Volume 21 - Issue 6

July 2017

Davide Amato, Editor-in-chief

Angela Caruso, Guest Editor

In This Issue...

  1. IBNS welcomes new President, Frank Scott Hall! His promising message for the Society
  2. Modelling schizophrenia in animals: promises and pitfalls
  3. The Benefits of Growing Up in IBNS
  4. IBNS 2017 Successful?
  5. Attending the 26th Annual Meeting and traveling around the Japan: How science and culture fit together
  6. Trending Science
  7. Member News

IBNS welcomes new President, Frank Scott Hall! His promising message for the Society
by F. Scott Hall

A few weeks ago, our Society met in Hiroshima, Japan. In addition to excellent science we were able to experience the beautiful and historic city of Hiroshima, including amazing panoramic views of the bay from the Grand Prince Hotel. Our first meeting in Asia was an enormous success due to the efforts of many people, too many to name here, but I would especially like to recognize the efforts of the Program Committee, chaired by Anthony Kline and co-chaired by Elena Choleris, and the Local Organizing Committee, chaired by Yoichi Ueta, and of course our President, Mikhail Pletnikov. I would also like to recognize the support of the City of Hiroshima, the Hiroshima Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Hiroshima University, as well as our corporate sponsors, most especially the long-standing support of Elsevier.

The conclusion of the meeting also marks a transition for the Society as Mikhail Pletnikov steps down as IBNS President (but thankfully staying on as Past-President) and I step up as President for the next two years. I was greatly honored to be chosen President-Elect last year by my peers (especially considering the “who’s who” of behavioral neuroscience that represents our former Presidents of IBNS).

When I was nominated for President it prompted me to think “what do I have to offer IBNS?” and “what do I want to accomplish as IBNS President?”. I began by considering my own feelings about the Society and what brought me to the Society. I was attracted to the Society by the strength of the science (once again on display in Hiroshima), as well as the focus on areas of neuroscience that I felt had been less well represented at larger meetings (such as the one being held in Washington in the fall). I have repeatedly had the experience of talking to speakers and the meeting, including this year, hearing praise for the meeting, but also surprise that they had not previously heard about IBNS. For some time, I have thought that this has been our greatest weakness. Although we have endeavored to truly take the “international” in our name seriously, and to represent behavioral neuroscience very broadly, this has not always been the case – there is a great deal of behavioral neuroscience throughout the world that has not been well-represented at our meetings. Perhaps this is not surprising in a small society, and it is something that has been slowly changing over time, but it is something that I very much wish to emphasize in my time as President – to extend the reach of the Society and the breadth of our membership, across the globe and across the breadth of research included in the description “behavioral neuroscience”.

This raises the question of how to accomplish such a goal. Sometimes such growth is organic; prominent behavioral neuroscientists came to their first IBNS meeting this year and have now volunteered to work on the program committee. Often such growth must be nurtured. Many of the strengths of the Society can contribute to this. IBNS has always had a very strong emphasis on mentoring and student development. We provide a large number of travel awards to students and postdoctoral fellows, and include a number of popular sessions aimed at students and trainees. This year student/trainee centered events included the student/post-doc social, the travel award data blitz, the Early Career Achievement Award, the NIH grants workshop, the career development workshop, the publishing workshop sponsored by Elsevier, and the mentoring workshop/luncheon. The last one, a very long-standing event held at our meetings that connects students with additional mentoring, was especially successful and well-attended also this year. . Indeed, I am still in close contact with many students that I met at this event over 10 years ago, providing them additional outside mentoring. This strength of the Society, promoting the development of our youngest members, has certainly contributed to our growth and our success and will continue to do so.

One of the signs of the growth and strength of our Society has also been the number of symposium proposals that we receive each year. In recent years, we have often had to reject nearly half of the proposals, including many very good ones, just due to limited time slots. For this reason, the IBNS Council has decided to have three simultaneous sessions for at least part of the 2018 Annual Meeting These strengths of the Society will help contribute to its health and growth, but nurturing the growth of the Society is, in the end, a matter of promotion and marketing. Our Membership and Communications Committee has worked very hard to these ends, but I also think that it is something to which our entire membership can contribute.

