Latest Event Updates

Fellow CamBRAINiac Julia Gottwald Awarded the BRCP Poster Prize

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Congratulations to Julia Gottwald, a PhD student from the Department of Psychiatry, who recently won a poster prize awarded by the British Royal College of Psychiatrists during her presentation at the British Association of Psychopharmacology summer meeting in Bristol. The main topic of her project relates to the investigation of cognitive profiles in adolescents with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

2015-07-28-15.19.04To date, most of the neuropsychological research in OCD has been done on adult patients. To address this gap, Julia Gottwald and her team administered a series of cognitive assessments on adolescent OCD patients.We caught up with Julia after the event, and she spoke to us about the motivation for the study: “Previous studies have found some demographic and clinical differences between teenage and adult patients. For instance, while there is a similar prevalence of men and women affected with OCD, studies show that teenage boys are much more likely to have OCD than girls. There is also a disparity in insight as teenage patients often demonstrate a marked decrease in awareness about their OCD behaviour compared to adults. Could there be two distinct subtypes of OCD in adolescents and adults? Investigating cognitive function might provide a clue about that.

Several differences in cognitive profiles were found. Firstly, the young OCD patients made poorer decisions compared to the adults. Secondly, in contrast to adults, the younger patients did not show an impairment in cognitive flexibility – the ability to switch between different concepts. The lack of impairment in the younger patients is surprising, given that cognitive inflexibility is one of the hallmark deficits in adult OCD patients. Finally, the study also found that cognitive rigidity was associated with older age, suggesting that older adolescent OCD patients were displaying a similar pattern to that of the adults. Collectively, these strands of convergent findings provide further evidence that adolescent and adult OCD might represent two distinct subtypes.

On the significance of these findings, Julia added: “We will be following this study with another task to investigate cognitive flexibility and other cognitive domains. If we continue to see these group differences, we might need to adjust treatment. At the moment, adolescent and adult OCD are treated with the same drugs and very similar behavioural therapy. This might need to be changed if we are dealing with two subtypes.

Congratulations, Julia!

Written by Elijah Mak. Adapted from Psychiatry News, originally published on the 5th of August.

Neuroscience Podcast Series from Cambridge University

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Brain Chat's imageBrain Chat: Reporting on exciting brain research revolutions presented at the Cambridge Neuroscience 2015 Seminar. This podcast addresses key questions including: can we boost the brain through diet? What is the reason for our existence? Will Sat Nav and Google Maps diminish brain power? And should animals be used in research?

Guests include Nobel Laureates John O’Keefe and Edvard Moser – will reliance on Google Maps and Sat Nav diminish our brain? Douglas Armstrong discusses the controversial use of animals in brain research. Plus we join Giovanna Mallucci who links together the making, and breaking, of the mind. Andrea Brand, developed a pioneering technique which allows scientists to peer into the brain as never, gets to grips with the effects of diet on the birth of brain cells AND Daniel Wolpert the self proclaimed movement chauvinist – argues that our sole reason for being is to move.

To listen to this amazing podcast, click here.

Neuroscience at the 21st Cambridge Science Festival

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Each year, the University of Cambridge welcomes over 40,000 visitors into its historic lectures halls, museums and state-of-the art research facilities, as they explore a world of scientific discoveries and knowledge through the Cambridge Science Festival. People of all ages come together with world-renowned scientists in a series of talks, lectures, theatre, art and interactive exhibitions in order to find out more about the latest advancements in science.

Professor Barry Everitt during his public lecture on addiction, as part of the Cambridge Neuroscience Symposium.
Professor Barry Everitt during his public lecture on addiction, as part of the Cambridge Neuroscience Seminar.

