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UPCOMING SEMINARS

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Jennifer Garrison
Buck Institute for Research on Aging
CA, USA
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5th Dec.
2023

16.00 UK
11.00 Eastern

TBD.

TBD.

PAST SEMINARS

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Julia Cordero
University of Glasgow
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND
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Gut/Body interactions in health and disease

21st Nov. 2023

16.00 UK
12.00 Eastern

The adult intestine is a major barrier epithelium and coordinator of multi-organ functions. Stem cells constantly repair the intestinal epithelium by adjusting their proliferation and differentiation to tissue intrinsic as well as micro- and macro-environmental signals. How these signals integrate to control intestinal and whole-body homeostasis is largely unknown. Addressing this gap in knowledge is central to an improved understanding of intestinal pathophysiology and its systemic consequences. Combining Drosophila and mammalian model systems my laboratory has discovered fundamental mechanisms driving intestinal regeneration and tumourigenesis and outlined complex inter-organ signaling regulating health and disease. During my talk, I will discuss inter-related areas of research from my lab, including: 1- Interactions between the intestine and its microenvironment influencing intestinal regeneration and tumourigenesis. 2- Long-range signals from the intestine impacting whole-body in health and disease.

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Siri Leknes
University of Oslo
OSLO,NORWAY
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Neuromodulation of subjective experience

14th Nov. 2023

16.00 UK
12.00 Eastern

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Gaia Novarino
Institute of Science and Technology Austria
KLOSTERNEUBURG, LOWER AUSTRIA, AUSTRIA
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Metabolic Remodelling in the Developing Forebrain in Health and Disease

31st Oct. 2023

16.00 UK
12.00 Eastern

Little is known about the critical metabolic changes that neural cells have to undergo during development and how temporary shifts in this program can influence brain circuitries and behavior. Motivated by the identification of autism-associated mutations in SLC7A5, a transporter for metabolically essential large neutral amino acids (LNAAs), we utilized metabolomic profiling to investigate the metabolic states of the cerebral cortex across various developmental stages. Our findings reveal significant metabolic restructuring occurring in the forebrain throughout development, with specific groups of metabolites exhibiting stage-specific changes. Through the manipulation of Slc7a5 expression in neural cells, we discovered an interconnected relationship between the metabolism of LNAAs and lipids within the cortex. Neuronal deletion of Slc7a5 influences the postnatal metabolic state, resulting in a shift in lipid metabolism and a cell-type-specific modification in neuronal activity patterns. This ultimately gives rise to enduring circuit dysfunction.

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Mark Mattson
Johns Hopkins University
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, USA
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How Intermittent Bioenergetic Challenges Enhance Brain and Body Health

26th Sep. 2023

16.00 UK
12.00 Eastern

Humans and other animals evolved in habitats fraught with a range of environmental challenges to their bodies and brains. Accordingly, cells and organ systems possess adaptive stress-responsive signaling pathways that enable them to not only withstand environmental challenges, but also to prepare for future challenges and function more efficiently. These phylogenetically conserved processes are the foundation of the hormesis principle in which repeated exposures to low to moderate amounts of an environmental challenge improve cellular and organismal fitness. Here I describe cellular and molecular mechanisms by which cells in the brain and body respond to intermittent fasting and exercise in ways that enhance performance and counteract aging and disease processes. Switching back and forth between adaptive stress response (during fasting and exercise) and growth and plasticity (eating, resting, sleeping) modes enhances the performance and resilience of various organ systems. While pharmacological interventions that engage a particular hormetic mechanism are being developed, it seems unlikely that any will prove superior to fasting and exercise.

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Jessica Tollkuhn
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
COLD SPRING HARBOR, NEW YORK, USA
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Sex hormone regulation of neural gene expression

12th Sep. 2023

16.00 UK
12.00 Eastern

Gonadal steroid hormones are the principal drivers of sex-variable biology in vertebrates. In the brain, estrogen (17β-estradiol) establishes neural sex differences in many species and modulates mood, behavior, and energy balance in adulthood. To understand the diverse effects of estradiol on the brain, we profiled the genomic binding of estrogen receptor alpha (ERα), providing the first picture of the neural actions of any gonadal hormone receptor. To relate ERα target genes to brain sex differences we assessed gene expression and chromatin accessibility in the posterior bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNSTp), a sexually dimorphic node in limbic circuitry that underlies sex-differential social behaviors such as aggression and parenting. In adult animals we observe that levels of ERα are predictive of the extent of sex-variable gene expression, and that these sex differences are a dynamic readout of acute hormonal state. In neonates we find that transient ERα recruitment at birth leads to persistent chromatin opening and male-biased gene expression, demonstrating a true epigenetic mechanism for brain sexual differentiation. Collectively, our findings demonstrate that sex differences in gene expression in the brain are a readout of state-dependent hormone receptor actions, rather than other factors such as sex chromosomes. We anticipate that the ERα targets we have found will contribute to established sex differences in the incidence and etiology of neurological and psychiatric disorders.

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Elisabeth G. Vichaya
Baylor University
WACO, TEXAS, USA
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Mechanisms Underlying the Persistence of Cancer-Related Fatigue.

23rd May 
2023

16.00 UK
12.00 Eastern

Cancer-related fatigue is a prominent and debilitating side effect of cancer and its treatment. It can develop prior to diagnosis, generally peaks during cancer treatment, and can persist long after treatment completion. Its mechanisms are multifactorial, and its expression is highly variable. Unfortunately, treatment options are limited. Our research uses syngeneic murine models of cancer and cisplatin-based chemotherapy to better understand these mechanisms. Our data indicate that both peripherally and centrally processes may contribute to the developmental of fatigue. These processes include metabolic alterations, mitochondrial dysfunction, pre-cachexia, and inflammation. However, our data has revealed that behavioral fatigue can persist even after the toxicity associated with cancer and its treatment recover. For example, running during cancer treatment attenuates kidney toxicity while also delaying recovery from fatigue-like behavior. Additionally, administration of anesthetics known to disrupt memory consolidation at the time treatment can promote recovery, and treatment-related cues can re-instate fatigue after recovery. Cancer-related fatigue can also promote habitual behavioral patterns, as observed using a devaluation task. We interpret this data to suggest that limit metabolic resources during cancer promote the utilization of habit-based behavioral strategies that serve to maintain fatigue behavior into survivorship. This line of work is exciting as it points us toward novel interventional targets for the treatment of persistent cancer-related fatigue.