My deepest feeling about our Society is that it is what we make of it ourselves. I encourage each of you think about what you think the Society should be and what direction you think it should take. To this end, encourage your colleagues to attend the annual meeting, to submit symposium proposals, to apply for travel awards, and also tell us about your experiences with the Society. If you feel there should be more representation in the Society from your part of the World, or from your area of behavioral neuroscience, encourage representation from those places or areas. The future of your Society is in your hands!

Modelling schizophrenia in animals: promises and pitfalls
by Joanna Neill
Division of Pharmacy and Optometry, School of Health Sciences, University of Manchester, UK ([email protected])

I lead a large research team engaged in extensive joint projects including an Innovate UK/Autifony funded collaboration to evaluate efficacy of a novel disease modifying treatment for schizophrenia. I have 30 years’ experience of animal model development (rather scary how time flies by). I am the founder of a University-based Contract Research Organization (www.b-neuro.com) working with several pharmaceutical companies with the overall aim of establishing rodent models for psychiatric disorders with enhanced translation to the clinic. Through these models, and using advanced tests for cognition and aspects of negative symptoms, we can investigate the efficacy of new drugs and validity of new targets for these unmet clinical needs in schizophrenia and other disorders.

I am President of the British Association for Psychopharmacology (BAP) and co-organized a BAP supported symposium for the 26th annual IBNS meeting held in Hiroshima entitled “Dysfunctional neuro-immune system interactions in CNS disorders”. The speakers were Dr Eric Prinssen from Roche, Dr Anthony Vernon from King’s College London, Dr Paula Moran from the University of Nottingham and myself. During the symposium,we presented an update on a current and exciting new research initiative, namely the development of a maternal immune activation (mIA) model for schizophrenia in rats.

Schizophrenia reduces the quality of life for patients and caregivers and has a large socio-economic cost. Improved treatments have not been successfully developed largely due to our limited understanding of the biological basis of schizophrenia, which further limits the development of enhanced animal models. Indeed, no pharmacological agent has yet received a license for the treatment of cognitive deficits or negative symptoms in schizophrenia, in spite of several Phase III clinical trials in this area. As for any disorder, prevention is better than cure and early treatment is most successful. Our work focuses on identifying new treatments for debilitating aspects of schizophrenia including cognitive impairment, low mood and motivation (i.e. domains where existing antipsychotic medications show little benefit). In turn, this should improve the functioning and quality of life of people with schizophrenia and have economic benefits for society. We also aim to identify treatments with a reduced side effect burden. Finally, we aim to improve understanding of the mechanism(s) by which new treatments (drug and non-drug e.g. exercise) produce their beneficial effects on cognition and aspects of negative symptoms, mood, motivation and anticipation of reward (Neill et al 2010).

Our most recent project is development of a maternal immune activation (mIA) model for neurodevelopmental disorders, with a particular focus on schizophrenia. The rationale for this project comes from increasing evidence that schizophrenia is a neurodevelopmental disorder with its origins in utero. This is emerging work and there is much that we do not understand about the processes involved. A well validated neurodevelopmental animal model provides an important means to investigate mechanisms and identify new targets for drug discovery. This work is in collaboration with Dr Eric Prinssen at Roche and Dr Anthony Vernon at King’s. We treat pregnant rat dams with the viral mimetic agent polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid (Poly I:C) at a critical stage of brain development in pregnancy. We are investigating the phenotype as it develops over time in offspring of mIA dams using behavioral, molecular, brain imaging and electrophysiological techniques. We are also studying effects of mIA on the maternal-fetal environment and interface. The overall aim of this work is to identify how this intervention in pregnancy affects fetal and offspring brain development, and how this produces the ensuing behavioral disturbances. This work will enable identification of new neuronal targets for drug development in schizophrenia by our Industry partners. This project is evolving rapidly and progressing very well. So far we have observed effects on placentation, myelination and prefrontal cortically mediated cognition and we will be reporting our latest results in the near future.

