Dr. Patricia Lopes

Andrew Hatch
Prof. Raskin
Neuroscience Across the Curriculum
19 November 2015
Dr. Patricia Lopes Research Presentation
Instantly I found myself stuck by the fact micro organism interact— I probably know that they did, but Dr. Lopes electron microscope images made it all the more real. The topic of social interaction while suffering from illness was fascinating and something I believe Trinity students would enjoy researching. Her research into the role disease has in our social environment, initially conducted in mice, had variables easily convertible to human subjects.
I found Dr. Lopes’ introduction of sick behaviors and subsequent conversation to have significant parallels in the “human world”; most noticeable was slowing of movement and resting behavior. Curiously, she spoke about how these behaviors are integral to the survival of the individual and remain conserved across species. These behaviors, while not essential (in most cases) in the human species, are highly encouraged and also appear to be “hard-wired.”
Perhaps of the greatest interest for me was Dr. Lopes’ research of mating behavior of “sick” zebra fish. In her experiment, Dr. Lopes was able to extract the lipopolysaccharide membrane of a pathogen and inject it into lab animals, producing an inflammatory response without actually making the animal sick: the test subjects showed the classic sick behaviors, despite being perfectly healthy. Across all subjects, male or female, a general drop in activity was noticed.
While alone, males remained near sessile but when a female was introduced they started to get very active and moved around the cage and a majority of the males engaged in courtship behavior, including a call and dance. An increase in activity was true for most animals tested but not all and may correlate to a level of sickness—possible further research?

Wayne Hawley

Jonah Meltzer
Neuro Across the Curriculum
Wayne Hawley

Wayne Hawley made his way to Trinity to speak on the research that he has conducted thus far in his career. His interests, in regards to neuroendocrinology, revolve around the use of estradiol and G-1 as a treatment to enhance spatial recognition in ovariectomized rats.
Amidst a number of corny sex jokes related to his research, Hawley gave an insightful presentation that mixed his interests in neuroscience with a background in the psychology of psychosocial-sexual behaviors. The talk focused on the idea of spatial novelty, the idea that rats seek the opportunity to find novel areas in which they can nest, mate, and explore. The rats used in his experiment had been ovariectomized, meaning they were female rats that’d had their ovaries removed via a simple surgery. This rat type is often used when designing treatments and cures for diseases such as osteoporosis. The removal of the ovaries most notably results in the loss of production of estrogen.
The rats were given injections of estradiol 24 hours and 48 hours before they were placed in the Y-maze task. The rats were also split into two test groups, one group received 1ug of estradiol, while the second group received a 25ug injection of G-1. The results showed that after exploring the first arm of the maze in their first trial both test groups showed an improvement in their preference for the novel environment. Furthermore, the second test group, which which received 25ug of G-1, showed a greater preference for the novel environment.
The study also found that rats that had performance compromises, such as cholinergic function, that were treated in the same does as the experimental rats showed improvements in acetylcholine levels in the hippocampus when completing spatial memory tasks. This finding has implications in areas of neurodegenerative research such as Alzheimer’s disease, which is characterized by a lack of cholinergic function.


Lizzy Foley


Neuroscience Across The Curriculum


Young Blood for Old Brains” lecture by Tony Wyss-Coray, Ph.D.



Sitting in the Life Science’s Center, Tony Wyss-Coray listened patiently as my fellow students and I working in Professor Masino and Ruskin’s lab talked about our own research projects. He asked questions that were both scholarly and though provoking, as expected from as Professor at Stanford University. Right across from him sat his daughter, Livia Wyss, a junior neuroscience major who has been working with ketogentic diet and it’s effect on inflammation in rodent models. Wyss-Coray listened, enthusiastically, to his daughter speak before steering the conversation towards his own life as a scientist.