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Judith Eisen
University of Oregon
EUGENE, OREGON, USA
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Microbial modulation of zebrafish social behavior and brain development.

16th May 
2023

16.00 UK
12.00 Eastern

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Pierre-Marie Lledo
Pasteur Institute
PARIS, FRANCE
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The embodied brain.

9th May 
2023

16.00 UK
12.00 Eastern

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Marija Kundakovic
Fordham University
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, USA
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Epigenomic (re)programming of the brain and behavior by ovarian hormones

2nd May 
2023

16.00 UK
12.00 Eastern

Rhythmic changes in sex hormone levels across the ovarian cycle exert powerful effects on the brain and behavior, and confer female-specific risks for neuropsychiatric conditions. In this talk, Dr. Kundakovic will discuss the role of fluctuating ovarian hormones as a critical biological factor contributing to the increased depression and anxiety risk in women. Cycling ovarian hormones drive brain and behavioral plasticity in both humans and rodents, and the talk will focus on animal studies in Dr. Kundakovic’s lab that are revealing the molecular and receptor mechanisms that underlie this female-specific brain dynamic. She will highlight the lab’s discovery of sex hormone-driven epigenetic mechanisms, namely chromatin accessibility and 3D genome changes, that dynamically regulate neuronal gene expression and brain plasticity but may also prime the (epi)genome for psychopathology. She will then describe functional studies, including hormone replacement experiments and the overexpression of an estrous cycle stage-dependent transcription factor, which provide the causal link(s) between hormone-driven chromatin dynamics and sex-specific anxiety behavior. Dr. Kundakovic will also highlight an unconventional role that chromatin dynamics may have in regulating neuronal function across the ovarian cycle, including in sex hormone-driven X chromosome plasticity and hormonally-induced epigenetic priming. In summary, these studies provide a molecular framework to understand ovarian hormone-driven brain plasticity and increased female risk for anxiety and depression, opening new avenues for sex- and gender-informed treatments for brain disorders.

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Emily Jacobs
UC Santa Barbara
SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA, USA
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Dynamic endocrine modulation of the nervous system.

18th Apr. 
2023

16.00 UK
12.00 Eastern

Sex hormones are powerful neuromodulators of learning and memory. In rodents and nonhuman primates estrogen and progesterone influence the central nervous system across a range of spatiotemporal scales. Yet, their influence on the structural and functional architecture of the human brain is largely unknown. Here, I highlight findings from a series of dense-sampling neuroimaging studies from my laboratory designed to probe the dynamic interplay between the nervous and endocrine systems. Individuals underwent brain imaging and venipuncture every 12-24 hours for 30 consecutive days. These procedures were carried out under freely cycling conditions and again under a pharmacological regimen that chronically suppresses sex hormone production. First, resting state fMRI evidence suggests that transient increases in estrogen drive robust increases in functional connectivity across the brain. Time-lagged methods from dynamical systems analysis further reveals that these transient changes in estrogen enhance within-network integration (i.e. global efficiency) in several large-scale brain networks, particularly Default Mode and Dorsal Attention Networks. Next, using high-resolution hippocampal subfield imaging, we found that intrinsic hormone fluctuations and exogenous hormone manipulations can rapidly and dynamically shape medial temporal lobe morphology. Together, these findings suggest that neuroendocrine factors influence the brain over short and protracted timescales.

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Alain Dagher
McGill University
MONTREAL, QUEBEC, CANADA
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Bidirectional interaction between adiposity and brain function: Namely how genetic risk for obesity shapes the brain, and how obesity changes the brain.

11th Apr. 
2023

16.00 UK
12.00 Eastern

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Wei Zhang
Tsinghua University
BEIJING, CHINA
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Self-perception: mechanosensation and beyond

4th Apr. 
2023

14.00 UK
10.00 Eastern

Brain-organ communications play a crucial role in maintaining the body's physiological and psychological homeostasis, and are controlled by complex neural and hormonal systems, including the internal mechanosensory organs. However, the progress has been slow due to technical hurdles: the sensory neurons are deeply buried inside the body and are not readily accessible for direct observation, the projection patterns from different organs or body parts are complex rather than converging into dedicate brain regions, the coding principle cannot be directly adapted from that learned from conventional sensory pathways. Our lab apply the pipeline of "biophysics of receptors-cell biology of neurons-functionality of neural circuits-animal behaviors" to explore the molecular and neural mechanisms of self-perception. In the lab, we mainly focus on the following three questions: 1, The molecular and cellular basis for proprioception and interoception. 2, The circuit mechanisms of sensory coding and integration of internal and external information. 3, The function of interoception in regulating behavior homeostasis.

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Jonathan Long
Stanford University
STANFORD, CALIFORNIA, USA
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Uncovering the molecular effectors of diet and exercise

28th Mar. 
2023

16.00 UK
12.00 Eastern

Despite the profound effects of nutrition and physical activity on human health, our understanding of the molecules mediating the salutary effects of specific foods or activities remains remarkably limited. Here, we share our ongoing studies that use unbiased and high-resolution metabolomics technologies to uncover the molecules and molecular effectors of diet and exercise. We describe how exercise stimulates the production of Lac-Phe, a blood-borne signaling metabolite that suppresses feeding and obesity. Ablation of Lac-Phe biosynthesis in mice increases food intake and obesity after exercise. We also describe the discovery of an orphan metabolite, BHB-Phe. Ketosis-inducible BHB-Phe is a congener of exercise-inducible Lac-Phe, produced in CNDP2+ cells when levels of BHB are high, and functions to lower body weight and adiposity in ketosis. Our data uncover an unexpected and underappreciated signaling role for metabolic fuel derivatives in mediating the cardiometabolic benefits of diet and exercise. These data also suggest that diet and exercise may mediate their physiologic effects on energy balance via a common family of molecules and overlapping signaling pathways.

