Strengthening Carolina's neural network

Neuroscience research is widespread on the University of South Carolina’s campus. The recent award of an $11.1 million grant, one of the largest the university has ever received, to establish a Center for the Study of Aphasia Recovery is just the latest success story highlighting the cutting-edge work taking place in laboratories all over campus.

“There is neuroscience research in five different schools at USC: the College of Engineering and Computing, the Arnold School of Public Health, the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Medicine and the South Carolina College of Pharmacy,” says David Mott, an associate professor in the School of Medicine. “And there are 10 different departments with neuroscience among those five schools, as well as clinical faculty at the Dorn VA.”

It’s a vibrant community, Mott says, and there’s so much going on in so many different places that it’s all too easy for researchers—students, especially—to miss out on interactions and collaborations. So a retreat was born.

The Neuroscience Community Retreat is now in its second year, exceeding expectations both times. When biological sciences professor Jeff Twiss chaired the organizing committee last year, they originally thought 60 people might come. A hundred registered. With Mott chairing this year, they hoped to increase attendance to 120, and 140 people participated.

The attendees were treated to a highly diverse slate of speakers and posters. Keynote speaker Chris Rorden, a psychology professor and SmartState Chair of Brain Imaging, provided new insights into the study of visual neglect. Jill Turner of the South Carolina College of Pharmacy discussed the neuregulin signaling pathway, which might link schizophrenia with nicotine dependence. Biologist Dan Speiser presented his research on the evolution of eyes and visual systems, focusing on marine mollusks that have hundreds of eyes. Post-doc Srimal Samaranyake of Parastoo Hashemi’s lab in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry discussed the coregulation of serotonin and histamine and how it might affect neurodegeneration, and Michy Kelly of the School of Medicine showed how important a single enzyme can be in influencing complex social behaviors. These are just 5 examples of 55 presentations from faculty, post-docs, graduate students and undergraduates.

The cumulative effect was to underscore the wide array of interdisciplinary approaches that Carolina researchers are harnessing to study the nervous system. And give the participants food for thought.

“Some people might be doing work that is neuroscience-related and want to apply what they are doing to the nervous system but do not have a way to do it,” says Twiss. “This is a great mechanism to come and learn who’s doing what and then approach them about collaborations.”

Learn more

For information about Neuronet, a monthly, informal gathering of folks interested in talking neuroscience at Delaney’s Speakeasy, contact Jill Turner.

For information about the neuroscience community’s listserv, contact Jeff Twiss.

The Neuroscience Community Retreat was sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Department of Biological Sciences, the Department of Psychology, the Institute for the Mind and Brain, the Department of Physiology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience, and the Department of Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences. It included 14 talks and more than 40 posters presented by faculty, post-docs, graduate students and undergraduates. The full program is available online.

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