Wyss-Coray explained that in his home of Switzerland, he grew up fascinated by science, most specifically by plants. However, he realized at a young age that his interest in plants was more of a pastime than a potential career. Instead, Wyss-Coray was swayed to study immunology by a particularly captivating professor. In terms of our scientific understanding of immunology, Wyss-Coray could not have begun research at a more fascinating time than the AIDS pandemic, which was initially recognized in the early 1980s. In 1993, his research on HIV related dementia led him to American where worked at Scripps Research Institute and later Stanford University’s medical school where he works currently as a Professor of Neurology. Today he studies blood plasma and it’s role in Alzheimer’s disease, which he talked about during his lecture this past Tuesday.

Wyss-Coray began his talk by introducing a study of parabiosis in which the vascular system of an old mouse was surgically attached to that of a young mouse. The artificial joining allowed for the blood of the young mouse to flow to the old mouse and vice versa. Remarkably, it was found that the brain of the old mouse looked younger when exposed to the younger environment. In such context, the term younger is defined as the creation of new neurons, higher synaptic activity, higher levels of genes involved in memory, and less inflammation in the brain.

When applied to humans, the parabiotic experiment opened the doors for many other age related studies. Wyss-Coray stated that as human’s age neurodegeneration is inevitable. Yet, it seems that infusing the blood or cord plasma of young humans into older humans with Alzheimer’s disease helps temporarily rejuvenate the brain by increasing neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity most noticeably in the hippocampus, a region associated with learning and memory. It seems to Wyss-Coray such neural transformation is due to the growth factors within the young plasma.

The research suggests that the human brain at every age is malleable. Such idea is an optimistic concept as it suggests that certain parameters such as plasma growth factors can help improve cognitive ability and delay neural degeneration. Although Wyss-Coray recognizes that the currently fountain of youth concept is unattainable, his research suggests that there are potential ways to delay the process of neural degeneration and prolong cognitive youth even as you age. Overall, Wyss-Coray’s research is ground breaking as it provides a possible way to deal with pervasive degenerative diseases and improve the quality of life for many individuals.

Young Blood

Tommy Hum-Hyder

Neuroscience Across the Curriculum

Novermber 2, 2015


Young Blood for Old Brains


Last week, Dr. Wyss-Coray of the Stanford spoke to us about his recently published work in Nautre magazine that further explored past research revolving around the idea of parabiosis. Parabiosis techniques began with the surgical joining of old and young mice, and it was discovered that old muscle was able to be rejuvenated with attachment to the young mice. Subsequent studies were then able to determine that other tissues could achieve the same effect. Dr. Wyss-Coray then began thinking of applications of this parabiosis to aging. As we age, synapses prune, neurons die, and the stability of our genomes changes, as the ends of chromosomes shorted and methylation occurs. Given that blood connects all organs, Wyss-Coray and his team wanted to see how aging affected the brains without performing biopsies. To do this, he measured one hundred proteins of cellular language in an effort to find the signature of aging, or the correlates that commonly occur in aging mice. Among these correlates, were proteins associated with inflammation, such as CCL11 or Eotaxin. With this knowledge, the team then transferred plasma from young mice to old mice and found increased memory function and that some of the correlates of aging decreased, which seems to suggest that there is something about young blood that can lead to a decrease in aging. The experiment was then redone, but this time with human plasma into aged mice, that were specially made to accept human plasma. They were then able to note that the greatest changes were in levels of CAMIIK an and c-fos.

Tuesdays with Morrie

“As you grow, you learn more. Aging is not just decay…it’s growth. It’s more than the negative that you’re going to die, it’s also the positive that you understand that you’re going to die, and that you live a better life because of it.” –Morrie Schwartz

