attempt to identify neural networks involved, Ms. White also looked at c-Fos expression (a robust marker of neuronal activity) in selected regions of interest. I was most excited by the technique she used to do so--she applied the Brain Connectivity Toolbox, which is traditionally used for functional neuroimaging data, to her c-Fos expression data. I observed similar methodological advancements with posters T5 and VV14. At poster T5, Kristen Krolick from Miami University told me about how she used DAVID, an online opensource tool for conducting biological pathways analysis, to determine whether more genes were expressed than usual in particular brain regions--including the hypothalamus, hippocampus, and amygdala--due to restraint stress in adolescent rodents. I look forward to seeing how Kristen will assess between-sex differences given these data. At poster VV14, I got to see a successful example of using 7T MRI for the detection of subfields in the amygdala, including the basolateral amygdala and the central amygdala, which have previously been indistinguishable using 3T magnets. Throughout the poster session, I also learned how cortisol seems to buffer subjective emotional appraisal to negative stimuli in men but not women, and about Mycobacterium Vaccae as an anti-anxiolytic in animal models in the presence of a stress. The potential mechanism proposed was M. Vaccae's suppression of expression of corticotrophin releasing hormone particularly in the central amygdala (the region of the brain implicated in fear expression) and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (the region of the brain implicated in anxiety). One of the highlights of the session was meeting a former collaborator in person for the first time, after working together via Skype and email on a project regarding neuroaesthetics of art, music, and literature during my undergraduate years. I love that SfN brings together colleagues and friends, old and new!
I cannot wait to learn more throughout the conference, and I especially look forward to running the Wayne State University Translational Neuroscience Program booth at the Graduate Fair tomorrow between 12:00pm and 2:00pm! Find me at booth 53 to hear more about our diverse faculty, research interests, and innovative approaches to trauma, psychiatry, and neuroimaging.