An important aspect of our work is the inclusion of animals of both sexes. Preclinical research is dominated by inclusion of males of the species only, a particularly worrying omission as sex differences are known to occur in the incidence, progression and expression of neuropsychiatric diseases (and indeed in most, if not all, diseases). We are concerned about the robust nature and reproducibility of animal models. We are committed to presenting and publishing negative results and encourage all scientists to make an effort to do this. Indeed, the official journal of the BAP, the Journal of Psychopharmacology, provides a convenient forum for publishing negative findings (Munafo and Neill, 2016). In a recent analysis, we found that 95% of papers published in the area of preclinical models for schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease reported positive findings. This publication bias is a serious problem for the advancement of neuroscience research and does not reflect the lack of success in recent clinical trials.

Munafò, M & Neill, JC (2016) Null is beautiful: On the importance of publishing null results. J. Psychopharmacology 30(7): 585.

Neill, JC, Barnes S, Cook S, Grayson B, Idris NF, McLean SL, Snigdha S, Rajagopal L, Harte MK (2010) Animal models of cognitive dysfunction and negative symptoms of schizophrenia: focus on NMDA receptor antagonism. Pharmacol Ther 128: 419-432.

The Benefits of Growing Up in IBNS
by Julianne Jett

One of the many qualities that set IBNS apart from others societies is its dedication to the professional development of its trainees. This focus on scientific training and mentorship is evident by the number of trainee events and funding opportunities offered at the annual meetings. However, as a trainee, what I have found to be particularly rewarding and unique to IBNS are the opportunities that young scientists have to expand their professional skills year-round by volunteering on committees or serving as Student Councilor.

Specifically, the experience I gained while serving as Student Councilor in 2014-2015 has had a lasting impact on my career. This opportunity to represent our trainee members and to participate in discussions regarding the future of IBNS at council meetings taught me a great deal about the art of negotiation and diplomacy, recruitment and allocation resources, program development, and teamwork. Additionally, serving IBNS in various capacities has given me the invaluable opportunity to collaborate with and be mentored by scientists from all over the world.

Curious to know how other trainees have benefited from volunteering with IBNS, I reached out to present and past Student Councilors for insight on what skills they gained from serving and how the experience has impacted their careers. In reading their responses (see below), the common thread is that trainees are a valued voice in IBNS’ program development and that the mentorship received during their service formed lasting relationships throughout their careers. If you have an interest in running for a council position or serving on a committee, contact the IBNS Central Office for more information ([email protected])!

Monica Bolton, PhD (University of Nevada-Las Vegas) - Student Councilor 2016-2017

“IBNS is a smaller society compared to most of the professional societies I belong to. With that, you get more mentorship and encouragement. I’ve learned that there are a lot of moving parts to planning an international meeting. You need to consider other people’s cultures and environments; from the types of prizes you want to offer for competitions to the content of a workshop that you want to hold. For example, I am planning a workshop on alternative careers in neurosciences and I began with statistics of jobs held outside of academia in the United States. This will be presented in Japan, with an audience from around the world! This taught me to step outside of myself and think about what others will want to see/hear.”

Victoria Risbrough, PhD (UC San Diego Health Sciences) - Student Councilor 2002-2003

“This seemed like a great opportunity to meet with leaders in the society and students from other laboratories. I was right, and was rewarded 10-fold for my service. I co-wrote an education grant with Dr. Kyle Franz that allowed us to host a STEM day for local high school students (Puerto Rico meeting) to highlight biomedical careers and science education. I gained valuable experience with committee work and administrative work in general. I then went on to work in the Education and Training Committee for many years. I remain friends and colleagues with most of the people that served on council at that time, and I ended up having a long term collaboration with one of them that supported funding of my first R01 many years later.”