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Sung-Yon Kim
Seoul National University
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
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Warm and full: neural circuits for behavioral regulation of homeostasis

21st Mar. 
2023

16.00 UK
12.00 Eastern

Many of our behaviors are intrinsically motivated by a need to maintain homeostasis,including that of body temperature, energy, and fluid levels. Despite their importance,numerous seemingly simple questions remain unresolved in this field. My presentation willfocus on our ongoing efforts to address two of these issues in mouse models.The first part tries to answer: How do we stop eating when we are “mechanically” full?Mechanosensory feedback from the digestive tract to the brain is critical for limitingexcessive food and water intake, but the underlying gut-brain communication pathways andmechanisms remain poorly understood. We found that Pdyn + neurons in the parabrachialnucleus monitor the intake of both fluids and solids, using mechanosensory signals arisingfrom the upper digestive tract (Dong-Yoon Kim et al., 2020; also see Minyoo Kim et al.,2022). Upon receipt of the mechanosensory signals, these neurons produce aversive andsustained appetite-suppressing signals that serve as negative feedback on ingestion toprevent harmful overconsumption. Our continuing efforts to pinpoint the precise site of theorigin of mechanosensory feedback signals will also be briefly discussed.The second part attempts to address: How do we turn on the heat when it is cold?Thermoregulatory behavior is among the least-studied classic motivated behaviors—untilrecently, no forebrain region or cell type was shown to be necessary for these responses.We recently identified the lateral hypothalamus (LH) and its Vgat + neurons as a necessaryregion and cell type (Sieun Jung et al., 2022). LH Vgat + neurons encode thermoregulatorybehavior, as well as the reward value of thermal stimuli, and parabrachial inputs are requiredfor both this encoding and thermoregulatory behavior. Notably, two-photon Ca 2+ imagingrevealed distinct LH Vgat + subpopulations encoding thermal and caloric rewards. Inparticular, the functional heterogeneity within the LH Vgat + population will be discussed indetail.In sum, our findings lay the groundwork for future research into the neural bases ofbehavioral thermoregulation and mechanosensory feedback control of ingestion, as well astheir relationships with other motivated behaviors.

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Michelle Monje
Stanford University
STANFORD, CALIFORNIA, USA
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Neuron-glial interactions in health and disease: from cognition to cancer

14th Mar. 
2023

16.00 UK
12.00 Eastern

In the central nervous system, neuronal activity is a critical regulator of development and plasticity. Activity-dependent proliferation of healthy glial progenitors, oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs), and the consequent generation of new oligodendrocytes contributes to adaptive myelination. This plasticity of myelin tunes neural circuit function and contributes to healthy cognition. The robust mitogenic effect of neuronal activity on normal oligodendroglial precursor cells, a putative cellular origin for many forms of glioma, suggests that dysregulated or “hijacked” mechanisms of myelin plasticity might similarly promote malignant cell proliferation in this devastating group of brain cancers. Indeed, neuronal activity promotes progression of both high-grade and low-grade glioma subtypes in preclinical models. Crucial mechanisms mediating activity-regulated glioma growth include paracrine secretion of BDNF and the synaptic protein neuroligin-3 (NLGN3). NLGN3 induces multiple oncogenic signaling pathways in the cancer cell, and also promotes glutamatergic synapse formation between neurons and glioma cells. Glioma cells integrate into neural circuits synaptically through neuron-to-glioma synapses, and electrically through potassium-evoked currents that are amplified through gap-junctional coupling between tumor cells This synaptic and electrical integration of glioma into neural circuits is central to tumor progression in preclinical models. Thus, neuron-glial interactions not only modulate neural circuit structure and function in the healthy brain, but paracrine and synaptic neuron-glioma interactions also play important roles in the pathogenesis of glial cancers. The mechanistic parallels between normal and malignant neuron-glial interactions underscores the extent to which mechanisms of neurodevelopment and plasticity are subverted by malignant gliomas, and the importance of understanding the neuroscience of cancer.

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Oded Rechavi
Tel-Aviv University
TEL-AVIV, ISRAEL
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Molecular Memories

7th Mar. 
2023

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

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John Campbell
University of Virginia
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA, USA
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What happens in vagus – unraveling neural circuits for heart and gut function

6th Dec. 
2022

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

The vagus nerve vitally connects the brain and body to coordinate digestive, cardiorespiratory, and immune functions. Its efferent neurons, which project their axons from the brainstem to the viscera, are thought to comprise “functional units” - neuron populations dedicated to the control of specific vagal reflexes or organ functions. Previous research indicates that these functional units differ from one another anatomically, neurochemically, and physiologically but have yet to define their identity in an experimentally tractable way. Our lab is using single-cell genomics to classify subtypes of vagal efferent neurons and then defining each’s physiological role by applying subtype-specific genetic tools to map its synaptic circuitry and manipulate and monitor its activity. Our results so far have identified distinct circuits for control of gastric, esophageal, and cardiac function, together suggesting that genetic subtypes of neurons may be the functional units of the efferent vagus.

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Kim Rewitz
University of Copenhagen
COPENHAGEN, DENMARK
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Gut food cravings? How gut signals control appetite and metabolism.

22nd Nov. 
2022

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

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Kate Ryan Kuhlman
University of California, Irvine
IRVINE, CA, USA
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Early life adversity, inflammation, and depression-onset: Results from the Teen Resilience Project

15th Nov. 
2022

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

My research focuses broadly on the lifelong health disparities associated with experiences of adversity early in life. In this talk I will present the results of our recently completed Teen Resilience Project, a prospective and longitudinal study of first onset depression during adolescence. First, I will present the results on whether and how inflammatory processes may be shaped by early life adversity. Second, I will present data on the role of stress-induced inflammation in reward-related psychological processes. Finally, I will discuss the biobehavioral predictors of first-onset depression in this sample.

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Katrin Vogt
University of Konstanz
KONSTANZ, GERMANY
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Hunger state-dependent modulation of decision-making in larval Drosophila

25th Oct. 
2022

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

It is critical for all animals to make appropriate, but also flexible, foraging decisions, especially when facing starvation. Sensing olfactory information is essential to evaluate food quality before ingestion. Previously, we found that Drosophila larvae switch their response to certain odors from aversion to attraction when food deprived. The neural mechanism underlying this switch in behavior involves serotonergic modulation and reconfiguration of odor processing in the early olfactory sensory system. We now investigate if a change in hunger state also influences other behavioral decisions. Since it had been shown that fly larvae can perform cannibalism, we investigate the effect of food deprivation on feeding on dead conspecifics. We find that fed fly larvae rarely use dead conspecifics as a food source. However, food deprivation largely enhances this behavior. We will now also investigate the underlying neural mechanisms that mediate this enhancement and compare it to the already described mechanism for a switch in olfactory choice behavior. Generally, this flexibility in foraging behavior enables the larva to explore a broader range of stimuli and to expand their feeding choices to overcome starvation.