On Wednesday October 14th Playhouse on Park brought to life once again the memoir Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. I started off with a quote from the play because I found it enlightening that a man suffering from a disease that actually speeds up the decay of his own body could change his perspective and use the unfortunate events of life to better understand himself, the disease, and the purpose of life. Morrie Schwartz was a 78-year-old sociology professor at Brandeis University who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) during the summer of 1994. Commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, nicknamed after one of baseball’s greatest, ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that targets the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord (“Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Fact Sheet”). Over time motor neurons in the body start to die and the brain’s ability to stimulate control of muscles is lost. Without this connection “sclerosis,” or hardening, of the muscles occur creating the inability to walk, speak, eat, and in Morrie Schwartz’s case eventually breathe. ALS is a debilitating disease that effects people of all race and ethic background and does not have a proven cause. It is the most common neuromuscular disease worldwide; however, there is still a copious amount of information about the disease that remains a mystery. Strides have been made in the past twenty years regarding ALS research identifying specific enzyme mutations associated with the disease. Due to the fact that the disease has been difficult to identify time has not been dedicated to intensively researching the disease until recently. People like Morrie Schwarts who use their own obstacles in life to help progress knowledge and spread awareness aid in the development of further research studies regarding ALS and hopefully one-day help pinpoint the cause and cure for the disease.


“Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Fact Sheet.” National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. National Institutes of Health, 18 Oct. 2015. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.



Tuesdays with Morrie

Elizabeth DiRico

Tuesdays with Morrie

Tuesdays with Morrie, the play adaptation Based on the true story of Morrie Schwartz is the story of a Brandies university professor of sociology dying of ALS and his relationship with a former student. As Morrie walks the finale bridge between life and death he shares life lessons with his student and consequently reconnects him with what is truly important in life. In fact, Morrie Schwartz shares his life lessons along with his dying process with the world through a series of interviews conducted by Ted Koppel.

On a deeper neurological level, the play illustrates the complexities and devastation inflicted by Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis more commonly known as ALS. ALS is characterized by the degradation of cells responsible for controlling voluntary movement, leading to paralysis and ultimately death. Thanks to recent campaigns such as the ALS ice bucket challenge, there is a high degree of public awareness surrounding this debilitating disease. Based on my comprehension of ALS on a cellular level I previously believed that I had a good understanding of the disease. However, witnessing Morrie’s battle first hand illustrated many facets that I had previously overlooked. Most notably, this was exemplified by Morries maintained mental capacity as his body deteriorated. This is one of the more gruesome aspects of the disease considering that ALS is a motor neuron disease it does not impair cognitive function. Instead it impends the mechanism responsible from sending signal from the brain to the muscles, inhibiting voluntary movement.

To date, mutations in 29 genes have been implicated in causing ALS, yet these mutations account for only one-third of total cases. A tremendous amount of research continues to be conducted to better understand ALS as well as prevent this devastating disease. Nearly twenty years after his death, Morrie’s story is still being told and he dose his part to spread awareness about ALS and continues to inspire his disciples to live a happy and meaningful life.

The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing Review

Amina Kureshi

The Bushnell recently hosted a forum to discuss “cutting edge technology and innovations that will change our lives” titled “The Next Big Thing”. Fareed Zakaria, global thinker, journalist, and author and Joi Ito, technology visionary and director of the MIT media lab consisted of the panelists. In terms of the progression of the role of technology in the future, we can envision technology being used to store information which would otherwise be rotely memorized by human professionals. For example, a physician can differ to technology for statistics and DSM criteria for illnesses. This would allow the physician more time to spend with the patient to do tasks which cannot be different to technology, and require human interaction, such as diagnostics. An important point was brought up about the uniqueness and complexity of diagnostics, which can only be reserved to the human mind. In order to teach students, a medical school professor at Yale University ensured his students learned to interpret artwork, as the skills apply to diagnostics as well. By passing off statistics, data, and concrete information off to technology, we are free to learn the skills which only our highly functioning brains can accomplish in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, the current education system, which rewards students on their ability to follow directions and demonstrate their knowledge based on standardized exams. Ito brought up an interesting point about his ideals for education focusing on the “four P’s”: peers, passion, projects, and play. This encourages creativity, self-motivation, problem based learning (projects), and peer-peer learning. The advantage of peer to peer learning is that it allows students to play the role of the teacher in one scenario and the student in another scenario, which reinforces learning. This type of education will create the future generations of workers, which will take advantage of the use of technology, to which concrete details would be attributed. Indeed, this gives merit to the Scientific American article titled, “Why Neuroscience Needs Hackers” which would require creative thinking which cannot yet be taken over by artificial intelligence.

