Go hear science from the person doing said science

Center for Neuroscience’s 20th Anniversary

20th AnniversaryThe UC Davis Center for Neuroscience (CNS)  celebrated two decades of innovation and discovery on Friday, February 28, 2014.

Representing 13 academic departments and 5 Schools and Colleges, CNS faculty are one of the most interdisciplinary and internationally recognized teams of neuroscientists. Faculty seek to understand the fundamental basis of brain function, from molecular mechanisms to neuronal circuits and cognitive processing. Prestigious awards for their seminal contributions include the John D. and Catherine D. MacArthur Award, more than six Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship Awards, two U.S. Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, and several Early Career and Lifetime Career Awards in international societies.

Founded in the early 1990s under the direction of Dean of the Division of Biological Sciences, Robert D. Grey and a small cadre of ambitious faculty neurobiologists, the Center for Neuroscience has enjoyed three distinct phases of growth under the directorships of Drs. Michael Gazzaniga, Leo Chalupa, and Edward Jones. Specific advances of Center for Neuroscience faculty in recent years include new insights into electrical and biochemical signaling, synaptic development, sensory processing, and memory, and how these processes sometimes break down.

Pasko Rakic gives First Annual E. G. (Ted) Jones History of Neuroscience Lecture

Dr. Pasko RakicToday a world-renowned neuroscientist, Pasko Rakic., M.D., Ph.D., spoke at the UC Davis Buehler Alumni Center on the “Development and Evolution of the Cerebral Cortex.”  His talk marked the First Annual E. G. (Ted) Jones History of Neuroscience Lecture.

Earlier in the day, students met with him for lunch, during which he shared his perspective on topics such as his successful career trajectory, the Brain Activity Map project, and possible reasons for the slowing pace of drug discovery.  His easy sense of humor kept the mood light even while discussing more serious topics.

One of the main points of Rakic’s lecture is that although animal models such as rodents can offer exceptional insight into how our brains develop (“I wrote a book on it!”), we must understand that the conclusions we can extrapolate into humans are limited.  During lunch he illustrated this idea, explaining that if you want to understand how birds fly, you don’t study the mouse, because the mouse doesn’t fly.  Similarly, if we want to understand prefrontal cortex function in humans, we can’t study the mouse, because the mouse doesn’t have prefrontal cortex.   “We are so excited about the similarities that we neglect the differences.”  Highlighting the fact that molecules sometimes play different roles from one species to the next, he shared his surprise when learning that NEDD, which is involved in human cortical development, stood for “Not Expressed During Development” in Drosophila.

Rakic also addressed the seemingly age-old Genes vs. Environment (Nature vs. Nuture) controversy, which he exemplified in a debate he had with Colin Blakemore.  Each debater began by siding with either genes or environment, believing that only one mattered in development.  After two hours and several glasses of wine, they came to an agreement —  they were asking the wrong question!  Instead of debating whether genes or environment mattered, they should have been asking “Which is primary and which is secondary?”  This thoughtful interpretation of the issue is sure to become more prominent as we learn more about epigenetics, risk factors, and environmental triggers.

Finally, Rakic was not ashamed to poke fun at himself.  While displaying a list of some of his lab’s publications, he noted, “They are in good journals; that means they are true!”  A double lesson in modesty and the importance of judging science by its quality and reproducibility, and not just by the title.

First Annual E.G. (Ted) Jones History of Neuroscience Lecture

The UC Davis Center for Neuroscience invites you to the
First Annual E.G. (Ted) Jones History of Neuroscience Lecture


Presented by Pasko Rakic, M.D., Ph.D.
Monday, March 25, 2013

Lecture at 4 p.m.
Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center
530 Alumni Lane Davis, CA 95616
Reception to follow

Please RSVP to Jacqueline Smith at by Wednesday, March 6.

First set of first year’s rotation talks

sorry, I haven’t slept much
– Said Joey and thought every first year, ever

As far as I know, no one truly likes the quarter system. The constraints of the 10 week time frame is felt most acutely by the first years. The amount of time you have to collect data in a rotation feels miniscule. We are talking two, maybe four weeks if you and your lab are prepared. Yet data always is collected just in time for the talks.

Today, across two sessions, the twelve current first years debuted on the graduate school stage. Below is a brief summary of the work presented. Every presentation was very well presented and full of well-designed slides.