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Jeremy Borniger
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
COLD SPRING HARBOR, NY, USA
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Identifying central mechanisms of glucocorticoid circadian rhythm dysfunction in breast cancer

18th Oct. 
2022

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

The circadian release of endogenous glucocorticoids is essential in preparing and synchronizing the body’s daily physiological needs. Disruption in the rhythmic activity of glucocorticoids has been observed in individuals with a variety of cancer types, and blunting of this rhythm has been shown to predict cancer mortality and declines in quality of life. This suggests that a disrupted glucocorticoid rhythm is potentially a shared phenotype across cancers. However, where this phenomenon is driven by the cancer itself, and the causal mechanisms that link glucocorticoid rhythm dysfunction and cancer outcomes remain preliminary at best. The regulation of daily glucocorticoid activity has been well-characterized and is maintained, in part, by the coordinated response of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, consisting of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) and corticotropin-releasing hormone-expressing neurons of the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVNCRH). Consequently, we set out to examine if cancer-induced glucocorticoid dysfunction is regulated by disruptions within these hypothalamic nuclei. In comparison to their tumor-free baseline, mammary tumor-bearing mice exhibited a blunting of glucocorticoid rhythms across multiple timepoints throughout the day, as measured by the overall levels and the slope of fecal corticosterone rhythms, during tumor progression. We further examined how peripheral tumors shape hypothalamic activity within the brain. Serial two-photon tomography for whole-brain cFos imaging suggests a disrupted activation of the PVN in mice with tumors. Additionally, we found GFP labeled CRH+ neurons within the PVN after injection of pseudorabies virus expressing GFP into the tumor, pointing to the PVN as a primary target disrupted by mammary tumors. Preliminary in vivo fiber photometry data show that PVNCRH neurons exhibit enhanced calcium activity during tumor progression, as compared to baseline (no tumor) activity. Taken together, this suggests that there may be an overactive HPA response during tumor progression, which in turn, may result in a subsequent negative feedback on glucocorticoid rhythms. Current studies are examining whether tumor progression modulates SCN calcium activity, how the transcriptional profile of PVNCRH neurons is changed, and test if manipulation of the neurocircuitry surrounding glucocorticoid rhythmicity alters tumor characteristics.

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Sreekanth Chalasani
Salk Institute for Biological Studies
SAN DIEGO, CA, USA
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Inter-tissue signals modify food-seeking behavior in C. elegans

11th Oct. 
2022

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

Animals modify their behavioral outputs in response to changes in external and internal environments. We use the nematode, C. elegans to probe the pathways linking changes in internal states like hunger with behavior. We find that acute food deprivation alters the localization of two transcription factors, likely releasing an insulin-like peptide from the intestine, which in turn modifies chemosensory neurons and alters behavior. These results present a model for how inter-tissue signals to generate flexible behaviors via gut-brain signaling.

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Robert Wessells
Wayne State University
DETROIT, MI, USA
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Brain-muscle signaling coordinates exercise adaptations in Drosophila

20th Sep
2022

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

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Tony Wyss-Coray
Stanford University
STANFORD, CALIFORNIA, USA
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Systemic regulation and measurement of mammalian aging

31st May
2022

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

Brain aging leads to cognitive decline and is the main risk factor for sporadic forms of neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease. While brain cell- and tissue-intrinsic factors are likely key determinants of the aging process recent studies document a remarkable susceptibility of the brain to circulatory factors. Thus, blood borne factors from young mice or humans are sufficient to slow aspects of brain aging and improve cognitive function in old mice and, vice versa, factors from old mice are detrimental for young mice and impair cognition. We found evidence that the cerebrovasculature is an important target of circulatory factors and that brain endothelial cells show prominent age-related transcriptional changes in response to plasma. Furthermore, plasma proteins are taken up broadly into the young brain through receptor mediated transport which declines with aging. At the same time, brain derived proteins are detectable in plasma allowing us to measure physiological changes linked to brain aging in plasma. We are exploring the relevance of these findings for neurodegeneration and potential applications towards therapies.

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Sylvia Cremer
IST Austria
KLOSTERNEUBURG, AUSTRIA
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Social immunity in ants: disease defense of the colony

24th May
2022

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

Social insects fight disease as a collective. Their colonies are protected against disease by the combination of the individual immune defenses of all colony members and their jointly performed nest- and colony-hygiene. This social immunity is achieved by cooperative behaviors to reduce pathogen load of the colony and to prevent transmission along the social interaction networks of colony members. Individual and social immunity interact: performance of sanitary care can affect future disease susceptibility, yet also vice versa, individuals differing in susceptibility adjust their sanitary care performance to their individual risk of infection. I present the integrated approach we use to understand how colony protection arises from the individual and collective actions of colony members and how it affects pathogen communities and hence disease ecology.

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Scott Kanoski
University of Southern California
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, USA
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Western diet consumption and memory impairment: what, when, and how?

17th May
2022

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

Habitual consumption of a “Western diet”, containing higher than recommended levels of simple sugars and saturated fatty acids, is associated with cognitive impairments in humans and in various experimental animal models. Emerging findings reveal that the specific mnemonic processes that are disrupted by Western diet consumption are those that rely on the hippocampus, a brain region classically linked with memory control and more recently with the higher-order control of food intake. Our laboratory has established rat models in which excessive consumption of different components of a Western diet during the juvenile and adolescent periods of development yields long-term impairments in hippocampal-dependent memory function without concomitant increases in total caloric intake, body weight, or adiposity. Our ongoing work is investigating alterations in the gut microbiome as a potential underlying neurobiological mechanism linking early life unhealthy dietary factors to adverse neurocognitive outcomes.

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Sandra Siegert
Institute of Science and Technology
KLOSTERNEUBURG, AUSTRIA
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From a by-stander to an influencer: How microglia adapt to altered environments and influence neuronal activity.

