Over the next two months, Kent State University’s Departments of Biological Sciences and Psychology are hiring tenure-track faculty to establish and in some cases, expand the presence of behavioral neuroscientists and psychopathologists in the classrooms and research wings. For graduate students, we not only have the opportunity to network and discuss really sexy, groundbreaking science, but also don’t have to shop at the grocery store for two months, or at least minimally. Though I imagine a daily diet of pizza, cookies, coffee, some fruit and vegetables here and there, more pizza, and pop does not improve, but probably deteriorates prime mental functioning comparable to what these neuroscientists and psychopathologists are investigating through brain slices, rodent models, and/or case studies.
Today, I heard two excellent job candidates lectures, but I will only comment on the Biological Sciences prospective hire in the interest of the thousands of other blogs you have to read tonight. Dr. Jilla Sabeti of the Scripps Research Institute discussed the deleterious effects of alcohol abuse (acute, binge drinking) and alcoholism (chronic binge-drinking necessary for “normal” functioning) on memory and more specifically, kinetics of sigma-receptors. Dr. Sabeti investigates this through the utility of electrophysiology; after exposing adolescent and adult mice to chronic vaporous alcohol challenges that elicit repeated withdrawal, she characterizes long-term potentiation (LTP), a phenomenon highly indicative of learning and memory, in areas of the brain controlling memory, both declarative and emotional. Not surprisingly, there are reciprocal connections between memory and reward centers of the brain. Perhaps this explains why every time you revisit your college alma mater and/or the local brewery that was the site of your 21st birthday celebration that you have a craving to drink. In alcoholics, this contextual-dependent learning of associating a particular place, sound, smell etc with drinking is intensified and has certainly been shown to contribute to a vicious cycle of compulsive binge drinking. Interestingly enough, there is an additional ontological effect in which adult rats show persistent LTP with repeated alcohol exposure.
Here’s the representative paper of Dr. Sabeti’s seminar today. Emergence of NMDAR-Independent Long-Term Potentiation at Hippocampal CA1 Synapses Following Early Adolescent Exposure to Chronic Intermittent Ethanol: Role for Sigma-Receptors
Sabeti, J., & Gruol, D. (2008). Emergence of NMDAR-independent long-term potentiation at hippocampal CA1 synapses following early adolescent exposure to chronic intermittent ethanol: Role for sigma-receptors Hippocampus, 18 (2), 148-168 DOI: 10.1002/hipo.20379
Tomorrow she joins the graduate student for lunch (i.e. pizza from one of the five crappy pizza shops in Kent, Ohio…..oh how I miss East Coast pizza shops………….)