Chapter 1. Introduction: Scope and Outlook

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By David Grimm In an unprecedented move, members of a confidential group that oversees animal research at the University of Washington (UW) have sued their own school to block the release of their names to an animal rights organization. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been trying to obtain this information for more than a year, charging that the makeup of the university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) violates federal law. But the committee’s members—citing an uptick in animal rights activism at the school, including protests at the homes of individual scientists—say they fear PETA and other animal rights organizations will use their names to target them. “Animal rights groups have created a climate of fear at the university,” says the school’s IACUC chair, Jane Sullivan, who spearheaded the lawsuit. “I’m a huge fan of openness and transparency, but not when it threatens the safety of the members of my committee.” She and others fear PETA’s move is the beginning of a nationwide effort: The advocacy group also wants to name IACUC members at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst. Kathy Guillermo, a senior vice president at PETA, says her organization just wants UW's committee to comply with the law. “The IACUC is the last line of defense for animals in laboratories,” she says. But PETA suspects the university’s committee is so biased toward research interests that it’s not fulfilling its federal mandate. “The IACUC members’ supposed fear of releasing their names would appear to be more about hiding a flawed process than anything else.” Every U.S. institution that receives federal money for animal research must have an IACUC with five or more members, including scientists, veterinarians, and at least one nonscientist and one person unaffiliated with the institution. That makeup is supposed to ensure that animals are properly cared for and only necessary experiments take place, according to the U.S. National Institute of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW), which oversees these committees. Nonscientists can include ethicists and clergy members. © 2022 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 28238 - Posted: 03.16.2022

Iris Berent How can a cellist play like an angel? Why am I engrossed in my book when others struggle with reading? And while we’re at it, can you tell me why my child won’t stop screaming? Now neuroscience offers the answers—or so say the news headlines. The brains of musicians “really do” differ from those of the rest of us. People with dyslexia have different neural connections than people without the condition. And your screaming toddler’s tantrums originate from her amygdala, a brain region linked to emotions. It’s all in the brain! Neuroscience is fascinating. But it is not just the love of science that kindles our interest in these stories. Few of us care for the technical details of how molecules and electrical charges inthe brain give rise to our mental life. Furthermore, invoking the brain does not always improve our understanding. You hardly need a brain scan to tell that your toddler is enraged. Nor is it surprising that an amateur cellist’s brain works differently than Yo-Yo Ma’s—or that the brains of typical and dyslexic readers differ in some way. Where else would those differences reside? These sorts of science news stories speak to a bias: As numerous experiments have demonstrated, we have a blind spot for the brain. In classic work on the “seductive allure of neuroscience,” a team of researchers at Yale University presented participants with a psychological phenomenon (for instance, children learning new words), along with two explanations. One invoked a psychological mechanism, and the other was identical except it also dropped in a mention of a brain region. The brain details were entirely superfluous—they did nothing to improve the explanation, as judged by neuroscientists. Yet laypeople thought they did, so much so that once the brain was invoked, participants overlooked gross logical flaws in the accounts. © 2021 Scientific American,

Keyword: Attention
Link ID: 28105 - Posted: 12.11.2021

Monique Brouillette Last summer a group of Harvard University neuroscientists and Google engineers released the first wiring diagram of a piece of the human brain. The tissue, about the size of a pinhead, had been preserved, stained with heavy metals, cut into 5,000 slices and imaged under an electron microscope. This cubic millimeter of tissue accounts for only one-millionth of the entire human brain. Yet the vast trove of data depicting it comprises 1.4 petabytes’ worth of brightly colored microscopy images of nerve cells, blood vessels and more. “It is like discovering a new continent,” said Jeff Lichtman of Harvard, the senior author of the paper that presented these results. He described a menagerie of puzzling features that his team had already spotted in the human tissue, including new types of cells never seen in other animals, such as neurons with axons that curl up and spiral atop each other and neurons with two axons instead of one. These findings just scratched the surface: To search the sample completely, he said, would be a task akin to driving every road in North America. Lichtman has spent his career creating and contemplating these kinds of neural wiring diagrams, or connectomes — comprehensive maps of all the neural connections within a part or the entirety of a living brain. Because a connectome underpins all the neural activity associated with a volume of brain matter, it is a key to understanding how its host thinks, feels, moves, remembers, perceives, and much more. Don’t expect a complete wiring diagram for a human brain anytime soon, however, because it’s technically infeasible: Lichtman points out that the zettabyte of data involved would be equivalent to a significant chunk of the entire world’s stored content today. In fact, the only species for which there is yet a comprehensive connectome is Caenorhabditis elegans, the humble roundworm. Nevertheless, the masses of connectome data that scientists have amassed from worms, flies, mice and humans are already having a potent effect on neuroscience. And because techniques for mapping brains are getting faster, Lichtman and other researchers are excited that large-scale connectomics — mapping and comparing the brains of many individuals of a species — is finally becoming a reality. Share this article Simons Foundation All Rights Reserved © 2021

