2015 GDBBS Banquet Fashion Spread

By Amielle Moreno

2015 GDBBS Interior Panoramic – Version 2

On a rainy Thursday night, the brightest things in Atlanta were the women and men of Emory’s Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences. I plucked the prettiest flowers from the bunch for this article to honor their stylishness.

Gina Alesi from Cancer Biology
Gina Alesi from Cancer Biology
Alicia Cutler from Biochemistry Cell and Developmental Biology (BCDB)
Alicia Cutler from Biochemistry Cell and Developmental Biology (BCDB)
Morgan Woody Winship Cancer Institute
Morgan Woody Winship Cancer Institute

The solid purple dress took center stage this year with multiple ladies donning this trending color. With many ways to wear it, this color is flattering on everyone, but who do you think wore it best?

Josh Lewis from BCDB
Josh Lewis from BCDB
Marko Bajic from Genetics and Molecular Biology
Marko Bajic from Genetics and Molecular Biology
R to L: Gary Longstreet from Program Administration, as well as Muhammad Anzar Abbas from Neuroscience and his lovely date
Gary Longstreet from Program Administration, as well as Muhammad Anzar Abbas from Neuroscience and his lovely date

In man’s fashion, the surest way to stand out in the sea of polo shirted lazy-lads, was easy: sports jacket and tie. Josh Lewis’ mix of jacket and plaid skinny tie set him apart from the crowd. Look out Chris Hardwick! Unfortunately, some people think fashion ends after your pants, such as Marko, who looked like the whole package until you notice his shoes. When asked about his ensemble he responded “#Marko #swag #swagco #yolo #yololifeforever #ijustputiton.” But Anzar Abbas gets extra flair points for his light brown tips. And yes, Gary Longstreet, people are going to think you’re a server if you dress in all black. “Black’s my favorite color,” he responded with aplomb.

Gina Lenzi  Molecular Systems and Pharmacology
Gina Lenzi Molecular Systems and Pharmacology
Madeline Price IMP Immunology and Molecular Pathogenesis
Madeline Price IMP Immunology and Molecular Pathogenesis

The LBD is a fashion staple but Gina’s lacy number will stand the test of time. It’s versatile with long sleeves which keep it in rotation from fall to late winter. Meanwhile, Madeline pulled this little number out of the closet after getting into shape. Can you think of anything more rewarding than slipping into that dress after months of working out? Her classic pumps make her ready for any formal event, but one might say that her accessories are lacking while Gina’s gold accessories take her ensemble over the top.Who wore black better: Gina, Madeline or Gary?

Version 3

Rachel Cliburn from Neuroscience
Rachel Cliburn from Neuroscience
Gary Longstreet from Program Adminsitration, Dr. Weinshenker and Dr. Gretchen Neigh
Gary Longstreet from Program Adminsitration, Dr. Weinshenker and Dr. Gretchen Neigh

And then there were the red mavens. Rachel  not only had hands and toes in theme with her red dress from Paris, her glass slippers “make [her] feel like she can twinkle float.” Dr. Neigh gets a chance to wear this beautiful gown for the second time. I was shocked that it was an Ann Taylor because I’ve never seen anything this bright. That dress, much like these two ladies, stand out from the crowd when everybody else is wearing tan. Thanks for the photo bomb, Gary.

Jacob Billings from Neuroscience
Jacob Billings from Neuroscience
Lukas Hoffmann from Neuroscience
Lukas Hoffmann from Neuroscience

Both of these Neuroscience gentlemen received their neuron accessories, from their significant others. Lukas’s purple tie is from Bow-Tie For a Cause with all the profits from this gift benefiting Alzheimer’s research.

Julia Omotade from BCDB
Oh MY, Omotade! Julia Omotade from BCDB wins the best dressed award!

Black and White doesn’t get any better. In my humble opinion, Julia Omotade’s cocktail dress puts all others to shame and as the best dressed at the GDBBS Banquet.

