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Cajal Winter Conference 2016, en el corazón de las Rías Baixas


Por: Roberto Carlos Agís Balboa
Investigador Ramón y Cajal
Instituto de Investigación Biomédica de Orense, Pontevedra y Vigo
Hospital Álvaro Cunqueiro, Vigo

El pasado septiembre asistí por primera vez al congreso de la SENC 2015 en Granada. Quién me iba a decir a mí, que mi primer Cajal Winter se celebraría en mi tierra, Sanxenxo. Todo comenzó con una conversación típica de los congresos. Después de las charlas científicas llegaron los vinos, las cañas… y esas conversaciones de verdad donde los neurocientíficos queremos cambiar el mundo, pero esta vez en vez de fútbol o política, el tema era diferente. Casto Rivadulla comenta: “Oye, podríamos hacer el próximo Cajal Winter en Sanxenxo”. Y señores, al final las mariposas del alma de Cajal hicieron un buen trabajo, no se vieron afectadas por los niveles de etanol en sangre, no hubo pérdida de memoria y la información llegó en el momento justo y al sitio adecuado. ¡Gracias potenciales de acción!
… Continue Reading

Neuro-Instantes: un archivo visual del congreso SENC2015

septiembre 14, 2015 Meetings No Comments
¿Es el cerebro o el universo? Descúbrelo en NeuroDome

Ayúdanos a crear un álbum de fotos del congreso a la vez que lo retransmites en directo y contribuyes a visibilizar la importancia de la investigación en neurociencia.  … Continue Reading

La joven Neurociencia vuelve a casa por navidad

febrero 5, 2015 Meetings No Comments

El deseo de reencuentro aflora cada año al aproximarse el fin de año. Es un sentimiento que invade a la sociedad en su conjunto. Los escaparates de los comercios se llenan de espumillones y abetos, las mesas familiares se atiborran de turrón y mantecados, y hasta los centros de investigación celebran sus tradicionales simposios navideños para acoger a sus jóvenes neurocientíficos.  … Continue Reading

Hacia una mayor reproducibilidad de la investigación en neurociencias

diciembre 8, 2014 Meetings No Comments

Está claro que repetir experimentos de otros no es tan excitante como descubrir un espectacular y novedoso mecanismo. Seguramente, ésto no te llevará a ganar un premio Nobel, pero su importancia está en el foco de atención en la comunidad neurocientífica.

… Continue Reading

Neuro-Unconference in Barcelona is back!

After the success of last event in March, the Neuro-Unconference is back!

If you’ d like to learn something  about the brain, but are bored of the usual conferences, come and join us on Tuesday, May 28th, around 5.30 pm, at the civic centre La Sedeta (Calle Sicilia 321) for the second Neuro-Unconference in Barcelona.

Bring along curiosity and enthusiasm, and leave your shyness at home: everyone – scientists, students, professionals- is welcome to discuss and share ideas, in a very informal, interactive, and fun way.

The evening, organised to celebrate the month of the brain by Mara Dierssen (CRG), Begoña Díaz (UPF) Mavi Sánchez-Vives (IDIBAPS), y Rafa de la Torre (IMIM), will develop in two phases.

The debates

Four invited speakers will briefly present their ideas on the following topics

– Neuroplasticity: How our brain changes upon different environmental challenges

– Neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders: Can we cure a diseased brain?

– Neuroscience and education:  Can we help our brain’s learning?

– Brain interface: The future is now

You’ll choose your favorite topic and join a debate group to  discuss it in depth. Curious, skeptical, inquisitive people are particularly welcome to make the conversation interactive and spontaneous.

At the end of the short debates, the four groups will gather to share the conclusions of each one of the discussions.

The Speakers’ corner

Where you could be the protagonist: Do you have an interesting idea on  neuroscience that you’d like to share? Prepare a 1 minute video with your thoughts, put it on you tube (as private), and send the link with a short summary of what you’d like to present  here.

The most interesting videos will be selected, and the winners will present their ideas at the Unconference. Brush up your presentation skills and send a video: you may get your  3 minutes of neuro-celebrity!

The first Neuro-Unconference in Barcelona was a success.

Join us to make the second one even better!

Neuro-unconference 2013 in Barcelona

What are the future treatments available for diseases of the nervous system? What can the general public do to help scientists understanding the brain? How is an experiment done in the lab and what does it mean? Can we improve our brain’s performances? Will we be able to speak another language just thanks to a microchip implanted in our brain? (My hope was high on this one… but, unfortunately, the answer is ‘not in the near future’).

These were some of the curiosities discussed in the very first Neuro-unconference at the Convent de Sant Agustí in Barcelona on March 20th 2013, with a panel of scientists including Mara Dierssen, Mavi Sanchez-Vives, Ramon Trullas, Diego Regolar Ripol, and Elena Muñoz Marrón.

This unconference was ‘a first’, an experiment in itself.

We knew there was going to be a keynote speech on a topic chosen by the public on line; a Speakers’ corner, with young scientist standing up to share some interesting ideas; and the explanation of a proper experiment. But nobody knew how exactly the evening was going to be shaped, not even the organiser, Mara Dierssen.

Mara’s point was that interaction with lay public can help scientists in their job, so purposely this unconference didn’t have a path set in stones.

The people’s choice

On the CRG website, people could vote beforehand for the topic they’d like to know more about.

First, Mavi Sanchez took us through the different topics proposed: among things like cyborg, artificial intelligence, use or recreational drugs, implication of neuroscience on ethical issues, the majority of the people voted to know more about the feature of treatments for neurological diseases.

It seems like we are all freaking out.

Ramon Trullas, a pessimist by admission, pointed out a few factors responsible for the current lack of powerful treatments for neurological diseases:

1) Neuroscience is still a new discipline: there is a lot we don’t know

2) Just few neurological illnesses are genetic. Understanding the human genome didn’t allow a big progress for neuroscience as for other disciplines

3)  Diseases are generally studied according to the formula one organ= one disease. The brain is more complicated than that, its work is not just a function of its anatomy, but also of integration of signals.

4) Major pharma companies, scared by all of the above, have been cutting down on investments in CNS drugs.

However, not all treatments have to come from drugs.

Diego Regolar Ripol and Elena Muñoz Marrón described a relatively new technique, called transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS.

This technique is based on the principles of electromagnetic induction: a very powerful magnetic field, positioned closed to a conductor generates an electric impulse.

In TMS, a plastic-enclosed coil of wire is positioned in a specific point on the head. When the coil is activated, it generates an electromagnetic field that passes through skin and skull and, at the brain levels, changes the neuronal activity of the treated areas. At the moment, the field doesn’t have deep penetration, so TMS can be used to study just the more superficial layers of the brain (the cortex). However, scientists all around the world are trying to boost this technique, to be able to study even deeper brain layers involved in neurological disorders.

Repetitive applications cause long term effects, making TMS a powerful new tool for the treatment of neurological conditions like depression, Parkinson disease, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, autism, post-traumatic disorder, chronic pain and anxiety.

Maybe the future is not so bleak, after all.

The Speaker corner

This was really entertaining: 7 young neuro-enthusiastic – scientists and not- shared with us some of their ideas, in less than five minutes each. We discussed language (Julia Monte); the ability of learning new things even when we are no more kids (Jesus Antonio Bas), similarity between the brain and an electric circuit (Belen Sancristobal); neuroarchitecture, a cross talk between neuroscience and architecture that can help shaping buildings in a way better suited to their functions (Fernanda Matas and Ruth Costa); what is ‘conscience’ (Mark Quevado), and the risks of recreational drugs (Mireia Ventura).


Kudos to these young speakers who had the hard job of standing up in front of a crowd and translate science lingo for the public!

The Experiment

Ever thought about being a scientist for a day? Mara Dierssen’s lab set up a mock experiment on the CRG website and asked people to give it a go. The person that gave the best answers will go in the actual lab and do the experiment for real.

Marta Fructuoso and Jose Antonio Espinosa explained the different steps of the experiment.

The question was:

Can a difference in ‘Protein x’ effect the ability of mice to learn?

There are two groups of mice, one is a ‘control’, the other has something different in regard to the ‘Protein x’. (In real life it can mean that the mice doesn’t have the protein x, has a slightly different protein x, has less of it, has more… but for this purpose we don’t need to spell it out).

To study mice’s learning ability, Marta and Jose set up a water maze test. This is a standard behavioral test we use in the lab to assess learning abilities over time: The scientists put the mouse in a maze with water; on the borders of the maze there are visual clues, allowing the mouse to orient himself. Underneath the water there is a platform, invisible to the animal: mice don’t love swimming, so they will look for a place where to rest. At first, it would take the mouse some time to find the platform, swimming around to explore the surrounding. The procedure is repeated over time ( day 1, day 2 and so on) and the scientists assess if the mouse has learned where the platform is by measuring the distance it swims before finding the platform. If the mouse has been learning, it will take progressively less swimming around to find the platform.


As a scientist, it was interesting to see what non-scientists see in our experiments and charts, and how they interpret the data. I’m not going to give you the answer: The experiment is still up here. Try it for yourself and I’m sure the scientists in Mara Dierssen’s lab would be delighted to discuss your doubts.

The scientist’s take

I loved the unconference format. I’m used to formal, never-ending meetings…  sometimes boring.

The relaxed environment of the unconference allowed people to converse freely, with exchanges, no barriers between experts and public. And although I am a scientist, I learnt something new: for example, I learned more about TMS, and also that people want to help and collaborate even if they are not scientist. As Mara Dierssen and Mavi Sanchez said, there are lots of ways of doing that: to volunteer for studies, but also to donate organs for research. On the other hand, the curiosity, the support and the interaction with people in itself is helpful for scientists, and someone with a different point of view, not so ingrained in the problem, could really help us analysing things in different ways and come up with different solutions.

The public’s take

I sat next to a lovely lady who turns out to be an airplane pilot. She was so kind to talk with me about the unconference. Guess what? She loved it too, and she wasn’t ‘familiar’ with all these ‘brain stuff’. Not only she enjoyed the relaxed format, she learned something new, which I think is one of the main point for a meeting like this

I wish more conference were un-conference.

Big thanks to the organiser, the speakers, the people in the public, and the one who followed the unconference on streaming for their contribution.

Neurounconference pic


Brain Awareness Week in Barcelona

Mark your calendars and enjoy a week of brainy stuff: Brain Awareness Week is back!
Dr Mara Dierssen, of the CRG-Center for Genomic Regulation is one of the BAW partners in Barcelona.

You can found the complete list of events taking place in the city here.

There are two main events you can’t miss:
• ‘What is Alexia? ‘
Angels Prat Pla, Albert Costa and Begoña Diaz will take us on a journey to understand language and its neuronal basis
Wednesday, March 13th (7 pm) at the Sagrada Familia library (Provenza 480, Barcelona)
• Neuro-unconference, Wednesday, March 20th (5-8 pm) at the Civic Center San Augustine ( Trade 36, Barcelona)
What is a Neuro-unconference?
Don’t frown on the idea of long complicated lectures: this unconference is full of surprises.

Do you want to know more about future treatments in neurology or about cyborgs? Make your voice heard and decide what the talk is going to be about!
By visiting this website you can vote among six topics and decide which one will be discussed with an expert.
1. The brain of the future of cyborgs and other beings.
2. Guilty or innocent, ethical dilemmas and brain.
3. Hallucinating, recreational drugs, yes or no?
4. The future of treatment in neurology: can we improve our brain?
5. Gene therapy brain? Fiction or reality?
6. The brain maps omics, does a GPS to find the causes of mental illness?

Ever wonder how a real experiment is done? Now, you can also become a scientist for a day: help the scientists interpret this experiment and you can win the chance of getting in the lab and see it with your own eyes.
Also, in the Speakers’ corner, you’ll find scientists and non-scientists exposing their ideas in five minutes, in topics ranging from ‘the relationship between architecture and neuroscience’ to ‘what Conscience is’.

BAW in Barcelona, here we come
Sponsored by the DANA foundation since 1996, the BAW is the occasion for neuroscientists to leave the ivory tower and share their enthusiasm with people, and for people to learn, question, get involved and (why not) contribute to the progress of our understanding of the brain. During the week, more than 800 events will take place around the globe to increase public awareness on brain research.
I will be reporting from Barcelona: come along, share your thoughts and enjoy.

Jornadas de investigación en biomedicina: la neurociencia toma protagonismo

La neurociencia tendrá un lugar destacado en las jornadas. Si os interesa participar, el plazo de inscripción termina el 24 de septiembre

 En un lugar de la Mancha, cuyo nombre es Albacete, se vienen celebrando desde hace ya nueve años las llamadas Jornadas de Jóvenes Investigadores. Éstas, como de costumbre, se desarrollarán en la Facultad de Medicina de Albacete durante los días 4 y 5 de Octubre de 2012.

A pesar del desfavorable contexto económico de los últimos años, esta reunión científica continúa congregando numerosos investigadores noveles de toda España (principalmente residentes y becarios pre- y postdoctorales) que trabajan en las áreas de la Neurociencia y Biomedicina en general. Constituye una plataforma idónea diseñada por y para los investigadores en formación, algo inusual en la organización y desarrollo de este tipo de eventos.

Durante dos días muy intensos, en un ambiente totalmente jovial y distendido, tenemos la oportunidad de debatir nuestros hallazgos con otros colegas, así como con un exquisito elenco de investigadores senior (algunos de los cuales han sido premiados con el Príncipe de Asturias, Jaume I, etc). Además, fomentamos laparticipación externa mediante el alojamiento en casas de otros becarios de la ciudad (programa Becario Solidario) y el abaratamiento de los billetes de tren (hasta un 30% de descuento).

Desde la Organización de las Jornadas, te animamos participar y consultar la web del congreso: ixjornadasajiab.wordpress.com/. El plazo de inscripción y envío de comunicaciones termina el 24 de Septiembre de 2012.

¡No dejes pasar esta oportunidad única, anímate y participa!

Autor: Nicanor Morales-Delgado, PhD

“How green is the grass on the other side?” HIGHLIGHTS FROM Dr. RUSHWORTH PLENARY LECTURE (OXFORD, UK)

After two years of intense preparation and the usual last-minute changes, the long-awaited FENS Forum was finally held at the CCIB in Barcelona last week. It was a real success in terms of attendance and engagement in the scientific and social events throughout the Forum. From SENC, we would like to thank the FENS Organization Committee and especially the invited speakers and participants. It would be our deepest pleasure to meet you all again in the next FENS Forum (Milan 2014).

In this post, we would like to give you a flavour of the first plenary lecture presented by Dr. Matthew Rushworth, principal investigator at the Decision and Action laboratory in the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University (rushworth.psy.ox.ac.uk/). His talk was introduced by Sten Grillner (President of FENS) and focused on the reward-guided decision-making and learning mechanisms in the frontal lobe. More specifically, he gave a thoughtful insight into the functional role of different reward-related frontal brain regions including the FPC (Frontopolar Cortex), vmPFC (ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex), the mOFC (medial Orbital Frontal Cortex), the lOFC (lateral Orbital Frontal Cortex), the aPFC (anterior part of the prefrontal cortex) and the ACC (Anterior Cingulate Cortex). … Continue Reading

Noelia Martínez Molina Estudiante predoctoral en la Universidad de Barcelona Brain Cognition and Plasticity Group



Are you attending the next FENS Forum in Barcelona in July?

Do you have a PhD or postdoc position opening in your lab?

The European Network of Neuroscience Schools ( NENS) organizes a job fair at the FENS Forum 2012.

During the congress NENS provides two rooms to organize job interviews on Monday and Tuesday, July 16-17th.

Don’t miss this great opportunity to meet excellent candidates!

 If you are interested send us a brief description of your position to  nens-office@unil.ch. We will contact the young scientists attending the FENS (more than half of the total attendance) and will share with you the CVs of those who show an interest in your position. You will be able  to reserve slots for interviews with the candidates you selected.


Radio SENC



European Journal of Neuroscience