This year’s annual Cognitive Neuroscience Society conference was in beautiful San Francisco. This year marked the 26th annual meeting. In his keynote address, Dr. Matthew Walker, from the University of California, Berkeley, talked about the cognitive and health effects of not getting enough sleep. He spoke about his research findings which link a lack of sleep to memory decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and cognitive deficits. A message all students (and professors) need to hear!
He talked about how in his research lab he and his colleagues use electrical stimulation to increase the amount of deep sleep (stages 3 and 4) in adults in order to enhance learning and memory functions as well as reverse cognitive deficits. According to Dr. Walker, sleep is the most effective activity that a person can easily do to keep one’s brain and body health and possibly prevent or minimize neurodegenerative diseases.
Another interesting talk at the conference included the history of the emergence of cognitive neuroscience as a prominent field. The speaker also discussed new emergences in this field.
This year two recent graduates of Vanguard University, Megan Jeske (Psychology Major) and Taylor (Biology Major), presented their research findings from their work over the last two summers in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP). They shared their research examining two different methods used to study whether similar methamphetamine-associated memories go through reconsolidation.
The results of the studies showed that both conditioning methodologies, one that involved a 12-day procedure and the second one which involved a 15-day procedure, resulted in rats demonstrating a strong preference for two methamphetamine paired compartments. In both methods, administration of memantine after exposure to one methamphetamine paired compartment disrupted drug-seeking behavior for that particular compartment but did not disrupt drug-seeking behavior for the second methamphetamine-associated compartment.
During the poster session, we had graduate students visit our poster and ask questions about our research and the implications of our findings, and future studies. During the session, I also had Megan and Taylor go around visiting other posters and seeing the various types of research and projects going on in the variety of subfields in cognitive neuroscience.
Both myself and my students came out of this conference having gained much. My students got to practice their oral and critical thinking skills. They also got to see other types of cutting-edge research in the field of cognitive neuroscience. While it was clear that the two students benefited from this experience, I also gained much myself. I was able to meet a graduate student from a lab from the University of Chicago, who does similar experiments as I do, but on humans. Yes! That means, they give humans methamphetamine to get them to associate specific cues with drug-administration!