Besties!
Besties!
Eye catching from across the room, Pernille Buelow claims she does "this with my hair everyday at lab."
Eye catching from across the room, Pernille Buelow from Neuroscience claims she does “this with my hair everyday at lab.”
What did they just hear that could create such polar reactions?
What did they just hear that could create such polar reactions?
Dr. Weinshenker was literally the last person to receive dinner.
Dr. Weinshenker was literally the last person to receive dinner.
Because it's alien eggs, this is the vegetarian option not the vegan option.
Because it’s alien eggs, this is the vegetarian option not the vegan option.
The food was much better in years past.
The food was much better in years past.
Version 2
Constance Harrell Shreckengost from Neuroscience receives the graduate Career Award
IMG_2437
Lauren DePoy receives the Neuroscience Scholar of the Year Award
Version 2
A bowl?! I work for 13 years and all I get is a bowl with a dent in it?!?!
Version 2
Lukas Hoffmann from Neuroscience receives the Graduate Program in Biology Academic and Achievement Award
Version 2
My two bundles of joy!

Did You Know? with Willa Cho!: Little-known facts about Atlanta

by Willa ChoIheartATL

Little-known facts about Atlanta!

  • Atlanta resident Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone with the Wind because an ankle injury kept her from leaving the city and she was very bored.
  • Atlanta is still proud that it hosted the Olympics in 1996, for some reason.
  • In 1886 Atlanta, Dr. John S. Pemberton invented Coca-Cola to usher in a new era of obesity but passed away before his dream was realized.
  • Every year, Atlanta hosts DragonCon, a multigenre convention and parade  celebrating science fiction, fantasy, and comic books which commences nerd mating season
  • Atlanta was chosen as a hub for Delta airlines because it’s only a three hour plane ride to some place better.
  • Atlanta is believed to be named after the goddess Atalanta, who was raised by bears. The cult responsible for the naming is still active and its hooded members can often be spotted along the new beltline walking path.
  • Elle and Dakota Fanning, Jane Fonda, Holly Hunter, Ed Helms, Raven-Symoné, Chris Tucker, and Julia Roberts were all born in Atlanta and now live somewhere else.
  • Tourist attractions in downtown Atlanta includes the worlds largest aquarium and Coca-Cola’s ‘World of Propaganda.’
  • Stone Mountain, outside Atlanta, is one of the largest blocks of exposed granite racism in the world.
  • A law still stands on the books from 1927 that states that good Chinese restaurants aren’t allowed anywhere in the city except Buford Highway.PrayforATLA
  • The symbol or mascot of Atlanta is “A man from another area in the south who thinks Atlanta is great!”
  • Atlanta is an official celestial conduit to heaven, with branches of Zesto’s serving as departure terminals for all believers chubby enough to survive the trip.
  • There are over 55 streets with the name “Peachtree” in the city, all with their own rival gangs that brawl during any eclipse.
  • What we call “Atlanta” is only the surface of a much, much larger subterranean city, which comprises 91% of the mass, 87% of the energy consumption, and nearly 100% of the Tinder spam bots.

“Yes and” Brain Areas Identified

By Amielle Moreno

How do you test something as transient as “creativity” when the simple act of testing someone can lead to decreases in the very thing you seek to measure? A recent study out of the Reiss laboratory at Stanford produced a creative idea of their own to test creativity. The low pressure and innovative approach in this study attempted to solve this problem with a game and an fMRI machine.

SONY DSC
A pack of wild dogs took over and successfully run this fMRI facility.

Large pieces of machinery such as functional Nuclear Magnetic Resonance machines, carry the hefty price tag of $316 to $600 an hour per participant. The name alone scared so many hospital patients that scientists dropped the word “nuclear.” Reimbursing participants (bribing) is often necessary to get them to willingly stick their head inside the giant magnet even when you’re trying to get them to play a game in the million dollar machine.

Recent research published in Nature attempts to understand the neural correlates recruited during Pictionary. The family friendly game that you played awkwardly with your new step-mom Susana or converted into a drinking game in college/last week was used in an fMRI machine to better understand what areas of the brain are responsible for creativity. First author Saggar made the point that creativity can be considered “a driving force behind all human progress1.”