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 28104 - Posted: 12.08.2021

By Jillian Kramer Mice are at their best at night. But a new analysis suggests researchers often test the nocturnal creatures during the day—which could alter results and create variability across studies—if they record time-of-day information at all. Of the 200 papers examined in the new study, more than half either failed to report the timing of behavioral testing or did so ambiguously. Only 20 percent reported nighttime testing. The analysis was published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. West Virginia University neuroscientist Randy Nelson, the study's lead author, says this is likely a matter of human convenience. “It is easier to get students and techs to work during the day than [at] night,” Nelson says. But that convenience comes at a cost. “Time of day not only impacts the intensity of many variables, including locomotor activity, aggressive behavior, and plasma hormone levels,” but changes in those variables can only be observed during certain parts of the diurnal cycle, says University of Wyoming behavioral neuroscientist William D. Todd. This means that “failing to report time of day of data collection and tests makes interpretation of results extremely difficult,” adds Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center staff scientist Natalia Machado. Neither Todd nor Machado was involved in the new study. The study researchers say it is critical that scientists report the timing of their work and consider the fact that animals' behavioral and physiological responses can vary with the hour. As a first step, Nelson says, “taking care of time-of-day considerations seems like low-hanging fruit in terms of increasing behavioral neuroscience research reliability, reproducibility and rigor.” © 2021 Scientific American

Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 27953 - Posted: 08.21.2021

By Laura Sanders A brush with death led Hans Berger to invent a machine that could eavesdrop on the brain. In 1893, when he was 19, Berger fell off his horse during maneuvers training with the German military and was nearly trampled. On that same day, his sister, far away, got a bad feeling about Hans. She talked her father into sending a telegram asking if everything was all right. To young Berger, this eerie timing was no coincidence: It was a case of “spontaneous telepathy,” he later wrote. Hans was convinced that he had transmitted his thoughts of mortal fear to his sister — somehow. So he decided to study psychiatry, beginning a quest to uncover how thoughts could travel between people. Chasing after a scientific basis for telepathy was a dead end, of course. But in the attempt, Berger ended up making a key contribution to modern medicine and science: He invented the electroencephalogram, or EEG, a device that could read the brain’s electrical activity. Berger’s machine, first used successfully in 1924, produced a readout of squiggles that represented the electricity created by collections of firing nerve cells in the brain. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2021.

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 27895 - Posted: 07.08.2021

By Judith Warner Dr. Benjamin Rush, the 18th-century doctor who is often called the “father” of American psychiatry, held the racist belief that Black skin was the result of a mild form of leprosy. He called the condition “negritude.” His onetime apprentice, Dr. Samuel Cartwright, spread the falsehood throughout the antebellum South that enslaved people who experienced an unyielding desire to be free were in the grip of a mental illness he called “drapetomania,” or “the disease causing Negroes to run away.” In the late 20th century, psychiatry’s rank and file became a receptive audience for drug makers who were willing to tap into racist fears about urban crime and social unrest. (“Assaultive and belligerent?” read an ad that featured a Black man with a raised fist that appeared in the “Archives of General Psychiatry” in 1974. “Cooperation often begins with Haldol.”) Now the American Psychiatric Association, which featured Rush’s image on its logo until 2015, is confronting that painful history and trying to make amends. In January, the 176-year-old group issued its first-ever apology for its racist past. Acknowledging “appalling past actions” on the part of the profession, its governing board committed the association to “identifying, understanding, and rectifying our past injustices,” and pledged to institute “anti-racist practices” aimed at ending the inequities of the past in care, research, education and leadership. This weekend, the A.P.A. is devoting its annual meeting to the theme of equity. Over the course of the three-day virtual gathering of as many as 10,000 participants, the group will present the results of its yearlong effort to educate its 37,000 mostly white members about the psychologically toxic effects of racism, both in their profession and in the lives of their patients. © 2021 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Schizophrenia; Depression
Link ID: 27797 - Posted: 05.01.2021