3rd May
2022

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

Microglia, traditionally classified as immune-responsive, adjust synaptic connections during development and disease. However, their role in the adult nervous system has been mostly diminished to an observer. In my research group, we are interested in how microglia are involved in establishing and maintaining accurate neuronal circuit function in the retina and in the visual cortex. In my talk, I will introduce our strategies how to decipher the microglia’s functional identity and how this information guided us to microglia enabled extracellular matrix remodeling and reinstatment of juvenile-like plasticity in the adult brain.

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Claire Wyart
Institut du Cerveau (ICM)
PARIS, FRANCE
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Tasting from within? An axial sensory system informs posture, morphogenesis and innate immunity

19th Apr 
2022

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

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Luís de Lecea
Stanford University
STANFORD, CA, USA
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Neuromodulation of sleep integrity.

12th Apr 
2022

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

The arousal construct underlies a spectrum of behaviors that include sleep, exploration, feeding, sexual activity and adaptive stress. Pathological arousal conditions include stress, anxiety disorders, and addiction. The dynamics between arousal state transitions are modulated by norepinephrine neurons in the locus coeruleus, histaminergic neurons in the hypothalamus, dopaminergic neurons in the mesencephalon and cholinergic neurons in the basal forebrain. The hypocretin/orexin system in the lateral hypothalamus I will also present a new mechanism underlying sleep fragmentation during aging. Hcrt neurons are hyperexcitable in aged mice. We identify a potassium conductance known as the M-current, as a critical player in maintaining excitability of Hcrt neurons. Genetic disruption of KCNQ channels in Hcrt neurons of young animals results in sleep fragmentation. In contrast, treatment of aged animals with a KCNQ channel opener restores sleep/wake architecture. These data point to multiple circuits modulating sleep integrity across lifespan.

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Naama Geva-Zatorsky
Technion
HAIFA, ISRAEL
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Plasticity in gut microbe-host interactions

5th Apr 
2022

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

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Filip Swirski
Icahn School of Medicine
MOUNT SINAI, NEW YORK, NY, USA
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Lifestyle, cardiovascular health, and the brain

29th Mar 
2022

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

Lifestyle factors such as sleep, diet, stress, and exercise, profoundly influence cardiovascular health. Seeking to understand how lifestyle affects our biology is important for at least two reasons. First, it can expose a particular lifestyle’s biological impact, which can be leveraged for adopting specific public health policies. Second, such work may identify crucial molecular mechanisms central to how the body adapts to our environments. These insights can then be used to improve our lives. In this talk, I will focus on recent work in the lab exploring how lifestyle factors influence cardiovascular health. I will show how combining tools of neuroscience, hematology, immunology, and vascular biology helps us better understand how the brain shapes leukocytes in response to environmental perturbations. By “connecting the dots” from the brain to the vessel wall, we can begin to elucidate how lifestyle can both maintain and perturb salutogenesis.

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Ruslan Medzhitov
Yale School of Medicine
NEW HAVEN, CT, USA
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Simple principles of complex systems

8th Mar 
2022

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

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JAVIER APFELD
NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY 
BOSTON, MA, USA
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Worms use their brain to regulate their behavior and physiology to deal with the lethal threat of hydrogen peroxide.

29th Nov 
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

In this talk I will discuss our recent findings that sensory signals from the brain adjust the physiology and behavior of the nematode C. elegans, enabling this animal to deal with the lethal threat of hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is the most common chemical threat in the microbial battlefield. Prevention and repair of the damage that hydrogen peroxide inflicts on macromolecules are critical for health and survival. In the first part of the talk, I will discuss our findings that C. elegans represses their own H2O2 defenses in response to sensory perception of Escherichia coli, the nematode’s food source, because E. coli can deplete H2O2 from the local environment and thereby protect the nematodes. Thus, the E. coli self-defense mechanisms create a public good, an environment safe from the threat of H2O2, that benefits C. elegans. In the second part of the talk, I will discuss how the modulation of C. elegans’ sensory perception by the interplay of hydrogen peroxide and bacteria adjusts the nematode’s behavior to improve the nematode’s chances of finding a niche that provides both food and protection from hydrogen peroxide.

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FELICE JACKA
DEAKIN UNIVERSITY
VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA
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Nutritional psychiatry: diet and mental health over the lifecourse

22nd Nov 
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

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COLEEN MURPHY
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY
PRINCETON, NJ, USA
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Adapt or Die: Transgenerational Inheritance of Pathogen Avoidance (or, How getting food poisoning might save your species)

15th Nov 
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

Caenorhabditis elegans must distinguish pathogens from nutritious food sources among the many bacteria to which it is exposed in its environment1. Here we show that a single exposure to purified small RNAs isolated from pathogenic Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA14) is sufficient to induce pathogen avoidance in the treated worms and in four subsequent generations of progeny. The RNA interference (RNAi) and PIWI-interacting RNA (piRNA) pathways, the germline and the ASI neuron are all required for avoidance behaviour induced by bacterial small RNAs, and for the transgenerational inheritance of this behaviour. A single P. aeruginosa non-coding RNA, P11, is both necessary and sufficient to convey learned avoidance of PA14, and its C. elegans target, maco-1, is required for avoidance. Our results suggest that this non-coding-RNA-dependent mechanism evolved to survey the microbial environment of the worm, use this information to make appropriate behavioural decisions and pass this information on to its progeny.

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KEVIN J. TRACEY
FEINSTEIN INSTITUTES,
NORTHWELL HEALTH, MANHASSET, NY, USA
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Reflex Regulation of Innate Immunity

8th Nov 
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

Reflex circuits in the nervous system integrate changes in the environment with physiology. Compact clusters of brain neuron cell bodies, termed nuclei, are essential for receiving sensory input and for transmitting motor outputs to the body. These nucelii are critical relay stations which process incoming information and convert these signals to outgoing action potentials which regulate immune system functions. Thus, reflex neural circuits maintain parameters of immunological physiology within a narrow range optimal for health. Advances in neuroscience and immunology using optogenetics, pharmacogenetics, and functional mapping offer a new understanding of the importance of neural circuitry underlying immunity, and offer direct paths to new therapies.

