Saturday, October 13, 2012

SfN neuroblogging 2012: confusion, dopamine, and gay rats

First poster session of SfN. Here are the 3 highlights:

You use too many of them. (source)

1. The worst poster ever. No graphs only words (well one picture of a whole brain) and TABLES! Oh the tables that should have been graphs! But it wasn't just the layout, the presentation was rambly and confusing. I gave them a fair chance to explain their work, asking more than once "what is the main point?" And when they finally got to the point, I said "oh, I see. I didn't get [the main point] until just now." But instead of realizing that the presentation was unclear, they made a bad joke about how neurotransmitter x must not have been working in my brain. um no, just no.

2. Dopamine neurons might not only release dopamine, new research from the Sabatini lab at Harvard suggests that they also release GABA, the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. This has interesting implications for Parkinson's Disease because the dopamine neurons die. Instead of only thinking about dopamine imbalances, maybe researchers should investigate GABA imbalances in PD.

 UPDATE 10/28/12: Here is a more detailed look at dopamine and GABA

3. Turning rats gay. you heard me right. A group in Mexico can make a male rat gay for another male rat by injecting him with a dopamine D2 agonist Quinpirole when he is around the other male. Eventually the quin-treated male will prefer the  other male even over a 'receptive' female.
The poster I went to today was presenting an extension of this research, inducing same-sex preference in females. This requires oxytocin in addition to quinpirole.
I didn't get a chance to ask about the further implications for this research because the poster was pretty well attended. mostly by young men.

UPDATE 10/23/12: Here is a more detailed look at turning rats gay.

I will post a more detailed analysis of both of these studies after SfN is over. As I've said already, I'll post brief summaries of the daily highlights, and more in-depth posts later.

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