By Sui-Lee Wee Mark Lewis was desperate to find monkeys. Millions of human lives, all over the world, were at stake. Mr. Lewis, the chief executive of Bioqual, was responsible for providing lab monkeys to pharmaceutical companies like Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, which needed the animals to develop their Covid-19 vaccines. But as the coronavirus swept across the United States last year, there were few of the specially bred monkeys to be found anywhere in the world. Unable to furnish scientists with monkeys, which can cost more than $10,000 each, about a dozen companies were left scrambling for research animals at the height of the pandemic. “We lost work because we couldn’t supply the animals in the time frame,” Mr. Lewis said. The world needs monkeys, whose DNA closely resembles that of humans, to develop Covid-19 vaccines. But a global shortage, resulting from the unexpected demand caused by the pandemic, has been exacerbated by a recent ban on the sale of wildlife from China, the leading supplier of the lab animals. The latest shortage has revived talk about creating a strategic monkey reserve in the United States, an emergency stockpile similar to those maintained by the government for oil and grain. As new variants of the coronavirus threaten to make the current batch of vaccines obsolete, scientists are racing to find new sources of monkeys, and the United States is reassessing its reliance on China, a rival with its own biotech ambitions. The pandemic has underscored how much China controls the supply of lifesaving goods, including masks and drugs, that the United States needs in a crisis. American scientists have searched private and government-funded facilities in Southeast Asia as well as Mauritius, a tiny island nation off southeast Africa, for stocks of their preferred test subjects, rhesus macaques and cynomolgus macaques, also known as long-tailed macaques. But no country can make up for what China previously supplied. Before the pandemic, China provided over 60 percent of the 33,818 primates, mostly cynomolgus macaques, imported into the United States in 2019, according to analyst estimates based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. © 2021 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 27703 - Posted: 02.23.2021

By Sundas Hashmi It was the afternoon of Jan. 31. I was preparing for a dinner party and adding final touches to my cheese platter when everything suddenly went dark. I woke up feeling baffled in a hospital bed. My husband filled me in: Apparently, I had suffered a massive seizure a few hours before our guests were to arrive at our Manhattan apartment. Our children’s nanny found me and I was rushed to the hospital. That had been three days earlier. My husband and I were both mystified: I was 37 years old and had always been in excellent health. In due course, a surgeon dropped by and told me I had a glioma, a type of brain tumor. It was relatively huge but operable. I felt sick to my stomach. Two weeks later, I was getting wheeled to the operating theater. I wouldn’t know the pathology until much later. I said my goodbyes to everyone — most importantly to my children, Sofia, 6, and Nyle, 2 — and prepared to die. But right before the surgery, in a very drugged state, I asked the surgeon to please get photos of me and my brother from my husband. I wanted the surgeon to see them. My brother had died two decades earlier from a different kind of brain tumor — a glioblastoma. I was 15 at the time, and he was 18. He died within two years of being diagnosed. Those two years were the worst period of my life. Doctors in my home country of Pakistan refused to take him, saying his case was fatal. So, my parents gathered their savings and flew him to Britain, where he was able to get a biopsy (his tumor was in an inoperable location) and radiation. Afterward, we had to ask people for donations so he could get the gamma knife treatment in Singapore that my parents felt confident would save him. In the end, nothing worked, and he died, taking 18 years of memories with him. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Glia
Link ID: 27536 - Posted: 10.21.2020