What else but creativity is responsible for the human proclivity to identify patterns in randomness, leading ancient societies to create images and fables out of the constellations?

constilations
OK, how the hell is that a lion, ancient Greek man?

Design and Methods:

Pictionary prompts such as salute, snore and vote, were selected and graded for their difficulty by one set of participants. Then, another set of participants in an fMRI machine used a magnetic resonance-safe drawing tablet to either draw illustrations of these prompts during a 30 second time block or a random zigzag during another block.

pictionary prompts
If you ask me, it’s Grampa visiting South Carolina, the beginning of a “fail” video, CIA mind control and mailing your alimony check.

By contrasting the creative versus uncreative blocks, the researchers attempted to reveal “the neural correlates of spontaneous improvisation and creativity.” Images drawn during the creative blocks were then graded on creative content and subjective ease of guessing the prompt by two Pictionary Experts. While this might also be a major offered by Sarah Lawrence College, apparently you can obtain this position after earning a degree in Graphic Design from Stanford. Resumes were updated to include “Expert Guessers in Pictionary” post-study.

The researchers were left with mountains of data and yet again these humans sought to apply order to what might appear as randomness.

creativityvsinfo

Results:

All of this leads to specific advice for the art of improvisation and Pictionary:

  1. Working Memory and Attention: Perhaps the most important thing to do in any improv scene is to listen to your partner and focus on the scene you’re building. Active listening and engagement is fueled by the attention network, including the frontal-parietal connection2. This functional connectivity can “initiate and adjust control on a trial-by trial basis.” Coherence between these two regions form “the central executive and visual sketchpad of the working memory system.”
  2. Goal Direction: Prime your cingulo-operacular connectivity to maintain stable, goal directed focus during your scenes/games. Because communication between the cingulate and the area adjacent to the insula is also associated with word-recognition, it may be particularly important during Pictionary or word associated improv games3.
  3. Shut Down Task-Control: Try to go with the flow. A fine distinction between goal directed focus, task-control involves task initiation, maintenance and adjustment4. Regions of the brain involved in task-control include the anterior cingulate cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. High BOLD signals in these brain regions are associated with less creative pictures.
  4. Creativity: To be more creative, try to activate both your bilateral cerebellum and inferior temporal gyrus. The activation of the cerebellum increased linearly with increases in creativity ratings. This study’s finding that cerebral-cerebellar interactions are active during the game Pictionary, separate from motor control and learning, indicates that this interaction is active during higher order cognitive functions which could be considered “creative.”
Sager_2015
This is your brain on Pictionary. Modulation of fMRI activation during word-drawing condition using self-reported difficulty ratings (in red-yellow color scale) and expert creativity ratings (in blue-green color scale).

Conclusion:

improvgreats
Improv greats, Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh. image from vanityfair.com

Anyone who’s paid to think or problem solve needs moments of creativity. This study posits that it was able to isolate creative thought and found an association between cerebral-cerebellar BOLD signal and spontaneous creativity. Two neuroscience grad students who do improv, Brendan O’Flaherty and Lukas Hoffmann, might tell you that with experience it’s possible to improve your creative performance on stage. Connections between specific brain regions need to be strengthened before you can become one of the great improvisational artists, or crush Susanna and her spoiled daughter during your next family vacation.

To strengthen your connectivity, check out Village Theatre or Highwire Comedy for classes.

1 Saggar M, Quintin EM, Kienitz E, Bott NT, Sun Z, Hong WC, Liu N, Dougherty RF, Royalty A, Hawthorne G, Reiss AL. Pictionary-based fMRI paradigm to study the neural correlates of spontaneous improvisation and figural creativity. Sci. Rep. 5, 10894; doi: 10.1038/srep10894 (2015).