Christopher Engeland, PhD (Pennsylvania State University) - Student Councilor 2001-2002

“I wanted to make a difference in the society, especially the experience that the trainees were having. I felt the student meeting should be more focused on career development, so I formed a Q&A panel that included scientists from academia and industry to discuss career options with students. I believe there has been a similar focus on career development in subsequent years by student representatives, which makes me feel that some longer term positive change was elicited by my having served. I also gained the experience of sitting in on meetings. As a graduate student, this gave me an early look at the underpinnings of how a society functions and runs. I am also still in touch and have published with some of the faculty members I met in that year.”

IBNS 2017 Successful?

Feedback from travel awardees at the 26th Annual Meeting suggest it was...
by Angela Caruso

Warm congratulations to the IBNS 2017 Travel Award Recipients, who were honored at the Awards Banquet!

As every year, the IBNS 2017 Education and Training Committee has offered 23 travel awards that have provided financial support for graduate and postdoc members to attend the IBNS 26th Annual Meeting. Since these awards are highly competitive, we congratulate the all winners. They come from different countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, Italy, Japan and more, representing a huge international diversity of IBNS members. At the end of the IBNS meeting, we collected information about the motivation and reasons for applying for the travel award. Since in the majority of cases, travel costs are substantial and personal resources are limited, young members applied for the travel award to secure funding, without which they would not have participated. We asked them what they liked most about attending the congress and if they feel that the IBNS 26th Annual Meeting has improved their member experience and scientific career; and which kind of benefits they have received. Their exciting answers and thoughts could represent valuable suggestions encouraging young researchers to apply for the travel award next year.

Song-Mao Liao reported his experience as graduate student with a physics background at University of California (San Diego). He told us that behavioral study is a new thing to him. Surprisingly, he came across the IBNS booth at SfN 2016 and decided to apply for the travel award. His main motive has been learning the basics and the frontiers of the behavioral neuroscience research, and also bring out some inspirations. In a funny way he reported: “the meeting has been as great as the Okonomiyaki! I love the meeting in all its aspects”. He thinks that among all the most valuable thing is that the meeting put a lot of emphasis on student attendees. Many events have been designed for young researchers, such as “Meet the Professionals”, “Student/Post-Doc Social”, “Travel Blitz”, and workshops on publishing papers and applying for grants. He has learned a lot from this meeting, from the design of behavioral training and experiments, to the approaches that behavioral neuroscientists use to quantify and interpret their data. He also received useful feedback from other attendees during the poster session, which really benefit his research project and future directions. Specifically, he appreciated symposia that broadened his knowledge in mechanisms under social behaviors and psychiatric diseases.

Evan Hart, a fourth year PhD student at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), told us that without the award his attendance would not have been possible. He strongly wanted to attend this meeting because he is somewhat close to finishing the PhD and planned on networking and getting feedback on his ongoing projects. The favorite part of the meeting has been getting to meet people in person, suggesting that there is so much about a person that can't be conveyed in a CV or an email. Thus, he feels his career benefited. In particular, Evan was able to practice his public speaking at the data blitz, and he believes meeting faculty at other universities could help his job prospects in the future, mainly by way of having a chance to introduce himself in person.

Ana Luisa Terzian is a postdoctoral fellow at the Medical School of Ribeirão Preto, Pharmacology Department (University of São Paulo, Brazil). As with her other colleagues, her main motivation to join the meeting was to have a closer contact with researchers working in the field, learn about what there are doing, what is new, and build a great scientific network. Also, she wanted to be able to show her own work and get input on it. This personal and professional exchange has been by far her favorite aspect for joining IBNS in Japan. For her, IBNS is one of the few good meetings specific for her main topic of interest. Ana suggests that this is the type of meeting that one can actually get directly in contact with several experts in the field of behavioral neuroscience. This is actually something highly promoted and emphasized by IBNS (with great events such as 'meet the professionals'). Additionally, as a bonus, she was able to visit a few labs in Japan and learn about the different and ground-breaking research that is being done there, which, hopefully, will lead to interesting future collaborations.

We would like to thank the Education and Training Committee for their hard work in selecting the award winners. It had a very positive outcome!