Keith A. Trujillo1, Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa2, Kenira J. Thompson3 Joe Louis Martinez Jr. died on 29 August at the age of 76. In addition to making extraordinary contributions to the fields of neurobiology and Chicano psychology, Joe was a tireless advocate of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the sciences. He established professional development programs for individuals from underrepresented groups and provided lifelong mentoring as they pursued careers in science and academia. Joe was passionately devoted to expanding opportunities in the sciences well before diversity became a visible goal for scientific organizations and academic institutions. Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on 1 August 1944, Joe received his bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of San Diego in 1966; his master's in experimental psychology from New Mexico Highlands University in 1968; and his Ph.D. in physiological psychology from the University of Delaware in 1971. His faculty career began in 1972 at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB), shortly after the campus was established. He later completed postdocs in the laboratory of neurobiologist James McGaugh at the University of California, Irvine, and with neurobiologist Floyd Bloom at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California. The University of California, Berkeley, recruited Joe in 1982, and he served as a professor as well as the area head of biopsychology and faculty assistant to the vice chancellor for affirmative action. As the highest-ranking Hispanic faculty member in the University of California system, Joe used his voice to help others from underrepresented groups. However, he felt that he could have a greater impact on diversity in the sciences by helping to build a university with a high concentration of Hispanic students, so in 1995 he moved to the University of Texas, San Antonio (UTSA). He began as a professor of biology and went on to assume a range of leadership roles, including director of the Cajal Neuroscience Institute. At UTSA, he worked with colleagues to obtain nearly $18 million in funding for neuroscience research and education. In 2012, he moved to the University of Illinois at Chicago where he served as professor and psychology department head until his retirement in 2016. At each institution, he embraced the opportunity to provide guidance and mentoring to innumerable students, faculty, and staff. © 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 27523 - Posted: 10.16.2020

By James Gorman Montessa, a 46-year-old chimpanzee, has been through a lot. The first record of her life is the note that she was purchased from an importer in 1975 for the research colony in New Mexico at the Holloman Air Force Base, when she was about a year old. She’s still there. It’s now called the Alamogordo Primate Facility, and Montessa, who was probably born in the wild and captured for sale, is just one of 39 chimpanzees living in limbo there, all of them the property of the National Institutes of Health. Over the past 45 years, Montessa has been pregnant five times and given birth four times. Publicly available records don’t show much about what kind of experiments were performed on her, but she was involved in a hormone study one year, and in two other years underwent a number of liver biopsies. When Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the N.I.H., decided in 2015 that all federally owned chimps would be permanently retired from research, it seemed that Montessa might get a chance to wander around on the grass at Chimp Haven in Louisiana, the designated and substantially N.I.H.-supported sanctuary. No such luck. The retirement plan had one caveat: Any chimpanzees considered too frail to be moved because of age, illness or both would stay at Alamogordo. They would no longer be subject to experiments, they were supposed to be housed in groups of seven or more, and they would have access to outdoor space and behavioral stimulation (toys, for example). But a year ago, the N.I.H. decided that Montessa and 38 other chimpanzees could not move to Chimp Haven, relying on Alamogordo staff recommendations that the chimps, many with diabetes or heart disease, would suffer and might even die if they were transferred to the sanctuary. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 27507 - Posted: 10.07.2020

Paulina Villegas Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration in Brazoria County on Sunday after the discovery in the local water supply system of an amoeba that can cause a rare and deadly infection of the brain. “The state of Texas is taking swift action to respond to the situation and support the communities whose water systems have been impacted by this ameba,” Abbott (R) in a news release Sunday. “I urge Texans in Lake Jackson to follow the guidance of local officials and take the appropriate precautions to protect their health and safety as we work to restore safe tap water in the community.” The governor’s declaration follows an investigation of the death of 6-year-old Josiah McIntyre in Lake Jackson this month after he contracted the brain-eating microbe, which prompted local authorities and experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to test the water. The preliminary results came back Friday, showing that three out of 11 samples collected tested positive. One of the samples came from a hose bib at the boy’s home, Lake Jackson City Manager Modesto Mundo said, according to CBS News. The others came from a “splash pad” play fountain and a hydrant. “The notification to us at that time was that he had played at one of [the] play fountains and he may have also played with a water hose at the home,” Mundo said. On Friday night, the Brazosport Water Authority issued a do-not-use advisory for eight communities after confirmation of the presence of Naegleria fowleri, which destroys brain tissue, then causes swelling of the brain, known as amebic meningoencephalitis. It urged residents to not use the tap water for drinking and cooking. © 1996-2020 The Washington Post

