Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Lesson Learned from the Society for Neuroscience 2013

There is nothing like the cool, fresh Vermont air to welcome one home! You might think that I'd just returned from some hot, humid, unpleasant place, but actually I was lucky enough to have been visiting beautiful San Diego. San Diego was home to the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) 43rd Meeting, and I was representing BioTek Instruments for this exciting meeting. Nearly 30,000 attendees had the opportunity to attend the four full days of exhibits at the meeting. BioTek displayed the 405 Touch Microplate Washer and our new MultiFlo FX Microplate Dispenser, but the main attraction for this group of scientists was the new Cytation 3 Cell Imaging Multi-Mode Reader. Many people stopped to watch the Image Library on the large flat screen - the Image Library is a collection of vivid multi-colored cells, tissue and zebrafish, all collected with Cytation 3's automated widefield digital fluorescence microscopy module.

SfN booth

The exhibit floor was busy throughout the SfN meetings, but since I'm a confessed binge shopper,  I managed to find some time to visit the SfN Store. Among the usual logo mugs and pens, this toddler t-shirt caught my eye:


It says “Eat Sleep Play Prune”. After racking my brain as to who I could give such a unique shirt to, I paused to ask myself if I even knew what it meant. My answer was no. So naturally, I asked the lady who was buying one if she knew what it meant and she said no…okay, I won’t judge. Luckily, someone overheard us and she explained that (synaptic) pruning is very important to a child’s cognitive development. Apparently, brain growth is uninhibited during infancy and pruning begins during the toddler years.  Aha! Now we know why it was only being sold in toddler sizes…but more on pruning: Simply put, pruning consists of reducing weak synapses in the brain and strengthening others, resulting in a stronger and more efficient brain.  As opposed to apoptosis, where the neuron and its connections are killed, the neuron does not die in pruning. Instead, axons from unnecessary synaptic connections are retracted, ultimately removing some neuronal structures from the brain under a “use it or lose it” condition. On the outside, we may notice it as increased visual acuity, a speech preference for their native language and improved memory as a child gets older.

So, pruning turns out to be a very interesting topic as supported by this information as well as the t-shirts flying off the shelves. In the end, I didn’t buy a t-shirt but ended up fulfilling my needs by snagging a highly appropriate “I ♥ BRAINS” swag bag instead.

By: Ellaine Abueg Ph.D., Product Manager, Specialist

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