The 4th annual Meeting of the Minds symposium was held at Stony Brook University on November 15, 2013, and was well attended by a cross-section of faculty and students from all over the university as well as some members of the public. The meeting also doubled as the opening of a SUNY-wide workshop, continuing over the weekend, that the Neuroscience Institute convened at the request of the SUNY Research Foundation. The workshop spearheaded the launch of a SUNY-wide "Brain Network of Excellence (BNE)" aimed at facilitating the efforts of the large community of neuroscientists currently distributed across SUNY's 64 campuses. Thus this Meeting of the Minds symposium was also attended by a substantial number of neuroscience faculty based at SUNY campuses other than Stony Brook.
The lectures on Nov 15th were designed to highlight interdisciplinary neuroscience relevant to brain activity mapping, the national grand scientific challenge recently announced by President Barack Obama. The symposium began with opening remarks from L. Reuven Pasternak, CEO of Stony Brook Hospital, who highlighted the importance of neuroscience to today's frontiers in health care, and NI Director Dennis Choi. The opening and keynote lecture was delivered by Dr. Cori Bargmann of Rockefeller University, who described her superb dissection of neural mechanisms and neurotransmitter pathways involved in behaviors of the worm, C. elegans. Other plenary lectures were delivered by SUNY faculty, as well as an investigator from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), a research partner of SUNY Stony Brook.
Dr. Todd Sacktor (Downstate) spoke about his discovery that a unique, persistently active kinase may play a key role in maintaining long term increases in synaptic strength, and hence perhaps memory. Dr. Shaoyu Ge (Stony Brook) spoke about delineating the functional integration of newly born neurons into adult circuits. Dr. Jian Feng (Buffalo) spoke about characterizing neurons derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells, an approach potentially useful in understanding the pathophysiology of genetically-driven diseases. Dr. Jose-Manuel Alonso (Optometry) spoke about using advanced multielectrode approaches to map mammalian thalamic and visual cortical circuits. Dr. Gerwin Schalk (Albany) spoke about analyzing human EEG signals to extract information about language centers and guide neurosurgery. Complementing these neurobiological talks, Dr. Arnd Pralle (Buffalo) discussed an innovative use of magnetic fields and thermal energy to achieve the remote stimulation of nerve cells, and Dr. Jim Turner (Binghamton) described the development of a new generation of flexible recording electrodes with built in microelectronics. Finally, lectures by Drs. Helene Benveniste (Stony Brook) and Justin Lee (KIST) reminded everyone that systems additional to classic neural circuits contribute to brain function. Dr. Benveniste described pioneering efforts to characterize the brain's newly recognized drainage (glymphatic) system in humans, and Dr. Lee discussed innovative ideas about glial GABA release, and how this might contribute to cognitive dysfunction in Alzheimer's disease.
The sessions were moderated by NI Co-Directors Lorna Role and Ramin Parsey. Closing remarks and acknowledgements were presented by NI Co-Director, Raphael Davis.