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JEFFREY ILIFF
VA PUGET SOUND HEALTH CARE
UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON, SEATTLE, WA, USA
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Evidence for the role of glymphatic dysfunction in the development of Alzheimer’s disease

25th Oct 
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

Glymphatic perivascular exchange is supported by the astroglial water channel aquaporin-4 (AQP4), which localizes to perivascular astrocytic endfeet surrounding the cerebral vasculature. In aging mice, impairment of glymphatic function is associated with reduced perivascular AQP4 localization, yet whether these changes contribute to the development of neurodegenerative disease, such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), remains unknown. Using post mortem human tissue, we evaluated perivascular AQP4 localization in the frontal cortical gray matter, white matter, and hippocampus of cognitively normal subjects and those with AD. Loss of perivascular and increasing cellular localization of AQP4 in the frontal gray matter was specifically associated with AD status, amyloid β (Aβ) and tau pathology, and cognitive decline in the early stages of disease. Using AAV-PHP.B to drive expression on non-perivascular AQP4 in wild type and Tg2576 (APPSwe, mouse model of Aβ deposition) mice, increased cellular AQP4 localization did not slow glymphatic function or change Aβ deposition. Using the Snta1 knockout line (which lacks perivascular AQP4 localization), we observed that loss AQP4 from perivascular endfeet slowed glymphatic function in wild type mice and accelerated Aβ plaque deposition in Tg2576 mice. These findings demonstrate that loss of perivascular AQP4 localization, and not increased cellular AQP4 localization, slows glymphatic function and promotes the development of AD pathology. To evaluate whether naturally occurring variation in the human AQP4 gene, or the alpha syntrophin (SNTA1), dystrobrevin (DTNA) or dystroglycan (DAG1) genes (whose products maintain perivascular AQP4 localization) confer risk for or protection from AD pathology or clinical progression, we evaluated 56 tag single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across these genes for association with CSF AD biomarkers, MRI measures of cortical and hippocampal atrophy, and longitudinal cognitive decline in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative I (ADNI I) cohort. We identify 25 different significant associations between AQP4, SNTA1, DTNA, and DAG1 tag SNPs and phenotypic measures of AD pathology and progression. These findings provide complimentary human genetic evidence for the contribution of perivascular glymphatic dysfunction to the development of AD in human populations.

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MARCELO DIETRICH
YALE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE
NEW HAVEN, CT, USA
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The development of hunger

18th Oct 
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

All mammals transition from breastfeeding to independent feeding during the lactation period. In humans and other mammals, this critical transition is important for later in life metabolic control and, consequently, for the development of many chronic conditions. Here, Dr. Dietrich will discuss the work of his lab studying the function of hypothalamic neurons involved in homeostatic control during the transition from breastfeeding to independent feeding. His work illuminates novel properties of hypothalamic neurons in early life, suggesting mechanisms by which early life events shape homeostatic regulation throughout the individual’s lifespan.

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KEN LOH
THE ROCKEFELLER UNIVERSITY

NEW YORK, NY, USA
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Sympathetic nerve remodeling in adipose tissue

11th Oct 
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

Sympathetic nerve activation of adrenergic receptors on fat is the major pathway the brain uses to drive non-shivering thermogenesis in brown adipose tissue and lipolysis in white fat. There is accumulating evidence that the peripheral nerve architecture inside of organs is plastic (can be remodeled) but the factors and conditions that regulate or result in remodeling are largely unknown. Particularly for fat, it remains unclear if nerves in fat can be remodeled in step with hyperplasia/trophy of adipose tissue as result of a prolonged energy surfeit. This talk will discuss our recent work identifying the sympathetic nerve architecture in adipose tissue as highly plastic in response to the adipose hormone leptin, the brain circuitry leptin acts on to regulate this and the physiological effects remodeling of innervation has on fat tissue function.

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ANDREA CALIXTO
UNIVERSIDAD DE VALAPARAÍSO
VALAPARAÍSO, CHILE
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Microbiota in the health of the nervous system and the response to stress

27th Sept2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

Microbes have shaped the evolution of eukaryotes and contribute significantly to the physiology and behavior of animals. Some of these traits are inherited by the progenies. Despite the vast importance of microbe-host communication, we still do not know how bacteria change short term traits or long-term decisions in individuals or communities. In this seminar I will present our work on how commensal and pathogenic bacteria impact specific neuronal phenotypes and decision making. The traits we specifically study are the degeneration and regeneration of neurons and survival behaviors in animals. We use the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and its dietary bacteria as model organisms. Both nematode and bacteria are genetically tractable, simplifying the detection of specific molecules and their effect on measurable characteristics. To identify these molecules we analyze their genomes, transcriptomes and metabolomes, followed by functional in vivo validation. We found that specific bacterial RNAs and bacterially produced neurotransmitters are key to trigger a survival behavioral and neuronal protection respectively. While RNAs cause responses that lasts for many generations we are still investigating whether bacterial metabolites are capable of inducing long lasting phenotypic changes.

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SOYOUNG Q PARK
CHARITÉ, BERLIN & GERMAN
INSTITUTE OF HUMAN NUTRITION, POTSDAM, GERMANY
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Motives and modulators of human decision making

20th Sept2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

Did we eat spaghetti for lunch because we saw our colleague eat spaghetti? What drives a risk decision? How can our breakfast impact our decisions throughout the day? Research from different disciplines such as economics, psychology and neuroscience have attempted to investigate the motives and modulators of human decision making. Human decisions can be flexibly modulated by the different experiences we have in our daily lives, at the same time, bodily processes, such as metabolism can also impact economic behavior. These modulations can occur through our social networks, through the impact of our own behavior on the social environment, but also simply by the food we have eaten. Here, I will present a series of recent studies from my lab in which we shed light on the psychological, neural and metabolic motives and modulators of human decision making.

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STACI BILBO
DUKE UNIVERSITY
DURHAM, NC, USA
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Microglia, microbes, and development: implications for neurodevelopmental disorders

13th Sept2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

Gestational exposure to environmental toxins, infections, and stressors are epidemiologically linked to neurodevelopmental disorders with strong male-bias, such as autism spectrum disorder. We modeled some of these prenatal risk factors in mice, by co-exposing pregnant dams to an environmental pollutant and limited-resource stress, which robustly dysregulated the maternal immune system. Male but not female offspring displayed long-lasting behavioral abnormalities and alterations in the activity of brain networks encoding social interactions, along with disruptions of gut structure and microbiome composition. Cellularly, prenatal stressors impaired microglial synaptic pruning in males during early postnatal development. Precise inhibition of microglial phagocytosis during the same critical period mimicked the impact of prenatal stressors on the male-specific social deficits. Conversely, modifying the gut microbiome rescued the social and cellular deficits, indicating that environmental stressors alter neural circuit formation in males via impairing microglia function during development, perhaps via a gut-brain disruption.

