Neuronerds in the Mist: Day 2

I’ve spent a full, 10 hour day here at the DC Convention Center hanging out with and observing the neuroscientific population. My feet hurt from walking, my shoulder hurts from carrying my laptop around with me (you’re welcome) and my brain is full of stuff. And I’m not done! I’ll be here for another few hours for some neural interface goodness.

Some quick notes and observations:

1. Way too much is going on for me to even try to guess what the NEXT BIG THING is. It’s probably on a poster somewhere, but there are like 1000 of those things.

2. Among the test subject animals that people are using now, there are rats, mice, gerbils, cats, monkeys, worms, cockroaches, flies, fish, birds, bats, owls, leeches and turtles. Those are just the ones I wrote down. I actually saw a zebrafish poster next to a zebra finch poster. Strangely, no one cares very much for actual zebras.

3. Did you know that if you hold a turtle in place in the water, it will try to turn. When they do, they always have one limb that moves against the direction of the turn. That helps them keep their balance. Give that kid a degree!

4. Lots of people here are very excited about using Channel Rhodopsins. Those are special ion channels that are light sensitive. Different channels react to different colored lights, and if a neuron expresses the right kind, you can turn the neuron on or off using either a red or green light. People are starting to think about using them therapeutically because it would be so gentle.

5. Another big deal is the imagining of entire neural networks and pathways in the brain. This year’s network imaging technology is amazing. I’ll try and find some links with images later.

6. Look out for neural interfaces. My entire post will probably be on neural interfaces tomorrow.

Gotta go! Do good in the world, and do good science.

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