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 27499 - Posted: 09.30.2020

Jon Hamilton Mental illness can run in families. And Dr. Kafui Dzirasa grew up in one of these families. His close relatives include people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. As a medical student, he learned about the ones who'd been committed to psychiatric hospitals or who "went missing" and were discovered in alleyways. Dzirasa decided to dedicate his career to "figuring out how to make science relevant to ultimately help my own family." He became a psychiatrist and researcher at Duke University and began to study the links between genes and brain disorders. Then Dzirasa realized something: "I was studying genes that were specifically related to illness in folks of European ancestry." His family had migrated from West Africa, which meant anything he discovered might not apply to them. Dzirasa also realized that people with his ancestry were missing not only from genetics research but from the entire field of brain science. "It was a really crushing moment for me," he says. So when a group in Baltimore asked Dzirasa to help do something about the problem, he said yes. The group is the African Ancestry Neuroscience Research Initiative. It's a partnership between community leaders and the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, an independent, nonprofit research organization on the medical campus of Johns Hopkins University. © 2020 npr

Keyword: Attention
Link ID: 27491 - Posted: 09.28.2020

By David Grimm Last year marked the 60th anniversary of one of the most influential concepts in lab animal welfare—the three Rs. To promote the humane treatment of laboratory animals, these principles urge scientists to replace animals with new technologies, reduce the number of animals used in experiments, and refine lab protocols to minimize animal suffering. First outlined in the 1959 book, The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique, the three Rs have become a cornerstone of lab animal legislation and oversight throughout the world. But as millions of animals continue to be used in biomedical research each year, and new legislation calls on federal agencies to reduce and justify their animal use, some have begun to argue that it’s time to replace the three Rs themselves. “It was an important advance in animal research ethics, but it’s no longer enough,” Tom Beauchamp told attendees last week at a lab animal conference. Beauchamp, an emeritus professor of ethics at Georgetown University, has studied the ethics of animal research for decades. He also co-authored the influential Belmont Report of 1978, which has guided ethical principles for conducting research on human subjects. Beauchamp recently teamed up with David DeGrazia, a bioethicist at George Washington University and a senior research fellow in the Department of Bioethics at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), to lay out six principles for the ethical use of lab animals, which would replace the three Rs. The pair published both a scientific article and book on the topic late last year. © 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 27323 - Posted: 06.26.2020

By Lisa Sanders, M.D. “Honey” — the woman could hear fear tightening her husband’s voice as he called out to her — “I think your mother just died.” She ran into the living room. Her 78-year-old mother sat rigid in a chair, her skin gray and lifeless. Her eyes were open but all white, as if she were trying to see the back of her own skull. Then her arms started to make little jerking movements; her lips parted as saliva seeped out the corner of her mouth onto her chin. Then her body slumped. She seemed awake but confused after this seizure-like episode. Should I call an ambulance? the husband asked. No, his wife responded. Her mother had a complicated medical history, including a kidney transplant 12 years before and an autoimmune disease. An ambulance would want to take her to the nearby Hartford Hospital. But her doctors were at Yale New Haven Hospital — some 30 miles from their home in Cromwell, Conn. They helped the woman into the car. It was only a half-hour drive to the hospital that March 10 evening, but it seemed to last forever. Would her mother make it? Her eyes were closed, and she looked very pale. Her other daughter worked at the hospital and was waiting with a wheelchair when they arrived. The daughters made sure that the doctors and nurses knew that their mother took two medications to keep her immune system from killing her transplanted kidney. Because of those immune-suppressing drugs, she’d had many infections over the years. Six months earlier, she nearly lost her kidney to a particularly aggressive bacterium. She’d been well since then, until a few days earlier when she came down with a cold. It was just a sore throat and a runny nose, but the couple were worried enough to move her into their home to keep an eye on her. She didn’t want to eat because of the pain in her throat, but otherwise she seemed to be doing well. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Epilepsy
Link ID: 27224 - Posted: 04.30.2020