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LORA HEISLER
UNIVERSITY OF ABERDEEN
ABERDEEN, UK
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Targeting the brain to improve obesity and type 2 diabetes

19th July2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

The increasing prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes (T2D) and associated morbidity and mortality emphasizes the need for a more complete understanding of the mechanisms mediating energy homeostasis to accelerate the identification of new medications. Recent reports indicate that obesity medication, 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT, serotonin)2C receptor (5-HT2CR) agonist lorcaserin improves glycemic control in association with weight loss in obese patients with T2D. We examined whether lorcaserin has a direct effect on insulin sensitivity and how this effect is achieved. We clarify that lorcaserin dose-dependently improves glycemic control in a mouse model of T2D without altering body weight. Examining the mechanism of this effect, we reveal a necessary and sufficient neurochemical mediator of lorcaserin’s glucoregulatory effects, via activation of brain pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) peptides. We observed that lorcaserin reduces hepatic glucose production and improves insulin sensitivity. These data suggest that lorcaserin’s action within the brain represents a mechanistically novel treatment for T2D: findings of significance to a prevalent global disease.

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AMITA SEHGAL
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
PHILADELPHIA, PA, USA
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Why we all need a good night’s sleep

12th July 
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

We seek to determine how circadian rhythms and sleep are integrated with physiological processes to provide optimal fitness and health. Using initially a Drosophila model, and more recently also mammalian models, we have found that aspects of the blood brain barrier (BBB) are controlled by the circadian clock. BBB properties are also influenced by sleep:wake state in Drosophila, and, in fact, appear to be contribute to functions of sleep. This and other work, which implicates sleep in the regulation of metabolic processes, is providing insights into sleep function

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SEBASTIEN BOURET
INSERM
LILLE, FRANCE
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Importance of perinatal hormones and diet on hypothalamic development and lifelong metabolic regulation

5th July
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

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SIR STEPHEN O'RAHILLY
UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
INSTITUTE OF METABOLIC SCIENCE, CAMBRIDGE, UK
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Some new insights into the central sensing of nutritional state and somatic stress

28th June
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

This talk will focus on two areas. I will firstly discuss some new data, starting with insights from rare human genetic variants, which helps to clarify the role of the central melanocortin system in the acquisition of nutrients and their disposition into growth, the acquisition of lean mass and sexual maturation . I will then discuss some aspects of the emerging biology of GDF15; a sentinel hormone conveying information regarding a range of somatic stresses to the brain.

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BETH STEVENS
BOSTON CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL
HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL, BOSTON, MA, USA
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Neuro-Immune Coupling: How the Immune System Sculpts Brain Circuitry

21st June
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

In this lecture, Dr Stevens will discuss recent work that implicates brain immune cells, called microglia, in sculpting of synaptic connections during development and their relevance to autism, schizophrenia and other brain disorders. Her recent work revealed a key role for microglia and a group of immune related molecules called complement in normal developmental synaptic pruning, a normal process required to establish precise brain wiring. Emerging evidence suggests aberrant regulation of this pruning pathway may contribute to synaptic and cognitive dysfunction in a host of brain disorders, including schizophrenia. Recent research has revealed that a person’s risk of schizophrenia is increased if they inherit specific variants in complement C4, gene plays a well-known role in the immune system but also helps sculpt developing synapses in the mouse visual system (Sekar et al., 2016). Together these findings may help explain known features of schizophrenia, including reduced numbers of synapses in key cortical regions and an adolescent age of onset that corresponds with developmentally timed waves of synaptic pruning in these regions. Stevens will discuss this and ongoing work to understand the mechanisms by which complement and microglia prune specific synapses in the brain. A deeper understanding of how these immune mechanisms mediate synaptic pruning may provide novel insight into how to protect synapses in autism and other brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s Disease.

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CLEMENCE BLOUET
INSTITUTE OF METABOLIC SCIENCE
UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE, UK
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Central representations of protein availability regulating appetite and body weight control

14th June
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

Dietary protein quantity and quality greatly impact metabolic health via evolutionary-conserved mechanisms that ensure avoidance of amino acid imbalanced food sources, promote hyperphagia when dietary protein density is low, and conversely produce satiety when dietary protein density is high. Growing evidence support the emerging concept of protein homeostasis in mammals, where protein intake is maintained within a tight range independently of energy intake to reach a target protein intake. The behavioural and neuroendocrine mechanisms underlying these adaptations are unclear and form the focus of our research.

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KEVIN MANN
STANFORD UNIVERSITY
STANFORD, CA, USA
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Causal coupling between neural activity, metabolism, and behavior across the Drosophila brain

7th June
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

Coordinated activity across networks of neurons is a hallmark of both resting and active behavioral states in many species, including worms, flies, fish, mice and humans. These global patterns alter energy metabolism in the brain over seconds to hours, making oxygen consumption and glucose uptake widely used proxies of neural activity. However, whether changes in neural activity are causally related to changes in metabolic flux in intact circuits on the sub-second timescales associated with behavior, is unclear. Moreover, it is unclear whether differences between rest and action are associated with spatiotemporally structured changes in neuronal energy metabolism at the subcellular level. My work combines two-photon microscopy across the fruit fly brain with sensors that allow simultaneous measurements of neural activity and metabolic flux, across both resting and active behavioral states. It demonstrates that neural activity drives changes in metabolic flux, creating a tight coupling between these signals that can be measured across large-scale brain networks. Further, using local optogenetic perturbation, I show that even transient increases in neural activity result in rapid and persistent increases in cytosolic ATP, suggesting that neuronal metabolism predictively allocates resources to meet the energy demands of future neural activity. Finally, these studies reveal that the initiation of even minimal behavioral movements causes large-scale changes in the pattern of neural activity and energy metabolism, revealing unexpectedly widespread engagement of the central brain.

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MANUEL TENA-SEMPERE
IMIBIC, UNIVERSITY OF CÓRDOBA
CÓRDOBA, SPAIN
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Brain-body interactions in the metabolic/nutritional control of puberty: Neuropeptide pathways and central energy sensors.