2 Vaden KI, Kuchinsky SE, Cute SL, Ahlstrom JB, Dubno JR, Eckert MA. The cingulo-opercular network provides word-recognition benefit. The Journal of Neuroscience. 2013;33(48):18979-18986. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1417-13.2013.

3 Chawla D, Rees G, Friston KJ. The physiological basis of attentional modulation in extrastriate visual areas. Nature Neuroscience.1999; 2: 671 – 676 doi:10.1038/10230

4 Ptak R. The frontoparietal attention network of the human brain: action, saliency, and a priority map of the environment. Neuroscientist. 2011;18 (5):502-515.

Gh-gh-gh-ghost Delusion Simulated and Explored

By Amielle Moreno

In Current Biology this month, a paper titled “Neurological and Robot-Controlled Induction of an Apparition” features neuroscientists exploring a sensation that’s ubiquitous among humans in every culture; the feeling or chilling sensation that someone is behind you when no one is present. Feeling of Presence, or FoP, is a phenomena present in both healthy individuals and those with psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia. But like most sensory experiences, this one has its roots in neuroscience and not the occult or divine.

Blanke2014 Brain Scan Image
Overlay of FoP lesion patients and FoP experiencing healthy controls. A: Red indicates the overlap of five patients B: Compared to non-lesioned patients that experience FoP, The common area between the two groups is the frontoparietal lobe.

First author Olfe Blake and senior author Giulio Rognini, both out of Switzerland, conducted this study using mostly epileptic patients, who frequently experience this body delusion, to determine which brain location is commonly affected. They determined that the frontoparietal lobe was specifically associated with FoP. Responsible for the integration of sensory stimuli, these researchers suggest that the parietal lobe is the location responsible for that creepy feeling we all get when we turn out the lights in the basement, and then we have to walk up the stairs in the dark, and we swear there’s a monster behind us, and we run up the stairs and slam the door behind us, and we realize we’re breathing heavily and crying just a little bit, but we’re not embarrassed at all because this is totally something everybody does.

Blanke2014 Robot Video picture
Samuel “Screech” Powers pokes himself in the back with a robot.

To experimentally replicate this sensation in a healthy population, the researchers designed a robot whose movements were guided by the fingers of study participants. Blindfolded and in a room alone, the participants would control the robot, making it touch their back. One group controlled the robot in real time, the other group had robots that would mimic their movements, but with a time delay. Subjects in the time delay group reported the experience to be more like another person was in the room with them, touching their back. This method induced FoP in some participants and made a smaller subset feel so uncomfortable that they had to stop the experiment! In this way the asynchronous robot stimulation was capable of simulated FoP in healthy participants. Scientists failed to control for the possibility that actual ghosts were present in the room during the experiment.

Blanke2014 Figure3a
The feelings of “touched by other” and “FoP” were higher in the asynchronous vs. synchronous robot control.

Blanke et al. concluded that they were able to create “a conflict between proprioceptive-motor signals and tactile feedback” that is similar to the FoP experience. Shining light on the cause of this sensation, researches believe that “abnormal integration of sensorimotor signals” is responsible for ghosts, I mean, FoP. So the experience of an unknown “other” just behind you and out of sight is simply a confusion between the brain’s sensation of the “self” and the “other.”

The researchers went further, suggesting that schizophrenics have deficits in the integration of sensory inputs, and this causes these individuals to be more likely to attribute “self-generated” sounds or touch as being “other-generated.” The authors hope that this study will have applications to schizophrenic individuals who experience this specific delusion. As the phenomenology behind the feeling of presence is explained, science puts another nail in the coffin of the “supernatural.” Xgq5z5P

Share your thoughts and criticisms of this paper in the comment section below.

Blanke, O., Pozeg, P., Hara, M., Heydrich, L., Serino, A., Yamamoto, A., Rognini,G. (2014). Neurological and Robot-Controlled Induction of an Apparition. Current Biology, 24(22), 2681-2686. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2014.09.049
Grimm, David. “How Hippos Help and a News Roundup.” Review. Audio blog post. Science Magazine Podcast. AAAS, 13 Nov. 2014. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.sciencemag.org/rss/podcast.xml&gt;.

