Watching sensory information translate into behavior

first_imgIt remains one of the most fundamental questions in neuroscience: How does the flood of sensory information — everything an animal touches, tastes, smells, sees, and hears — translate into behavior?A state-of-the-art microscope, which allows scientists to peer into the brains of animals in real time, may provide the answers.Built by Vivek Venkatachalam, a postdoctoral fellow working in the lab of Professor of Physics Aravinthan Samuel in collaboration with fellow postdoc Ni Ji, Professor Mark Alkema of UMass Worcester, and Professor Mei Zhen, a former Radcliffe Fellow at the University of Toronto, the microscope captures 3-D images of all neural activity in the brains of tiny, transparent C. elegans worms as they crawl.The microscope is described in a recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.“We needed a tool to characterize the entire sensory periphery of an animal as well as the motor dynamics that reflect decision-making,” Samuel said. “This tool, in conjunction with other techniques, including behavior analysis, neurogenetics, and connectomics, will allow us to do something truly comprehensive.”What that something is, Samuel said, is to record — 10 times a second — the precise location and activity of every neuron, and to link that data with neural “wiring diagrams.”“We have long been recording behavior in worms, but we and others have concluded that, if you want to get physiologically relevant neural activity patterns, you have to look at neurons inside a behaving animal,” Samuel explained. “Only in that context are all feedback loops intact, where behavioral output modulates neural activity which, in turn, shapes behavior.”Though the brains of other animals can be imaged — similar techniques have been used with larval zebrafish in the past — whole nervous system wiring diagrams have not yet been mapped for other species.The precise location and activity of every neuron is recorded 10 times a second. Photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer“With the worm wiring diagram that we’ve had since the 1980s, as well as new wiring diagrams that the laboratories of Mei Zhen, Jeff Lichtman, we, and others are mapping, we can figure out which neurons are correlated with the sensory input, which are correlated with the motor output, and which are correlated with different types of decisions,” Samuel said. “We can now map complete structural and functional circuits for many behaviors.”Capturing all the neural activity in the brain, however, is easier said than done.To pull it off, Venkatachalam built a complex microscope that can not only track the worms’ movements, but also capture images of all the brain’s neurons as they fire in 3-D“What we’re doing is capturing these volumes and trying to figure out where the neurons are in that volume,” he said. “Every frame will have the neurons in slightly different positions, because the worm distorts itself as it crawls … so we wrote software that can track where those neurons are over time.”Using fluorescent markers, researchers then extract the activity of the neurons and identify which neural pathways are active. With a simple model of how the worms crawl, researchers also reconstructed the worms’ posture, enabling them to connect specific neural activity patterns to movements.“Without studying the posture over time, we don’t have a way of connecting the brain activity to what the worm does,” Venkatachalam said. “This helps us create a full picture of how activity in the brain governs behavior, and it allows us to say we understand the entire behavior this worm performs.”Ultimately, Samuel said, the microscope will be used to study a wide range of questions in neuroscience. The new tool complements and draws upon the wide range of powerful tools and knowledge already available in the worm. This is reflected in how the study arose from an extensive collaboration between the Samuel, Zhen, and Alkema labs with other C. elegans experts, including Andrew D. Chisholm at University of California, San Diego, and Jagan Srinivasan from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The prospect of future collaboration in many areas of worm neuroscience is enticing.“We can now think about C. elegans as a model for systems neuroscience,” Samuel said. “We can look at how a large number of neurons interact and how they process information in an animal where we know which neuron is connected to which throughout the animal by every synapse.”One day, Samuel said, researchers may be able to monitor all the worms’ neural activity as they grow from birth to adulthood in an effort to understand the functional and structural basis of the maturation of behavior.“Combining molecular and cellular analysis of the nervous system with structural analysis and physiological analysis … with the worm and its behaviors, we can bring all those tools to bear at once,” Samuel said. “This is what we’re looking forward to.”last_img read more

