“The human brain — a spongy, three-pound mass of tissue — is the most complex living structure in the known universe.”  (Society for Neuroscience)

The Thompson Lab with the $500 check. L-R: Dr. Bob Thompson, Josh Azevedo (back row), Jodi-Anne Steward (front) and Chris Cooke (back row).
The Thompson Lab with the $500 check. L-R: Dr. Bob Thompson, Josh Azevedo (back row), Jodi-Anne Steward (front) and Chris Cooke (back row).

Over 30,000 scientists dedicated to the study of the brain and nervous system convened in San Diego last month at Neuroscience 2013.  The meeting, the largest of its kind in the world, took place from November 9 – 13 at the San Diego Convention Center and featured more than 15,000 scientific presentations, 34 professional development and networking sessions, and 600 exhibitors.

The BioSurplus team was there to network and spread the word about the value of used lab equipment.  At meeting’s end, the team raffled off $500 to a lucky winner.

We had the opportunity to follow up with that winner, Dr. Bob Thompson, and discuss his research and experiences at the meeting.


The Neurobiology of Mood Disorders

Dr. Thompson is a research associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  He and his lab research the neurobiology of mood disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.  His goal is to understand, at the genomic and anatomical levels, what exactly goes astray in the brains of those that suffer from these serious diseases.

And serious they are:  mental disorders strike 44 million American adults each year at a cost of $148 billion (SfN).   By studying the genomics of mood disorders, Dr. Thompson seeks to “tap into the black box of these diseases, and by understanding what’s wrong, hopefully we can provide insight and develop future effective treatments.”


Society for Neuroscience

According to Dr. Thompson, the field of neuroscience encompasses many areas, from the central nervous system to the peripheral nervous system, as well as a “constellation of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s” as well as the mood disorders he researches.

The Society for Neuroscience was founded in 1969 with 500 members; the first annual meeting was held in Washington, D.C. in 1971, and attracted nearly 1,400 attendees.  The society’s mission is fourfold:

  1. To advance understanding of the brain and nervous system by bringing together scientists of diverse backgrounds, and encouraging translational research and the application of scientific knowledge to develop disease treatments
  2. To provide professional development activities and educational resources for neuroscientists, as well as increase the participation of scientists from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds
  3. To promote public information and general education about the latest neuroscience research, and,
  4. To inform legislators and policymakers about new scientific knowledge and developments in neuroscience

(Read more about SfN’s mission on their website – click here)


Neuroscience 2013 Highlights

“SfN’s annual meeting is one of the few places where the many areas of brain and nervous system function are covered,” said Dr. Thompson, “as well as the diverse approaches to research:  from psychological to behavioral and anatomical, cell biology and electro-physiology to structural biology and beyond.”

BioSurplus' Leonard Marquez with Lawreen Asuncion, marketing director, Aplegen. Thanks Lawreen for helping us pick the winner!
BioSurplus’ Leonard Marquez with Lawreen Asuncion, marketing director, Aplegen. Thanks Lawreen for helping us pick the winner!

Dr. Thompson has been attending SfN for close to 23 years, and said that the meeting can be daunting for some.  The variety of subjects covered as well as the many available choices as to presentations and events to attend can be exhausting.  This is easily overcome, though:  “if you want to focus on only one subject there are still dozens, if not hundreds, of presentations on that subject to choose from,” he said.

Among the highlights of the meeting are the keynote presentations.  This year they included a lecture by Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, on how to “foster and nurture creativity in a competitive work environment,” as well as a special presentation titled “Understanding New Brain Initiatives in the United States and Europe,” with representatives from U.S. federal agencies and the European Union discussing recent international investment in neuroscience research.

Dr. Thompson said these presentations “help explain why we do what we do, and how very important our research is to the public.”  News conferences were also held on 11 topics of public importance, featuring scientists talking about their research and findings.

These news conferences covered topics including brain wellness, diet, genetics and neurological disorders, and resulted in “a swell of publicity for neuroscience in publications, websites, and radio and television broadcasts around the world (SfN).”

We concluded our discussion with another of Dr. Thompson’s meeting highlights:  the vendor booths on the show floor.  He said that they are very valuable for the attendees, especially students:

“The diverse vendor presence is a great attraction at SfN.  It provides an excellent opportunity for students to talk with company representatives about new products, and can even lead to new experimental research approaches.”

Finally, Dr. Thompson was pleased at winning the $500 giveaway from BioSurplus.  We’ve included a photo of him and his lab partners with the winnings.

BioSurplus wishes them a happy holiday season, and the best of luck in their scientific endeavors.