Per usual, I post some of the most fascinating science, current health news, and personal events from the year of 2011. Scientifically, I highlighted novel methods and materials, including optogenetics and fMRIs in rodents, and recent progress in drug addiction and circadian rhythms research, for the most part. Professionally, I had the opportunity to attend an international circadian meeting in Mexico, finish and DEFEND my dissertation (!!), start my post-doc, receive an NRSA, give my first society meeting talk, and rack up lots of moolah (in travel awards) for smaller scientific conferences. Personally, montegraphia and I have begun planning for the most expensive party that we will ever host (i.e our wedding).

Below, I provide brief summaries and links to some of my most revered scientific, professional, public health, and personal moments from the year.

January

Science: A paper featured in the Journal of Neuroscience during this month of record snowfall and freezing temperatures (at least for Ohio) characterized unique electrophysiological activity in the raphe–serotonin-enriched, bilateral nuclei of the midbrain–and thalamocortical circuitry that precede and follow the presentation of rewarding stimuli in a timed-interval protocol. 

Public Health: I ranted about the consequences of following the “Jerzday” lifestyle of gym, tan, laundry…..and staying up until 5 am and waking up at noon, which is promoting unhealthy sleep habits to teens–the demographic who needs the most sleep.

Video:  This science geek video went viral during January, appearing daily in a FW email from many of my colleagues. I was in the process of putting the finishing touches on my dissertation at the time so it certainly reminded me of all the trials and tribulations that I had encountered throughout my years of experimentation in graduate school.


 February

Science: A group of Cambridge chronobiologists reported in Nature on the shocking discovery of a  rhythmic circadian clock in human red blood cells! I also attended another Guze Symposium on Alcoholism in St. Louis, MO which focused on drinking patterns in college communities and had several posters related to the neurobiology of alcoholism.

Public Health: The rapid increase in sports-related concussions and the long-term neurodegenerative consequences of multiple concussions led the NFL to mandate stricter rules for tackling, return to play, more extensive evaluation, and more  monetary investment in concussive research. All of this was comprehensively reported in a February issue of the New Yorker.

Random: American pole vaulter, Jenn Suhr, broke the American indoor pole vault record at a height of 15’11″ 1/4.

March

Science: The  protein, caseinomorphin, which has a similar biochemical makeup to morphine, was reported to modulate emotionally-salient, action-intensive, and theme-specific dreams. 

Personal: After 21 years, my family and I had to make the unbearable decision of having to put our dog–Helga–to sleep. We got her when I was in 1st grade! Here is a picture of Helga and me at one of my last track meets as a senior in college.

April

Science: One of the Journal of Neuroscience’s more fascinating original research reports of the year focused on the residual effects of short-term cocaine administration and its withdrawal on glutamatergic signaling, providing convincing evidence for why cocaine is rapidly and highly-addicting.

Public Health: The FAA–the government agency that directs air traffic– implemented much needed policies for how long and when a pilot can fly, particularly during international trips, after a series of pilots were reportedly asleep or experiencing several microsleeps while flying.

May

I officially became Dr. Allison Brager, PhD after successfully defending my dissertation on May 15th, 2011. Montegraphia, our crossfit gym, and I celebrated the milestone the day after by doing a wod that incorporated keywords from my research papers such as “SCN,” “24 hr,” “C57,” and “PER2″; [S] sprint 200 meters, [C] clean 75 lbs for 57 reps, [N] “neel” for 24 HR (hand-release) push ups PER 2 rounds. We are total nerds. Prior to that week, I had doubly impressed my advisor by answering many of Dr. Serge Daan’s questions–the grandfather of chronobiology–about my dissertation research.

Science: We attended the 3rd World Chronobiology Meeting in Puebla, Mexico, of which there was much discussion of extra-SCN oscillators.

Public Health: Many convenience stores, supermarkets, gas stations, and bars had begun to sell melatonin-saturated brownies called Lazy Cakes which are marketed to promote co-hypnotic and psychedelic, visceral sensations. Personally, I think that this is lunancy given that a majority of people are insensitive to exogenously-administered melatonin.

Also, through the assistance of exemplary intelligence, the US successfully located and assassinated Osama bin Laden, exacerbating the “truthers” and “birthers” movements.

June

Science: An extensive investigation in Science related eye anatomy to chronotype (nocturnal vs. diurnal vs. crepuscular)……in dinosaurs!

As typical of the month of June, I spent most of the month traveling to the annual SLEEP and Research Society on Alcoholism meetings.

July

Science: In my first journal club at Morehouse, we discussed a recent paper in Nature that immediately transformed the field of basic sleep research by arguing for more rigorous assessments of sleep and wakefulness at more local levels (the individual neuron) vs. historically global levels (EEG).

Personal: Montegraphia and I successfully packed up, moved, unpacked, and organized all of our belongings in our new, temporary [post-doc] home in Atlanta, GA over three days. I also traveled with many other members of my crossfit gym (All Heart CF) to LA for the Crossfit Games because our coach, Lisa Shiu, was competing in them. The Games are continually broadcasted on ESPN2, fyi.

August

Science: A paper in Journal of Neuroscience demonstrated the long-term, neuro healthy benefits of exercise.

September

Science: A study in Journal of Neuroscience reported that adenosine modulates the permeability of the blood-brain barrier which is the limiting factor of a drug’s actions on the central nervous system.

Mid-September was also National Postdoc Week which provided us with the opportunity, at least at Morehouse, to network with other academic and industry professionals in the Atlanta area as well as attend a seminar on the job talk.

October

Science: Throughout the year, I highlighted many papers featured in the Journal of Neuroscience about the influences of neurotrophic factors on drug seeking and intake, most notably for ethanol and cocaine.

November

For the third year in a row, dormivigilia was selected as the representative neuroendocrine and homeostatic blog of the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting that was held, this year, in DC. Do a general search on my blog for SfN 2011 to see the multiple entries.

December

 Science: The group of researchers who presented the landmark study featured on my blog in July published a follow-up in the Journal of Neuroscience in December on a more comprehensive assessment of the neuronal properties and brain localization of the sleep spindle.

 

Happy Blogging in 2012!