Traditionally, one of the themes that has enjoyed tremendous popularity in this festival is “neuroscience”. This year, a number of laboratories and institutes opened their doors to welcome visitors in to a world of ground-breaking neuroscience research that brings us one step closer to understanding the brain: that mysterious organ, which to many may appear as a ‘black box’ holding information too complicated to understand. But neuroscientists unravelled the brain for attendees of the 25th Cambridge Science Festival, giving them the opportunity to take part in real experiments at the Health Psychology Lab, getting involved in hands-on activities at the Cognition and Brain Science Unit, and strolling around the Cambridge University Hospital exhibits. Visitors were also able to attend various public lectures and free talks that have been arranged to tell the fascinating story of progress in neuroscience and discuss the outstanding questions that remain elusive. The discussions spanned not only brain disorders and mental health, but also included the importance of playfulness in child development and adult creativity, what we can learn from studying animals like scrub jays (a member of the crow family), and the impact of science on morality and ethics.

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Pint of Science 2015 – Beautiful Mind

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One answer to the question: “Would you date a human-like, artificially intelligent machine?”

More than 50 scientists took the stage between 18th – 20th May in six local pubs in Cambridge. While having a drink in a relaxed atmosphere, the audience had the chance to listen to experts explaining their research. The festival aims to make science accessible and encourages participants to ask questions, discuss ideas and share opinions, without the need for previous knowledge or expertise.

Cambridge Neuroscience was proud to sponsor one of the six themes: “Beautiful Mind”, covering topics from neuroscience, psychology and psychiatry and featuring a brilliant line-up of many Cambridge Neuroscience speakers.

The first night was dedicated to the topic “Moving minds – the brain-body connection”. Dr Simon Stott presented new insights into Parkinson’s disease, Prof Daniel Wolpert explained why our brains’ most important function is movement control, outing himself as a “movement chauvinist”, and Dr Ian Coyle-Gilchrist described how our understanding of mental illness and diagnostic categories have changed.

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CamBRAIN Executive Committee Elections and Annual General Meeting

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Would you like to a part of the executive committee for one of the largest neuroscience communities in the UK?we-need-you

Can you represent the diverse interests of neuroscience folks at the University of Cambridge and beyond?

Are you interested in organizing activities and events for over 600 members?

THEN JOIN CamBRAIN: The Cambridge Neuroscience Society Executive Committee!

We are now recruiting to form the next executive committee for the 2015-2016 academic year that will ensure the sustainable and successful growth of this young organization. The major aim of CamBRAIN “is to foster collaboration and communication amongst its members, appreciating the diversity of research and interests that fall under the umbrella of this rapidly expanding and exciting field of neuroscience.” Under this motto, the following roles will be up for election:

  1. President
  2. Secretary
  3. Junior Treasurer
  4. Social Secretaries (x2)
  5. Communications Coordinator
  6. Outreach Coordinator
  7. Interest Groups Coordinator

The roles and responsibilities are described in the CamBRAIN EC Roles and Responsibilities file and in case you have any questions, the current committee members are listed on our website.

If you are interested, please e-mail our secretary (Liam Wilson – lrw34@cam.ac.uk) a small photo of yourself (preferably your face) and a brief (100 words maximum) manifesto outlining who you are, your relevant past experience, and why you are interested in this role, by noon (12:00 PM) on Sunday the 7th of June. Subsequently you will be given a chance to introduce yourself at our AGM at 4 PM that evening (7th of June, the Graduate Union, Mill Lane) followed by 48 hours online election period running until Wednesday the 9th of June. In addition, our constitution will be circulated in due course for approval at the AGM.

Important Note! You will have to be a University of Cambridge member with a CRSid, registered on the CamBRAIN mailing list in order to run for a position and to be included in the ballot list.

Please join us in furthering the success of this vibrant society!

Cambridge Neuroscience Seminar 2015 News Report

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Themed “The Making and Breaking of the Mind”, Friday the 20th of March marked the 27th of the long-standing Cambridge Neuroscience Seminars, showcasing the diversity and calibre of neuroscience research conducted at the University of Cambridge. The programme committee comprising the Cambridge Neuroscience Coordinator Dr. Dervila Glynn, and Drs Michel Goedert, Michael Hastings, Marco Tripodiand Adam Tozer from the host institution, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (MRC LMB), prepared an outstanding line-up of distinguished speakers organised around three sessions, two plenary lectures given by Nobel laureates, and a public lecture, showcasing the latest research in neuroscience to over 325 delegates.