By Sam Roberts Donald Kennedy, a neurobiologist who headed the Food and Drug Administration before becoming president of Stanford University, where he oversaw major expansions of its campus and curriculum and weathered a crisis over research spending, died on April 21 in Redwood City, Calif. He was 88. His death, at a residential care facility, was caused by complications of the new coronavirus, his wife, Robin Kennedy, said. He had suffered a severe stroke in 2015. Stanford had been Dr. Kennedy’s life since 1960, when, not yet 30, he joined its faculty as an assistant professor of biology. And except for a stint in the late 1970s as head of the F.D.A. under President Jimmy Carter, he remained wedded to the university, becoming provost and then president in 1980, beginning an 11-year tenure. It was a productive one. During his presidency the university opened the Stanford Humanities Center and campuses in Oxford, England; Kyoto, Japan; and Washington; diversified the Western culture curriculum; and raised $1.2 billion in a five-year centennial campaign, although by the end of the decade the university was facing deficits. His tenure also coincided with fiery debates over antiwar protests and academic freedom by both professors and students, divestiture of the university’s holdings in companys doing business in South Africa, and $160 million in damage inflicted by the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989. A would-be writer who had become a neurobiologist in college adventitiously, Dr. Kennedy found his leadership under the microscope in the early 1990s, when the university was accused — and later cleared — of improperly billing the Navy for research expenses. The accusations were aired by federal auditors and Representative John D. Dingell Jr., a tenacious Michigan Democrat, who said that Stanford may have billed the government for as much as $200 million in improper expenses on research contracts for over a decade. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 27214 - Posted: 04.27.2020

By Laura Sanders Neuroscientists love a good metaphor. Through the years, plumbing, telegraph wires and computers have all been enlisted to help explain how the brain operates, neurobiologist and historian Matthew Cobb writes in The Idea of the Brain. And like any metaphor, those approximations all fall short. Cobb leads a fascinating tour of how concepts of the brain have morphed over time. His writing is clear, thoughtful and, when called for, funny. He describes experiments by neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield, who zapped awake patients’ brains with electricity to provoke reactions. Zapping certain places consistently dredged up memories, which Cobb calls “oneiric experiences.” His footnote on the term: “Look it up. It’s exactly the right word.” I did, and it was. Cobb runs though the history of certain concepts used to explain how the brain works, including electricity, evolution and neurons. Next comes a section on the present, which includes discussions of memory, circuits and consciousness. Cobb offers tastes of the latest research, and a heavy dose of realism. Memory studies have made progress, but “we are still far from understanding what is happening when we remember,” Cobb writes. Despite big efforts, “we still only dimly understand what is going on when we see.” Our understanding of how antidepressants work? “Virtually non-existent.” This real talk is refreshing, and Cobb uses it to great effect to argue that neuroscience is stymied. “There have been many similar moments in the past, when brain researchers became uncertain about how to proceed,” he writes. Scientists have amassed an impressive stockpile of brain facts, but a true understanding of how the brain works eludes us. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2020

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 27206 - Posted: 04.22.2020

Abby Olena Nicole Ward, who studies inflammatory skin diseases at Case Western Reserve University, was all set to ship the last six mice in a cohort to a collaborator at the University of Michigan for analysis next week. But then she got word that the University of Michigan would no longer accept any animals, as the university scaled back operations to only essential research to limit the number of people on campus and protect the community from COVID-19. Case Western followed with similar reductions in in-person research activities. “We’re lucky,” Ward says. “What we’ve been told is: don’t start any new experiments, but you’re allowed to continue the experiments that you have ongoing.” That’s not the case everywhere. About three weeks ago, Sarah Gaffen, an immunologist at the University of Pittsburgh, told her lab members to start shutting down experiments out of concern for their safety as the virus spread. On March 18, that reduction was formalized in a message from administrators at Pitt mandating that non-essential research stop two days later. “We are basically shuttered. We stopped everything except for minimal mouse maintenance,” she says. “We’re not allowed to buy them. We’re not allowed to breed them up.” Bianca Coleman, Gaffen’s lab manager, continues to report to work to care for the mouse colonies. But she is also taking steps to shrink the population, so that if she or the university’s animal care workers get sick, the mice that remain can be supervised by fewer people. Since the cut backs started, she’s reduced the colonies by about 80 cages, which might each have a handful of mice, and still expects to make further reductions of the 300–400 cages she typically oversees, she tells The Scientist in an email. © 1986–2020 The Scientist