They killed it

With that, first quarter is done

Lindzi Wessel, Martinez-Cerdeno lab: the impact of autism on spine morphology in prefrontal cortex

Anna Kreutz, Lein lab: the impact of organic phosphates on the density of synapse

Joey Broussard, Trimmer lab: explored the interaction kv2 receptors and AMIGO-1

David Grayson, Berman lab: explored inducable pathology in FXTAS mouse model

Abby Laman-Maharg, Trainor lab: the impact of social stress on depression markers in the mouse brain

Deepa Ramamurthy, Krubitzer lab: the impact of environmental stimuli on the development of visual acuity

Abbie Popa, Bauman lab: evaluated lateral ventricle volumes in the immune activation model of autism

Sarah White, Wiltgen lab: piloted a behavioral assay of memory consolidation in mice

Ali Izadi, Ekstrom lab: the impact of lateral fluid percussion traumatic brain injury on hippocampal theta oscillations

Amber Schedlbauer, Ekstrom lab: evaluated differences in functional connectivity for successful and unsuccessful memory retrieval

Megan Tillman, DeCarli lab: the impact of dementia on the functional connectivity in visual cortex

Joe Huff, Goldman lab: tested a model of retinal ganglion neurons’ intrinsic properties

The Life Work of Dr. Ted Jones

Dr. Edward (Ted) G Jones

On March 26, the UC Davis neuroscience community paid tribute to the remarkable influence that Dr. Edward (Ted) Jones, the former director of our Center for Neuroscience, had on them. Part memorial and part scientific symposium, attendees were privileged to see Dr. Jones’ legacy presented across four major themes. Speakers included old friends and colleagues, previous trainees who went on to start their own labs, and faculty who were hired by Ted to the Center for Neuroscience.

The symposium started with Thalamo-Cortical Circuitry with presentations from Mark Goldman, Clay Reid, Aric Agmon, Marty Usrey, and Jochen Ditterich. It was easy to see how his seminal work still influences the questions we are still trying to answer.

In the Plasticity and Development discussion, Marie Burns reminded us that even the great Ted Jones had periods of lower productivity (and by that we mean < 5 publications that year).  The session included presentations from John Rubenstein, Deanna Benson, Hwai-Jong Cheng, and Karen Zito.

As a student attendee, a true highlight was the talk by Larry Squire on the History of Neuroscience. It is all too easy to get caught up in trying to stay on top of what is being published right now. Dr. Squire’s and Dr. Jones’ shared passion for documenting how our field has developed is contagious.

The last session featured a more recent dimension of Ted’s work: Diseases of Brain Circuitry, with a focus on schizophrenia. Presenters were Noelle L’Etoile, Davis Lewis, Schahram Akbarian, Kim McAllister, and Charan Ranganath.

Finally, attendees were privileged to hear from Ted’s close, longtime friend Rodolfo Llinas.

Many graduate students, even those not lucky enough to have been taught by Ted, attended the symposium. Some of them shared their thoughts:

One student noted, “Being new to the Center for Neuroscience, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Each story, though, unfolded in such a cohesive way that it left you only curious about what the next speaker would share about Ted Jones as a mentor, as a scientist, as a friend, as a grandfather, and as a leader.  From what it seems, his influence had much to do with the unassuming, humble, and very passionate attitudes of the speakers, who will undoubtedly carry on his commitment to conducting quality science.”

Doug Totten, a 3rd year graduate student in Will DeBello’s lab, “found the personal reflections and stories inspirational.  Even second-hand exposure to intimate interactions with a scientist like Dr. Jones let you know that he was a living, loving human being just like ourselves, and that such monumental accomplishments are achievable if one can just summon the passion, dedication and muster to see them through.”

The most memorable part of the symposium for Samuel Lockhart, 4th year graduate student in Charlie DeCarli’s lab, “might have been during a break in the lobby when I got to chat with Sue, Dr. Jones’ wife. She described how Dr. Jones’ colleagues are always amazed at how much work he got done when he was at Oxford (e.g., multiple seminal publications) and that he really did work incredibly hard during that period: he only took one day off a week, he often worked for an entire day before dinner and an entire workday again after dinner… it just reminded me of Dr. Jones’ incredible work ethic and inspired me to suck it up and work harder.”

— contributed by Andrea Quintero, 4th year graduate student in Tony Simon’s lab