31st May
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

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CAMILLA NORD
UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
CAMBRIDGE, UK
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The translational potential of body-brain interactions for mental health treatment

17th May
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

Bodily experience plays a role in the genesis of symptoms across many mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and mood disorders. Targeting bodily signals or their interpretation could represent a distinct avenue for treatment. But how should novel treatments be developed? This talk will take two approaches to developing treatments for brain-body interactions in mental health disorders. First, I will discuss an experimental medicine study in health controls (Nord & Dalmaijer et al, 2021 Current Biology). In this study, we used a pharmacological manipulation of gastric state (the anti-emetic domperidone), and measured its effects on an implicit measure of disgust avoidance, oculomotor behaviour. We found domperidone weakened the ‘immunity’ of disgust avoidance to habituation after prolonged, incentivised exposure. This could have translational implications for future therapeutic interventions. Next, I will discuss a neuroimaging analysis of existing interoceptive datasets in diverse psychiatric populations (Nord et al., In Press, The American Journal of Psychiatry). Using activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis, we discovered that a common neural locus underpins transdiagnostic interoceptive differences (across patients with bipolar disorder, anxiety, major depression, anorexia, and schizophrenia). This locus could represent a putative neural target for intervention development. I will end with a conceptual model of mental health treatment development, emphasising the key role that cognitive neuroscience could play in forward- and back-translational science.

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CHRISTOPH SCHEIERMANN
LMU MUNICH, GERMANY
UNIVERSITÉ DE GENÈVE, SWITZERLAND
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Sympathetic control of lymph node function

3rd May
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

Peripheral nerve injury can cause debilitating disease and immune-cell mediated destruction of the affected nerve. While the focus of most studies has been on the nerve-degenerative response, the effect of loss of innervation on lymph node function is largely unclear. Here, I will discuss the cellular and molecular events caused by local denervation and loss of direct neural input to the popliteal lymph node that induce an inflammatory response and lymph node expansion.

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SUPRIYA SRINIVASAN
SCRIPPS RESEARCH
LA JOLLA, CA, USA
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Communication between the brain and the gut:
Learnings from C. elegans

19th Apr
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

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DOUGLAS A. BAYLISS
UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA, USA
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The retrotrapezoid nucleus: an integrative and interoceptive hub in neural control of breathing

12th Apr
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

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DRAGANA ROGULJA
HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
BOSTON, MA, USA
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Sleep and the gut

5th Apr
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

Sleep is generally associated with the brain but poor sleep impacts the entire body - many diseases are caused or exacerbated by sleep loss. Our work is uncovering ways in which sleep and the body interact. We found a special, two-way relationship between sleep and the gut: the gut is uniquely impacted by sleep loss, and it actively controls sleep quality. These findings could help us understand the origins of sleep as well as develop strategies to offset the negative consequences of inadequate sleep.

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DANIELA CARNEVALE
SAPIENZA UNVERSITY OF ROME
ROME, ITALY
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Neuroimmune interactions in Cardiovascular Diseases

29th Mar
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

The nervous system and the immune system share the common ability to exert gatekeeper roles at the interfaces between internal and external environment. Although interaction between these two evolutionarily highly conserved systems is long recognized, the pathophysiological mechanisms regulating their reciprocal crosstalk in cardiovascular diseases became object of investigation only more recently. In the last years, our group elucidated how the autonomic nervous system controls the splenic immunity recruited by hypertensive challenges. In my talk, I will focus on the molecular mechanisms that regulate the neuro-immune crosstalk in hypertension. I will elaborate on the mechanistic insights into this brain-spleen axis led us uncover a new molecular pathway mediating the neuroimmune interaction established by noradrenergic-mediated release in the spleen of placental growth factor (PlGF), an angiogenic growth factor potentially targetable with pharmacological approaches.

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JOHN F. CRYAN
UNIVERSITY COLLEGE CORK
CORK, IRELAND
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Gut Feelings: The Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis Across the Lifespan

22nd Mar
2021

16.00 UK

12.00 Eastern

The microbiota-gut-brain axis is emerging as a research area of increasing interest for those investigating the biological and physiological basis of brain development and behaviour during early life, adolescence & ageing. The routes of communication between the gut and brain include the vagus nerve, the immune system, tryptophan metabolism, via the enteric nervous system or by way of microbial metabolites such as short chain fatty acids. Studies in animal models have shown that the development of an appropriate stress response is dependent on the microbiota. Developmentally, a variety of factors can impact the microbiota in early life including mode of birth delivery, antibiotic exposure, mode of nutritional provision, infection, stress as well as host genetics. Recently, the gut microbiota has been implicated in regulating the stress response, and social behaviour. Moreover, fundamental brain processes from adult hippocampal neurogenesis to myelination to microglia activation have been shown to be regulated by the microbiome. Further studies will focus on understanding the mechanisms underlying such brain effects and how they can be exploited by microbiota-targeted interventions including ‘psychobiotics’ and diet

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KARA MARSHALL
SCRIPPS RESEARCH
LA JOLLA, CA, USA
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Under Pressure: the role of PIEZO ion channels in interoception

1st Mar
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

PIEZO ion channels detect force in cellular membranes. They are expressed in a wide variety of mammalian tissues, including the vasculature, lymphatic system, and the nervous system. We have found that PIEZO2 in sensory neurons is required for the mechanical senses of touch and proprioception, but our understanding of internal organ sensing, interoception, is far behind. I will describe our findings on the role of PIEZO ion channels in the lesser-known interoceptive senses in multiple organ systems.

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ANNA MOLOFSKY
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN
FRANCISCO, CA, USA
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Microglia, memories, and the extracellular space

22nd Feb
2021

16.00 UK

11.00 Eastern

Microglia are the immune cells of the brain, and play increasingly appreciated roles in synapse formation, brain plasticity, and cognition. A growing appreciation that the immune system involved in diseases like schizophrenia, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative diseases has led to renewed interest in how microglia regulate synaptic connectivity. Our group previously identified the IL-1 family cytokine Interleukin-33 (IL-33) as a novel regulator of microglial activation and function. I will discuss a mechanism by which microglia regulate synaptic plasticity and long-term memories by engulfing brain extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins. These studies raise the question of how these pathways may be altered or could be modified in the context of disease.

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