How to get the most out of your next conference

first_imgMany of us are fortunate to attend conferences hosted by CUNA and other organizations. To get the most out of the event you attend, follow these strategies to manage your time, attention and energy.Network in advance – before you attend the event review the attendee list, set up appointments with people in advance, follow conversations  (and hash tags) on social media – get to know other members before the event officially starts.Pack smart – I am the first to pack many stilettos and make sure I wear every pair, but know you will be walking long hallways, standing around for many hours and smart footwear is a must (ladies try wedges, they look cute and are really comfy).Pack light – choose a neutral color palette for basic pieces and pop with accessories to minimize the number of outfits you need to take.  If you want brilliant packing tips for your conference read this great advice from Megan Kristel at Kristel Closets.Hydrate regularly – Air conditioning, late nights, and bad food choices mean it’s more important to drink even more water than you think you need. Carry a water bottle and fill it up constantly.Review agendas – review agenda and speakers in advance, know which sessions and social events you want to attend, what you can skip and determine what you will pack.Pay attention – please be kind to everyone, and give them your attention. Tip well, take care of hotel staff and be generous with everyone you meet.Save energy – the first day of the conference is usually exciting and everyone is full of energy and by day three people are worn out from late nights, maybe a little more socializing than usual and sitting in artificial lighting. Manage your energy and know when you can skip sessions, take a nap or just get outside in the fresh air.Work out daily – yep even if you have to get up early, don’t compromise your workout. Even though you think you will be too tired, it is so worth staying committed even if a walk outside is all you can manage or a walk on the hotel treadmill. Take care of yourself.Say no – confidently say no if you don’t want to attend a session or you are in a session that doesn’t work for you, leave it. If you don’t want to go to an event, and want to recover in our room, do that. Be conscious of what you say yes to and reserve your energy when possible.Have fun – the conference or your Credit Union’s annual event is often the one time a year you get to see colleagues and have fun celebrating the accomplishments of those in your Credit Union and in our industry. Savor every moment and relax.Schedule follow up – after the event write handwritten notes to those you met, connect on LinkedIn, follow people on Twitter and schedule follow up calls to continue to leverage the connections you made.As a professional speaker I often attend conferences (as the keynote speaker and I also attend as a guest in my industry),  it’s always fun to watch people connecting with each other.Attention is all about connection. Manage your energy and you will make your next conference a productive event. 5SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Neen James Think force of nature. Boundless energy. Timely topics. Laugh out loud fun. Eye opening ideas. Take-aways that ACTUALLY create positive change.  Sound like what YOU’RE looking for? Then Motivational … Web: www.neenjames.com Detailslast_img read more

From Nixon to Trump: Bob Woodward, chronicler of US presidents

first_imgIn one of the 17 on-the-record interviews Woodward conducted with Trump for the book, the president admits to minimizing the threat from the coronavirus at the outset of a pandemic which has gone on to take nearly 200,000 lives in the United States.”I wanted to always play it down,” Trump said in one conversation with Woodward. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”Trump also told Woodward that he understood early on that the virus was “deadly stuff” and far more dangerous than the common flu. At the same time, he was reassuring the American public the virus would just “disappear.”Trump’s Democratic challenger Joe Biden attacked the president’s decision to downplay the health crisis as a “life and death betrayal of the American people.” “He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat it posed to the country for months,” Biden said.Woodward, in an interview with the CBS show “60 Minutes,” described as a “tragedy” the president’s failure to inform the public early on about how deadly the virus was.”The president of the United States has a duty to warn,” he said. “The public will understand that but if they get the feeling that they’re not getting the truth, then you’re going down the path of deceit and cover up.”Watergate It was the unraveling of a cover-up — Watergate — that made the reputation of Woodward and his colleague Carl Bernstein.Woodward studied at Yale University and did a five-year tour in the US Navy, before turning to journalism.After a stint at a local paper in the Washington suburbs, he got his shot at the Post in 1971.Woodward had barely a year of reporting experience when he and Bernstein stumbled into the story of a lifetime — the 1972 break-in by Republican operatives of the Democratic Party offices in Washington’s Watergate compound. Their classic gumshoe investigation prompted congressional hearings and led to Nixon’s resignation in 1974.Woodward and Bernstein wrote a best-selling book, “All the President’s Men,” about the scandal which was turned into a hit 1976 film starring Robert Redford as Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein.”Rage” is already topping the Amazon bestseller list even before it goes on sale on September 15.Since leaving daily journalism, Woodward has put out 20 books, including authoritative tomes on Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.His in-depth reporting about Washington’s corridors of power is unmatched, and his ability to back up whatever insider tales he hears has earned him grudging respect in the US capital.’Curiosity’Why Trump agreed to conduct 17 on-the-record interviews with Woodward — 16 of which were recorded — is something of a mystery, particularly after his previous book portrayed the president in an unflattering light.Woodward’s “Fear: Trump in the White House” published in 2018 painted a portrait of an angry, paranoid leader and a White House which Trump’s own chief of staff described as “Crazytown.””Bob Woodward is somebody that I respect just from hearing the name for many, many years,” Trump said on Thursday in explaining his decision to be interviewed.”I thought it would be interesting to talk to him,” he said. “I did it out of curiosity.”Woodward, who retains an honorific title of associate editor at the Post but no longer writes for the newspaper, has come in for some criticism for withholding the details of his interviews with Trump — which were conducted between December 2019 and July 2020 — for his book.”If Bob Woodward thought what I said was bad then he should have immediately, right after I said it, gone out to the authorities so they could prepare,” Trump said.Woodward, in an interview with the Post, defended his decision to hold back the material for his book.Woodward said he wanted to deliver “the best obtainable version of the truth” in book form and with proper context and fact-checking.In addition, he said, in dealing with the president’s revelations, “the biggest problem I had, which is always a problem with Trump, is I didn’t know if it was true.”Topics : Nearly 50 years after Watergate, Bob Woodward is still breaking front page news and rattling US presidents.His reporting about the Watergate scandal as a journalist for The Washington Post brought down Richard Nixon.Now a best-selling author, the 77-year-old Woodward’s latest book, “Rage,” is shaking the White House of President Donald Trump less than two months ahead of the November 3 election.last_img read more