Second Years Celebrate Stats Course Completion

Co-written by Amielle Moreno and Eric Maltbie

Image
Because it’s impossible to get a shot where everyone look good AND no ones biting each other.

     Neuroscience second years rejoice over the completion of the Statistics course for Biological Sciences. After the semester long experiment with early morning classes on Tuesday and Thursdays had ended, the Neuroscience students celebrated with an party to burn all remaining alpha. Preliminary data suggested that to reach 80% power, everyone should bring a plus one to the celebration and they were joined by n+1s and future Stat students. No missing data points were thrown out.

    Michael McKinnon summarized the feelings of many of the stats students with his Five Stages of Grief in Response to Missing a Statistics Quiz:

  1. Denial: It’s only 8:25, I can totally wake up, shower, get dressed, drive through traffic, park and make it to class in 15 minutes….
  2. Anger: This is just $#@^ing great! Of course, he has a $#@^ing early bird attendance quiz today. He’s never had quizzes in the first half of class before!! This is bull%*&!… f$#@^ing bull%*&!. He’s singling me out I bet, he knows I always show up late. He wants me to fail! %!@!*& $@! bald %!$*#&*!$!&*!!!!! (Editor’s note, the following strong language was removed in the best interest of Mr. McKinnon. Please contact the editor or Mr. McKinnon directly to receive the full transcript)
  3. Bargaining: I bet if I show up late he’ll give me half credit. I mean, sure I’m always late, but I show up pretty often. I’ll send him a nice email and explain that I don’t like getting up early. That makes sense, right?
  4. Depression: I’m gonna fail statistics!!!!! I suck at life!
  5. Acceptance: Oh wait, grades don’t matter anymore…
Image
Guess who dropped by the party?

Highlights of the evening included professor impressions and the random distribution of shots, one of which was actually a shot of vinegar, to represent the chance of a false positive. That shot was unfortunately digested by an n+1.

This class was everything the upperclassmen said it would be, commented one student t. Tukey’s commented that it was difficult to take the instructor of the course, Dr. Murphy’s, commitment seriously due to his failure to post homework assignments in a timely manner. A significant amount of the group believed that the professor’s love for the game of golf was a bias to his productivity.

All in all, the students are happy to have completed this course and will be contacting the newly elected DSAC representative, Natty Chalermpalanupap, to voice their constructive feedback.

Bonferroni and have a great summer!

Congratulations To My Girl, Amielle!

ImageWhat’s up, Emory Neuroscience Graduate Program!  I’m Vin Diesel and you might have seen me starring in my award winning Fast and Furious films. I’m stoked to be introducing my girl, Amielle, as the Central Sulcus’s new Editor-in-Chief. This girl is crazy funny and I know she’ll pull down some articles for the Sulcus that the whole program will enjoy.  What I love about this girl, is how she’s always there for me when I need her. So I know you can contact her if you have any winning article ideas. I love how crazy this girl can be; she’s off the chain when she puts together a story. So you know I’ll be reading and I hope you do to. 

You can look forward to some great articles from my girl and the whole editorial team here at the Sulcus this year. Live your life one quarter mile at a time.

Peace,

Vin

 

Nerd Wars: The Battle for Science Audiences in Atlanta

By Amielle Moreno

Science lovers’ calendars are filling up on weeknights, thanks to the weekly and monthly events hosted by Atlanta’s growing science/nerd scene. While both Atlanta Science Tavern and Nerd Nite can satisfy your science and booze cravings, they’re distinctly different in subject and clientele. Both organizations are hungry for speakers, so here’s the scoop before you decide to present or decide to attend.

Alright, who has a 401K?
Figure 1: Alright, who has a 401K?