Fig1Following Dr. Marco Tripodi’s warm introduction to the seminar, the first session on “Development”, chaired by Professor Christine Holt, began with Dr. William Schafer’s talk from the host institution, whose interests lie on investigating the cellular and molecular mechanisms behind behaviour. Using state-of-the-art in vivo optical neuroimaging techniques on the nematode C. elegans, Dr. Schafer explained the importance of understanding the effect of behavioural states on the plasticity of neuronal circuitry. His inspiring talk was succeeded by Professor Andrea Brand from the Gurdon Institute of Cancer and Developmental Biology, who enlightened the audience about her seminal work on the nutritional control of neural stem cells that have the capacity to be differentiated into neuronal subtypes for a potential therapeutic use in the future. This exciting morning session was closed by Dr. Gregory Jefferis from MRC LMB. His talk focused on the sex circuits and brain maps, specifically discussing how odour information is translated in to behavioural responses in the fruit fly brain.

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The British Neuroscience Association’s Festival of Neuroscience 2015

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The British Neuroscience Association (BNA) recently celebrated its fiftieth year by organising a ‘Festival of Neuroscience’, in Edinburgh: 12th – 15th April 2015. Over 1600 delegates attended the event, from various disciplines of neuroscience research, their interests spanning from the pharmacological to the psychological.

Researchers from the Department of Psychiatry presenting their posters at the BNA2015: Festival of Neuroscience The researchers pictured are: Tiina Annus, Madeleine Walpert andAlexandra Lautarescu (L-R, clockwise). Aude Belin-Rauscent, from the Department of Pharmacology was awarded the runner up Post Doctoral poster prize (800 posters submitted) with her work entitled: The amygdala plays in stereo to recruit the ventral-to-dorsal striatal transitions in the control over cocaine seeking habits
Researchers from the Department of Psychiatry presenting their posters at the BNA2015: Festival of Neuroscience The researchers pictured are: Tiina Annus, Madeleine Walpert andAlexandra Lautarescu (L-R, clockwise).
Aude Belin-Rauscent, from the Department of Pharmacology was awarded the runner up Post Doctoral poster prize (800 posters submitted) with her work entitled: The amygdala plays in stereo to recruit the ventral-to-dorsal striatal transitions in the control over cocaine seeking habits

The BNA2015: Festival of Neuroscience showcased some of the best neuroscience research currently being undertaken in the UK and internationally in an extensive four-day programme of: eight plenary lectures; fifty symposia sessions, each composed of four speakers; four workshops; 800 poster-presentations and two public lectures. The public lectures were particular highlights of the conference:

Professor David Nutt (Imperial College London) discussed “Why Scotland should lead the neuroscientific enlightenment?”in terms of changes to drug policy.

Dr Adrian Owen (University of Western Ontario, Canada) spoke about The search for consciousness: Detecting awareness in the vegetative state.”

The BNA2015: Festival of Neuroscience was attended by 96 delegates from the University of Cambridge, many of which were students from the Department of Psychiatry who gave poster presentations.

Liam Wilson, PhD Student in the Department of Psychiatry, reflected on his experiences of the BNA2015: Festival of Neuroscience ” A huge strength of this conference is the breadth of symposium topics that are available, and that of the plenary lectures as well. It’s great to be able to find out about the latest advancements in the particular field you are working in, but at the same time to be able to attend talks that are perhaps not directly related to your work but are extremely interesting and given by people who are world leaders in their field, or indeed, Nobel laureates! But if I had to pick one particular event that I enjoyed at this year’s festival, it would have to be the careers in neuroscience speed-dating event. It was fantastic to get advice about how to advance in a neuroscience career from professionals and prolific researchers who have seen and done it all.” 

Adapted from Psychiatry News. Photocredit: BNASally Jennings, and Madeleine Walpert.