Myelin @ McMenamin’s!

Scientists, post-docs, graduate students, a healthy contingent of bicycling undergraduates from Portland State University, a high school student, and one brain-savvy artist arrived at McMenamin’s Edgefield in Troutdale last week to attend the annual Society for Neuroscience Oregon & Southwest Washington Chapter meeting, and share posters, talks and research…

As it’s Bike Challenge month at both PSU and OHSU, several of us pedaled through occasional drizzle towards the Columbia River Gorge to present on outreach.  Our poster, with riveting brains and neurons created by Noggin Art Coordinator Jeff Leake, covered our own experiences at the 2016 national Neuroscience conference advising SfN on outreach, while connecting young neuroscientists and research-inspired art projects with 250 4th and 5th graders in San Diego Public Schools…  

LEARN MORE:  A network grows in San Diego

LEARN MORE:  Cortical Connections in San Diego Schools!

The PSU Neuroscience Club prepared a compelling poster for SfN as well.  Undergraduates who arrived at the meeting included Jessica Trottier, Thomas Madison, Alex Kunz, Justin Taylor, Andrea Anaya, Cody Prouty, Andrea Valencia, Jacob Schoen, Ava Krueger, and Rebekah Hough.  More than 50% of active Club members work in research labs at PSU and OHSU, and the Club has been recognized as “Student Organization of the Year” on campus…

LEARN MORE:  Neuroscience Club at PSU

LEARN MORE:  PSU Student Activities and Leadership Programs Awards 2016

Nine PSU Neuroscience Club members were recently invited, along with one Noggin outreach graduate of WSUV, to submit another outreach abstract for the national conference in Washington DC in November!  These active volunteers are planning to visit public schools in the nation’s capital, and were offered free conference registration by SfN through Noggin for fall!

LEARN MORE:  #brains2DC!

The day at Edgefield began with an in-depth and informative look at demyelinating diseases, with talks by Larry Sherman, who organized the chapter meeting, and Steve Fancy, Bill Rooney, Dennis Bourdette and many others (complete list of speakers here).  Myelin refers to the multiple layers of membrane around neuron axons provided by special myelinating glia in both the central nervous system (CNS) and peripheral nervous system (PNS), and it serves to support those axons, and also speed conduction of electric current along these critical biological wires…

Many disorders, including multiple sclerosisCharcot–Marie–Tooth syndrome and gliomas involve myelinating glia, and there is tremendous research interest in addressing underlying pathologies…

There was perhaps a little demyelination on this extraordinary neuron (below) created by PSU Noggin volunteer Alison Mack (who will have her OWN pipe cleaner neuron art show at the Lane Gallery later this year!)…

Scott Wong from the Oregon National Primate Research Center discussed the Center’s unique non-human primate model of multiple sclerosis.  Several macaques are born each year with herpes virus-associated encephalomyelitis, a degenerative condition that closely resembles M.S. This offers researchers an important opportunity to investigate potential therapeutic interventions…

LEARN MORE:  Immunopathology of Japanese macaque encephalomyelitis is similar to multiple sclerosis

Wendy Macklin from the University of Colorado was our keynote speaker, and presented her work on the development of oligodendrocytes, glial cells in the central nervous system that wrap neuronal axons with their own membrane (known as myelin).  She explained how removing the gene for a specific protein found in myelin (proteolipid protein, or PLP) influences oligodendrocyte differentiation during brain development…

LEARN MORE:  Expression of Proteolipid Protein Gene in Spinal Cord Stem Cells and Early Oligodendrocyte Progenitor Cells Is Dispensable for Normal Cell Migration and Myelination

It was a fascinating conference, with additional talks covering the understudied PNS Remak glia, which lightly wrap unmyelinated PNS axons (70% of axons in the PNS!), drug addiction, maturation of retina and cortical visual areas, an ONPRC macaque model of Batten disease, Wallerian degeneration of axons, and many more topics that engaged and inspired…

Neuroscientist Anna Roe described some extraordinary work examining the functional organization of cortical visual areas using imaging through “windows” literally implanted over macaque brains!

LEARN MORE:  Optogenetics through windows on the brain in the nonhuman primate

After a great night with our students and volunteers at the art-filled McMenamins Edgefield, we woke the next morning to  hear more compelling talks, and present our posters…

Many thanks to Kate Stout of the OHSU Brain Institute, and Larry Sherman at the ONPRC for organizing a terrific, informative meeting!

See what we did last year at the link below…

Edgefield EPSPs: Growing in Networks @ SfN!

Noggin 2017 SfN Poster abstract…

NW Noggin: Connecting SfN outreach volunteers and schools in San Diego and DC
GRIESAR, W.S.*, LEAKE, J.*

Science needs investment, and engaging the public explains discoveries and builds support for education and research. Integrating arts in STEM (“STEAM”) fosters engagement. Here we report on efforts to reach K-12 students and the public about brain research at the 2016 Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego.

NW Noggin (nwnoggin.org) is an education non-profit that organizes graduates, undergraduates, K-12 students, scientists and artists to collaborate, learn from each other, and excite people about brain research through the arts in both formal and informal settings. Our outreach volunteers (from Portland State University, Oregon Health & Sciences University and other Northwest campuses) have worked with over 12,000 academic priority students since 2012, presenting art projects and research in schools, art museums, symphonies, homeless youth centers, breweries, theaters and even bike shop pubs!

In spring 2016, we brought 26 volunteers to Washington DC to present in DC public schools, Congress, the White House, and the Phillips Collection!  In October 2016, we were recognized for an “innovative” outreach model by the Obama White House.

In November of 2016, we were invited to offer insights on outreach by the Society for Neuroscience, during their 2016 annual conference in San Diego, California. In addition to participating in productive discussions at SfN, we also contacted San Diego Public Schools, ArtReach (a local arts institution), and the Neuroscience department at UC San Diego to arrange for actual visits by graduate and undergraduate SfN attendees to local public classrooms!

Students at Jefferson and Linda Vista elementary schools learned about neurons, and how dendrites, soma and axons are structured to perform different functions. Students built their own colorful brain cells out of pipe cleaners, and our volunteers brought them back to the SfN conference to create a captivating and compelling display! Many neuroscientists stopped by to discover how their research had inspired young people in the broader community.

After the conference, we returned the vibrant neurons to the schools, and student artists built their own network, along with drawings and text describing what they’d learned about brain research.

Learn more about these efforts, and our plans for the 2017 SfN conference in DC: http://nwnoggin.org/2017/02/28/brains2dc/

Building excitement and awareness of discoveries in neuroscience through arts-integrated outreach across institutional, state, federal and generational lines trains new scientists to collaborate and communicate, and increases awareness and support for further investment in brain research, and the arts.

* Department of Psychology, Portland State University; NW Noggin (nwnoggin.org)

A network grows in San Diego

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *