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UCL Neuroscience Symposium 2014: an overview

ucyow3c2 July 2014

pencil-iconWritten by Jack Moore, BSc student at St Mary’s University

With over 800 people attending and almost 200 posters being presented, there was a real sense of excitement around the halls of the Institute of Education (IoE) where the 5th annual UCL Neuroscience symposium was held on 19 June.

James Rothman

Professor James Rothman

With so many people at the event, and so much being presented, it was a great opportunity to discover what other researchers have been doing and share thoughts on the latest developments. Over the years the event has only got bigger, with the entry queue this year winding all the way up the stairs of the IoE.

The day began with last year’s Nobel Prize winner, Professor James Rothman (Yale University), giving a thought-provoking opening keynote speech on how calcium controls neurotransmitter release to a packed auditorium of both students and staff. As Professor Rothman is a Professorial Research Associate in the UCL Institute of Neurology, it seemed a fitting way to begin a symposium in which such a diverse and successful domain get a chance to come together and learn about what is being achieved by different institutes and laboratories.

After the applause for Professor Rothman had quietened down, everyone finally had a chance to see all 180 posters on offer at the event. Dr Martine Groen, who was on the panel deciding this year’s Laboratory Poster Prize, told me the winning poster would have to be one that was nice to read and walk through, making clear what the research question is and why it is interesting.

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Whatcha guvnor: inside the mind of a London cabbie

Clare S Ryan28 November 2013

London’s black taxis – or cabs – are as iconic as Big Ben, red buses and the London Eye, so it was no surprise to arrive to a packed audience at Dr Hugo Spiers’s (UCL Cognitive, Perceptual & Brain Sciences) Lunch Hour Lecture on 21 November.

The lecture was a whistle stop tour of the brains of a London cabbie, famously studied by UCL neuroscientists for more than 15 years.

London cabbies – what’s the big deal?
The Great Exhibition of 1851 gave birth to the London cabbie as we know it: the deficiency of the taxi service at the time became widely publicised and, in response, the first test for London’s taxi drivers was devised, called the London Knowledge.

Today, drivers who can complete ‘the Knowledge’ are able to perform amazing feats of memory multiple times a day. To pass the test, they must memorise more than 25,000 streets and one thousand sites of interest so that they can mentally map the route from any point in London to any other.

Learning the knowledge takes three years (similar to a UCL undergraduate degree) and the exam is rarely passed first time.

As a result of this gruelling training, the brains of cabbies are of particular interest to neuroscientists, as they can be used to study lots of interesting questions, such as does special memory change the shape of cabbies’ brains? How does the brain navigate space? And, fundamentally, how does memory work?

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Wellcome Image Awards 2012

Clare S Ryan21 June 2012

Visual imagery is a particularly powerful way of getting people to see science in a different way – as a source of beauty – as well as providing important information about the world around us.

The Wellcome Trust knows this perhaps better than anyone. Their annual Wellcome Image Awards celebrate the best images submitted to their archive in the previous year, and, as usual, UCL scientists get a particularly good showing.

Out of a total of 16 winners, four UCL images were presented with awards by the host Fergus Walsh, the BBC’s medical correspondent.

Three of UCL’s winning images were taken by the same team- Annie Cavanagh and David McCarthy from the UCL School of Pharmacy. Two images were of crystals; the first, a false-colour magnification of caffeine crystal, reminiscent of particularly beautiful sticks of rhubarb. (more…)

Queen Square Symposium

news editor27 March 2012

Ana Carolina Saraiva (ACS), a first year PhD student at the Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, and Xun Yu Choong (XYC), a first year student on the four-year PhD programme in Clinical Neuroscience, report on the 13th Queen Square Symposium, held on 16 March.

What began as a small event over a decade ago has developed to become the primary student-led conference in Queen Square (QS).

The QS Symposium is organised by students for students, bringing them together across departments, and aims to provide a platform to showcase the diversity of scientific research carried out in the UCL Institute of Neurology. The format for this was presenting posters about research projects.

This year showcased a variety of high-quality research, ranging from cognitive to clinical studies of neuroscience and neurology. How does the menstrual cycle affect perception of emotional faces? Are enlarged perivascular spaces on MRI a new imaging window for cerebral small vessel diseases?

This was an opportunity for the bright minds of the future to show us what they’ve got!

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