Zakaria and Ito also had this to say about the future: true poverty, such as living on less than a dollar a day, will no longer exist (though it was always exist relative to other economic classes). In terms of populating Mars, Kakaria responded with the point that if we have the means to populate Mars, then we surely have the means to address global warming here on our home plant. However, the major obstacle in our way is affordably desalinating water but this cannot be done using fossil fuels, as it would consume too much energy. Therefore, an alternative source of energy must be used, one which can generate a lot of energy cheaply. This is where the ingenuity which will drive our development comes in to play.

Many various points were brought up such as the vagus nerve hypothesis, the meaning of humanity and its role in technology, and even genetic engineering. As expected of a forum, the discussion took us to many different places across the world, across time, and across disciplines. These forums will expose you to many new and different ideas and will cause you to question the direction of our future, and in that respect, it is worth it to attend these events. I would caution that this event does require your focus; if you are planning on attending a similar event, be sure that you have gotten a good night’s sleep, eaten and used the restroom before settling in to an interesting evening.

Douglas Coulter PhD

Tommy Hum-Hyder

Prof. Raskin

Neuroscience Across the Curriculum

September 30, 2015


Last week, Douglas Coulter, PhD, a Trinity alumnus, spoke about his research on epilepsy using epiflourescence imaging to monitor changes in voltage in areas of the brain. Dr. Coulter also spoke of the benefits of a Trinity degree, stressed the importance of taking a range of classes and interests, and always following your interests. Epilepsy is a blanket term given to the neurological disorder in which an individual has a seizure. During a seizure, the normal asynchronous firing of a neuron is interrupted with a period of abnormal, excessive, or synchronous firing of neurons. The resulting symptoms can range from uncontrollable jerking movements to a period of time in which an individual cannot respond to stimuli. The bulk of Dr. Coulter’s research focuses upon the role of the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus or the amino acid neurotransmitter glutamate. Currently, the cause of epilepsy is unknown, so Dr. Coulter uses a mouse model of epilepsy and stains certain neurons and watches them fire to search for abnormal levels of neuronal firing or neurons firing in large accordance with one another. Presently, the direct mechanism of epilepsy is unknown; however Dr. Coulter has discovered a connection between decreased inhibition of GABAergic neurons within the dentate gyrus.

BIAC Internship: Weeks 7 and 8

We are officially five days away from the Walk!

These weeks are devoted to making sure the event runs smoothly.  Volunteers will be contacted with instructions for their assignments, we requested petty cash this afternoon, goody bag stuffing is arranged for later this week, and we gathered various items for the day of the event: banners, signs, shirts, hats, candy, face painting supplies, temporary tattoos, etc.  There is so much to do, and I am so thankful that Christina is in the office all the time to take care of things I can’t!

Christina and I are going to arrive at Rentschler Field at 7 AM on Sunday (that will be a fun day-after-Halloween!) and the rest of the staff will arrive at 8.  I still have to put together a contact list for exhibitors and others providing services or donating food at the event, so I have quite a busy day on Thursday as well.  The rest of the day on Thursday, we will pack up the supplies and make sure things are in order for Sunday.

I also just learned that we are probably going to miss out on around 100 registrants this year due to some large teams from last year that are not going to be present this weekend.  That’s a little disappointing, but we are all set on the financial side of things, so I’m sure it will be a great event nonetheless!

BIAC Internship: Week 6

This past week was spent largely recruiting past teams of more than 10 people.  Looking up past participants was actually a little difficult, because the goal was to get in contact with the team captain (so we had to find that person in the midst of all the other information).

I also put in the order for the sponsor board and the goody bags, so it took some time to find high-resolution images to send to both print companies.  I learned that EPS files are high-resolution, and many other common file types are not (learned this the hard way!).

Lastly, I sent out the final details for exhibitors and volunteers.  Organizing the volunteers was bigger project than I thought because there continue to be cancellations, and others have not expressed a need for a certain assignment.  We also need to train our  volunteers, so I created a schedule for their arrival on the day of the event that I’ll be able to work from.  I’m planning to add phone numbers for vendors and people crucial to the event.