November 13, 2011

SfN Recap day I/II & Video: Neural Connectivity

At SfN, I have never been so blown away by the amount of posters, at least of those that I saw, that are dedicated to how areas connect to each other.  For instance, I have been focused on fear and anxiety circuits as of late.  Maybe it is just that area, as we know it has a wide-ranging network of connections, but there seems to be an overwhelming number.  Many fMRI studies, too, are focusing on functional connectivity...  Not sure if it is like this in other areas of neuroscience at SfN '11.  Anyway, some really, really cool posters that I went to:

Zhang, le Novere, & Gross

Madronal, Silva, & Gross

Likhtik, Topiwala, & Gordon

Adhikar, Topiwala, & Gordon

Pardilla-Delgado, Sotres-Bayton, Sierra-Mercado, & Quirk

Bravo-Rivera, Martinez-Maria, Sotres-Bayton, & Quirk

read more for a quick discussion of connectivity and the video link

Keeping this in mind, you should watch video (below at bottom)...  it underlines the importance of recognizing that the brain is made of functional networks.

This discussion on the Charlie Rose show features the importance of mental health, and, what I liked most, is at 40:14s into the video, when Nora Volkow, director of NIDA at NIH, spoke about the importance of understand connectivity of the brain (which was a running theme throughout the program).  She begins by likening the wiring of the brain to an orchestra.  You have many different instruments that all sound different;  it is only when they are integrated with the other instruments do they make 'sense', or make beautiful music.  That same instrument can interact with a wide variety of other instruments to make a differing type of beautiful music.  Same, the brain is composed of several (thousands, millions?) of networks.  Each network does not necessarily have to be dedicated to one certain function.  The networks are dynamic and always changing, and the way a certain network interacts with other networks is how we should view and understand the brain.  She draws on an example of Wernicke's and Broca's Aphasia, due to damage to their respective areas, while also reference the same idea as related to drug addiction.  She states that we have a one (or more) network(s) that is(are) dedicated to language.  One can develop aphasia and not have damage to Wernicke or Broca's area.  However, any disruption of the 'language loop' of 'language connectivity' can produce the same results as having direct damage to that specific area.  This is critical, as it highlights the importance of areas that feed in to the main hub (e.g. Wernecke's area).  Not only are synapses changing in response to stimuli, so, too, is true about networks.  Networks are not static; they are dynamic and always changing.

(when there, click the image) go to 40:15s

Brain Series 2, Episode 1
Featuring: Eric Kandel, Thomas Insel, Nora Volkow, Cornelia Bargmann, & Gerald Fischback

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