Yongsoo Kim- social behaviour and autism…and… Starosciak- alcohol self-admin

I enjoyed two symposium talks this afternoon: first I heard Kim talk about a great new whole brain imaging technique. He has basically automated slicing and microscopy so he can visualise cfos and get an image through each slice, making for some cool animations on his slides. The whole process takes 22 hours.

He was interested in autism behaviors in different KO strains, but looking at how exposure to social novelty vs. general novelty differentials activated different areas of the brain. I think the technique could be useful for a lot of things, especially as it is probably way cheaper than something like PET or MR.

If you are interested, you can find more info by looking up whole brain serial 2-photon tomography (I am definitely planning to check it out). He even has the counting automated and a cool warping procedure to fit each brain to a standard atlas.

Does it worry anyone that we are being replaced by machines? I hope it means more vacation!

The other cool talk was on social enrichment and stress predicting alcohol intake. Depending on the self-admin paradigm used there are opposite results on self-admin in stressed/isolates vs. enriched rats.

The number of groups in this study was quite impressive, but I think that it is a bit of a stretch to call her paradigm social enrichment. I think it is more standard vs. deprived conditions. I definitely thought th at since stress was manipulated she also should have looked at social hierarchy in the home cage, since this could be underlying some of the effects from stress response.

I like the idea of using two different models (operant and forced choice) because it adds a layer of contextual sophistication and complexity to the study. I guess that is my big thing this SFN- experiments that bite off a lot and approach the complexity of behaviour in a thorough, methodical way without making gross generalisations.

The brain behaves differently depending on so many outside factors and it is important to take at least some of these into account in any behavioural model.

One problem with enrichment/stress work, though, is that it is always unclear what is causing the differences. In this study they used fox door as well as loud noises during the stress sessions, so who know what is really behind the effects.

Overall, enriched animals drank more, contrary to the obvious hypothesis. Again, it seems to me that dominance status could be a good predictor to look at for individual drinking differences. Someone do this study!

I really enjoyed both of these talks. Hope you were able to see them. Hit me up on twitter if you have any thing to add!

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