Nearly every May and June, it is “conference season” for me. A majority of our professional society meetings fall towards the end of the school year. This year is no different. Last week, I was in Minneapolis for the annual sleep meeting which brings together clinical and basic sleep researchers. Next week, I will be in Big Sky, Montana–a first–to attend the Society for Research on Biological Rhythms meeting.

The sleep meeting was a bigger surprise this year because the basic research community finally got paid attention to by the program committee. In years past, the program has been disproportionately focused on clinical research which is important, but it doesn’t represent the sleep community as a whole. Last year, many of us boycotted the annual sleep meeting (myself included) so perhaps it was noticed?

At any rate, Minneapolis is a great place to have a conference because there really isn’t much to do but go to the conference. Sure there are some unique pubs and bars here and there, but the site seeing is a little lacking. Although, I did manage to run along the Mississippi River one day.

Mississippi

Overall, the basic research overlapped with what was presented with Gordon. There were updates in the stories. Once again, I was blown away by the work and presentation of Dr. Mark Blumberg from the University of Iowa. His laboratory studies the functional significances of twitches during sleep, particularly REM sleep. As he has shown, it is near impossible to study how the brain encodes twitches during wake because of all the white noise. During sleep though, it is apparent that the twitches are picked up by areas of the thalamus. Following Dr. Blumberg’s talk, Dr. Markus Schmidt gave a monologue (of sorts) on his interpretation of why sleep is necessary and important. At one point in his life, Dr. Schmidt was an evolutionary biologist and so his energy allocation theory fits with this. In years past, sleep has been thought to exist for the preservation of energy. This is true to some extent. But think about all the processes that require attention paid to while asleep like tissue repair. This is an active, metabolic process, isn’t it?

The meeting would not have been complete without a visit to Chef Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen. One night I had kangaroo there. Apparently kangaroo meat is very high in protein and considered a humane meat source by Aussie ecologists. The second day I had a Juicy Lucifer which is a Minneapolis staple of hamburger meat rolled in cheese.