Attending the 26th Annual Meeting and traveling around the Japan: How science and culture fit together
by Angela Caruso and Silvia Poggini

As new student members of this International Society, we have been encouraged to participate at the IBNS 2017 Annual Meeting in Hiroshima and we have been very enthusiastic to be there. It has been an exceptional experience for us! We met outstanding researchers and students from all around the world, whose researches and talks were of the highest level. Everything about the event has been of high quality!

We think that the meeting provided an ideal opportunity for junior researchers, postdoctoral fellows and postgraduate students to debate issues of current interest and to keep working in this field. It also succeeded in promoting collaborations across the world and enhancing the level of expertise in the neuroscience. We are very proud to become members of IBNS.

IBNS 2017 organizers made an exceptional effort to create an interactive program and entertaining social activities, also through the Whova App for exchange of information and for a frequent informal communication. That relaxed atmosphere at the meeting was perfect to get to know other young researchers interested in experiencing the city of Hiroshima. We had a lot of fun, walking around the city and along the river, tasting good ramen and sake with other young members. Wherever you go in Japan, you’ll find incredibly good ramen shops with passionately devoted followers. The various sites of Hiroshima with historical significance, including the peace memorial, as well as beautiful landscaptes impressed all of us. I was so excited to visit the famous Miyajima that is believed to be the island where God dwells. In Miyajima, there are many temples as well as Itsukushima Shrine. It is said that Itsukushima Shrine, with a solemn beauty, has been built on the coast because the whole island is believed to be God's body and is sanctified. In addition the island is one of the few places in the world where people can come into contact with tame deer, and we enjoyed very much walking along the beach with these docile animals. At the end of the meeting, we decided to spend few days more in Japan! Even thought we were not able to experience the hanami season, the most magical time of year in Japan when the country is covered in pink blossoms and parks and gardens are filled with a crowd celebrating over sake and seasonal bentos, we enjoyed few days at Honshu, the largest island of Japan. While Tokyo is all high-speed trains, flashes of neon and skyscrapers, Kyoto moves to an altogether different rhythm. In Kyoto, we enjoyed a perfect half-day trip of scenic districts with gorgeous temples and the iconic bamboo forest. Just a few minutes in the south of Kyoto, we discovered the beautiful Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, where you walked through seemingly-endless tunnels of vibrant vermillion torii gates. As part of a charming tea ceremony, we experienced there is nothing more heartwarming than a freshly-prepared cup of matcha green tea, along with seasonal wagashi (Japanese sweets). Actually, the best way to experience the Japanese atmosphere is a visit Gion, the famous entertainment and geisha quarter, with an evening stroll around the lovely streets lined with restaurants and teahouses lit up with lanterns.

Overall, becoming a member of IBNS has been a wonderful and memorable opportunity for us, to share expertise and ideas, to work together and to embrace cultural diversity. The opportunities for collaborations and discoveries have been greater than we could imagine! We are planning to continue our encouraging development of activities in the future.

We have a suggestion for you…get involved soon in IBNS activities and the next meeting. The 27th Annual Meeting will take place in Puerto Rico, USA, June 26 - July 1, 2018!  We are inviting you to attend and find out more about this exciting field of neuroscience in Puerto Rico, where there is much to do and to see! Plan well in advance for your next trip!

Trending Science

In this column, we will share the latest research, interesting scientific articles and news you can use.

Synapses in the Brain Mirror the Structure of the Visual World

The research team of Prof. Sonja Hofer at the Biozentrum, University of Basel, has discovered why our brain might be so good at perceiving edges and contours. Neurons that respond to different parts of elongated edges are connected and thus exchange information. This can make it easier for the brain to identify contours of objects. The results of the study are now published in the journal Nature.

Member News

The IBNS 26th Annual Meeting in Hiroshima, Japan was a success!  Were you there?  If so, we want to know how we can make IBNS 2018 even better, by asking you to take a few moments and complete an after-meeting survey.

If you did not attend IBNS 2017, we want to know why and would like your advice on how our meetings could better suit your needs.  Please help us by completing the brief survey below:

IBNS 2017 Annual Meeting Survey

Do you have an interesting hobby or member news to share?
Let us know at [email protected]

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