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 27158 - Posted: 04.01.2020

By Stephen Casper. The poet Emily Dickinson rendered the brain wider than the sky, deeper than the sea, and about the weight of God. Scientists facing the daunting task of describing this organ conventionally conjure up different kinds of metaphor — of governance; of maps, infrastructure networks and telecommunications; of machines, robots, computers and the Internet. The comparisons have been practical and abundant. Yet, perhaps because of their ubiquity, the metaphors we use to understand the brain often go unnoticed. We forget that they are descriptors, and see them instead as natural properties. Such hidden dangers are central to biologist and historian Matthew Cobb’s The Idea of the Brain. This ambitious intellectual history follows the changing understanding of the brain from antiquity to the present, mainly in Western thought. Cobb outlines a growing challenge to the usefulness of metaphor in directing and explaining neuroscience research. With refreshing humility, he contends that science is nowhere near working out what brains do and how — or even if anything is like them at all. Cobb shows how ideas about the brain have always been forged from the moral, philosophical and technological frameworks to hand for those crafting the dominant narratives of the time. In the seventeenth century, the French philosopher René Descartes imagined an animal brain acting through hydraulic mechanisms, while maintaining a view of the divine nature of a mind separate from matter. Later authorities, such as the eighteenth-century physician and philosopher Julien Offray de Le Mettrie, secularized the image and compared the human to a machine. The Italian physicist Alessandro Volta rejected the idea of ‘animal electricity’, proposed by his rival Luigi Galvani as a vital force that animates organic matter. Volta was driven at least partly by his aversion to the mechanistic view. © 2020 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 27154 - Posted: 03.31.2020

Peter Hess The coronavirus pandemic has shuttered universities and institutes, leaving scientists scrambling to continue their research. Hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States have dispatched students home and are aiming to transition to remote learning. Scientific organizations are canceling conferences or moving them online. And scientists have had to put research projects and clinical trials on hold. These decisions—all done with the intention of slowing the pandemic—may stall and stymie research, with long-term consequences for the field. It may also hurt career prospects for graduate students who rely on conference presentations to gain exposure. “From everything that we’re seeing, this isn’t like a two-week hiatus,” says Helen Egger, chair of the child and adolescent psychiatry department at NYU Langone Health in New York City. “We’re in the middle of the hurricane, and there’s no indication how much worse it’s going to get or when it will end.” One long-term benefit is that the crisis may give universities and professional organizations a crash course in embracing technology. “These types of experiences—as long as we are having them, unfortunately—are giving autism [researchers] and other researchers more skills to be able to have online conferences and online teaching as needed,” says Steven Kapp, lecturer in psychology at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom. Backup plans: Some labs were prepared to meet the challenge, and they quickly put their emergency plans into place when news of the pandemic intensified. But, illustrating how rapidly the situation is changing, some of their plans derailed over the weekend. © 1986–2020 The Scientist

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 27132 - Posted: 03.21.2020

By Inés Gutiérrez, Rodrigo Pérez Ortega Earlier this month, Mexico’s leading university, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), announced that renowned neuroscientist Ranulfo Romo Trujillo would leave his position after being disciplined for an unspecified offense. According to a 4 March press release from UNAM, Romo Trujillo voluntarily asked to be separated from his job at UNAM’s University City campus in Mexico City. Sources close to the case say he had been temporarily suspended because a female worker made a formal complaint of sexual harassment against him following an incident in January. But current and former UNAM students and staff say that reports of inappropriate behavior by Romo Trujillo had circulated for years before his departure. Romo Trujillo, who works at UNAM’s Institute of Cellular Physiology (IFC), did not respond to repeated requests for comment. He is arguably the most famous neuroscientist in Mexico, studying perception, working memory, and decision-making. He has more than 150 publications, including in top journals such as Science and Nature; is on the editorial board of Neuron and other journals; and is one of 11 Mexican members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. IFC physiologist Marcia Hiriart Urdanivia acknowledged in an email to Science that, while director of IFC from 2009 to 2017, she received multiple accounts of sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct by Romo Trujillo. Hiriart Urdanivia says she warned Romo Trujillo that “his career was endangered by such actions.” But the women involved did not choose to file official complaints, she says. As a result, “I had no authority to do anything else.” © 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 27129 - Posted: 03.21.2020