Atlanta Science Tavern has scientists from around the Atlanta area, including Emory Professors, give professional talks about their research. Like a light version of our Frontiers seminar series, these events allow you to get a glimpse of the research going on around the city, while you share a table with someone who looks like your Uncle Hector.  If you’ve never been, this is as good a time as any to explain why you’re sitting next to a 65 year-old guy, who you have to split your check with. The Science Tavern generally occurs at the great Atlanta meeting house, Manuel’s Tavern, whose large wood tables have eight person capacities, giving you a chance to meet some new “friends” before the lecture begin.

This has to be the worst part of the Atlanta Science Tavern; the other audience members. Built into the start time of each event is an hour of what will be the most mundane conversation of your life. With a mean age of 65, your fellow patrons might be aggressively lonely people who have out of date social skills. To address or cause this issue, Atlanta Science Tavern hosts a monthly 40s and older singles group, which adds to the ‘recently divorced’ vibe of its events.

I love the spirit and the diversity of lecturers and events the Atlanta Science Tavern puts together, but it’s hard not to notice the sizable age gap between me and all the other attendees. The annual Trivia night was all science and impressively hard core, but not a single song played between questions was younger than the most recent turn of the century. Although I’ve tried to block it out of my memory, I heard one woman try to start a conversation for the table by stating “I have no idea what being a student is like now with the Internet.” (*insert Saved by the Bell time out*) She wasn’t asking anyone a question. She didn’t want to talk to us about this transitional technology and how its changed world views or education. She was talking at us about how hard she had to work, 40 years ago, in college. I can’t imagine a more effective combination of whining and ego, to push strangers away and, by the time the Georgia Tech professor began his presentation on the evolution of mRNA, I had reached the half-way point in chewing through my arm.

Now I can already hear some detractors now; “Amielle, I had a wonderful conversation with people at Science Tavern!” And to them, I say, stop #$%&ing on my point and let me talk at you some more.

Figure 2: Hey baby, I like those genes ...
Figure 2: Hey baby, I like those genes …

Enter Science Tavern’s cool younger brother, Nerd Nite. This hipster sweat fueled organization has chapters across the country and has just started up in Atlanta. Appealing to a much younger demographic, Nerd Nite invites speakers to talk about subjects they’re close to and inevitably ends up having at least one science-related speaker. But the speakers end up being the biggest detracting factor of these events. They rarely seem to cater to or understand the nerd audience and our love for facts or processes. It quickly becomes obvious and frustrating when you realize that speakers have cut and pasted a presentation from a sales pitch or another event for the Nerd Nite audience. They range the gamut from self-involved narcissist hungry for limelight (a presenter who used make-up to turn an audience member into a zombie and then had the gall to insult Mystery Science Theater Three thousand) to sales people hawking their own personal scenes or businesses (a woman from a DIY co-op eager to get new members). And the science is very watered down. At a recent Nerd Nite, a fellow Emory student and I were left uninfected by a superficial microbiome presentation. Although, there are surprises, such as when what I thought was going to be the most boring speaker of the night broke down how he was able to drive from NYC to LA in 28 hours. He shared his nerdiness by focusing on the extensive details and planning involved in his cannonball run, winning hearts and nerd minds.

Also hosted by Manuel’s Tavern, these events allow you to interact with a much younger crowd. Conversations at the table tend to flow easier without a generation gap … or two. Presenters could easily sit at your table, such as my favorite speaker, who works with three endangered species of lemurs, and presented on these ancient primates’ migration to Madagascar and their various environmental niches. It’s easy to make new friends, exchange ideas and numbers, while you discuss previous presenters during the musical breaks. This isn’t to say that all the conversations are gems.

Me (to table mate): So, what are you nerdy about?
Sack of @#$*: I’m not a nerd…
Me: … Oh… (silence) … Well, what do you do for work?
S o S: I’m in IT.
Me: Isn’t that kinda nerdy?
S o S: I don’t wanna talk about it…

In summary, go to the Atlanta Science Tavern, be the youngest person in the audience, bring friends and enjoy hearing professional scientists discuss a subject that fascinates you.

And/Or:

Go to Nerd Nite, soak up the 2:1 girl to guy ratio, enjoy one out of the night’s three speakers, and get some numbers.