Neuro-Instantes: un archivo visual del congreso SENC2015

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. 

¿Quieres ser Neurocientífico? Mira estos cursos y programas de formación

¿Quieres ser neurocientífico y no sabes por dónde empezar? ¿Estás buscando en internet y no encuentras ningún programa de formación? ¿Quieres hacer unas prácticas y no sabes adónde dirigirte? No te preocupes, aquí en el blog de la SENC te ayudamos a abrirte tu camino en este fascinante universo de …

Neurociencia formal e informal: Prepárate para el I Workshop de Neurociencias y el Pint of Science

Uno de las mayores ventajas que poseen las universidades es dar la oportunidad de hacer que sus estudiantes entren en contacto con el mundo de la investigación desde el comienzo de sus estudios. De este modo, los estudiantes de carreras tan definidas como medicina pueden plantearse opciones profesionales alternativas a …

Encuesta de Científicos Retornados a España

¿Quiénes somos los investigadores retornados? ¿Cuántos somos? ¿Dónde estamos? Son algunas de las preguntas que persigue responder la sociedad CRE (Científicos Retornados a España).

Recent Articles:

El cerebro lector :La unión de dos códigos, literario y neuronal, bajo la perspectiva psicolingüística


El cerebro lector, primera sesión del itinerario literario 2013 organizado por el CCCB (Centro de Cultura Contemporánea de Barcelona) y la red de Bibliotecas de Barcelona, se celebró el pasado viernes 22 de marzo en al anfiteatro anatómico de la Real Academia de Medicina de Catalunya, donde Cajal ejerció su cátedra de histología de 1887 a 1892. Una vez más, la sala Gimbernat acogía en su seno a dos especialistas del sistema nervioso, las doctorandas Joanna Sierpowska y Diana López-Barroso, que guiaron a la audiencia a través de una charla interactiva sobre los mecanismos cerebrales para el procesamiento de la palabra escrita. … Continue Reading

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

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


Understanding how the brain processes language at the first event of 2013 BAW in Barcelona, What is Alexia?

Last Wednesday, 13th March, a group of brain-enthusiastic barcelonians gathered in the Library of the Sagrada Familia, in spite of the awful weather, to attend the first of the events organised to celebrate Brain Awareness Week in the city, ‘What is Alexia?
In the packed auditorium, the conversation started with the emotional recollection of Angels Prat Plan, Professor Emeritus at the University of Barcelona. With her academic career, Angels is not new to conferences. But this time she wasn’t on stage to describe her studies, as a professor. She shared with us her experience, as a patient.
Last year, Angels was finishing writing the book ‘Competències científiques i lectura a secundària’ when she realised with incredulity and shock that she had troubles reading: she could see symbols on the paper, but she wasn’t able to make sense of them. Doctors found out that she had caught Toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection. Toxoplasmosis left Angels with ‘Alexia pura’: she could still write, speak and understand language without problems, but she couldn’t remember letters and numbers, and therefore couldn’t read a sentence. It shocked us to know that it’d take her a minute to read nine words. Although her symptoms have improved with therapy, Angels knows that patients with alexia cannot learn to read from scratch, as a five year old does, because something irreversible has happened in the brain.
Angels’ s story introduced the second talk of the evening on ‘Developmental Dyslexia’, by Begoña Diaz, Postdoctoral Fellow at  Pompeu Fabra University. Whereas alexia is also known as acquired dyslexia, because it is caused by an external event, developmental dyslexia is a genetic trait: it can be passed from father to son, pretty much as the color of eyes, or the shape of the nose. This means that someone is born dyslexic, although he would generally get diagnosed at scholar age.

It is estimated that 5-10 % of the population suffers from dyslexia, with no particular differences in race or gender. Most of us are aware that dyslexia determines difficulties in reading. However Begoña explained that the entire story is more complex than that. Dyslexia is an impairment in the processing of phonemes, the sounds of letters. This causes in turn a difficulty in associating letters, the arbitrary symbols we see on a paper, with sounds. That’s why ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ for dyslexic people are hard things to do.

Not only reading, but also hearing someone in a crowded place, or repeating a world they have never heard before is a hard task for people with dyslexia.
But how is a brain of a dyslexic person different from the one of a non-dyslexic? Scientists have used functional magnetic resonance, or fMRI to answer this question. fMRI is a technique that allows to see which areas of the brain are more active while performing something. The fMRI machine detects changes in oxygen consumption in certain brain areas upon stimulation. These changes are visualized as ‘pictures’ of the brain, where the more active areas appear as they are ‘lighting up’. Thanks to this technique, scientists could find the ‘neural signature’ of dyslexia, basically, they could localize where the malfunction in the brain is.

Dyslexic people do not activate an area in the left posterior hemisphere as non-dyslexic do.
However, that is not the end of the story. The brain is a wonderful organ, able to find alternative strategies to fix a problem. Begoña showed us how the brain of dyslexic people activates some areas in the frontal and posterior right hemisphere, to partially compensate for the ‘laziness’ of the left one.

An important message Begoña stressed is that although dyslexia is a hard condition to live with, it is not a measurement of a person’s intelligence or a sentence to an unsuccessful life: people like Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Ernest Hemingway were dyslexic… need to say more?
Finally, Albert Costa, ICREA Research Professor at the Pompeu Fabra University took the stage. Albert studies bilingualism, inspired not only by the reality in Barcelona, where people speak both Catalan and Castellan, but also by the fact that the entire world is basically getting bilingual.

Albert showed us how a bilingual brain is different from a monolingual one not only in function, but in structure. Studies performed during awake brain surgery have allowed a better understanding of the localization of brain areas involved in language processing. Although this can sound scary, awake brain surgery is performed routinely when surgeons may have to work around the areas involved in language to remove a brain tumor. During surgery, the patient is awake and a speech therapist asks him questions, keeping him monitored while the surgeons stimulate different point on the cortex. If by touching a specific point the patient cannot talk, the surgeons know that they have to find an alternative way to the tumour. In bilingual patients, doctors found that stimulating certain areas made the patient unable to speak at all, but stimulating other areas prevented him to speak just one language.
Bilingualism doesn’t just affects the way the language is processed in the brain. For example, bilingualism can confer and advance in solving conflicting tasks. Albert made us practicing an interactive exercise, known as Simon test. He asked us to raise the left hand when a red spot appeared on the screen and the right hand when the spot was green. The two spots appeared randomly on the left or right side of the screen, generating confusion on which hand to rise. Even if we had been given instruction on raising the left hand when the spot is green, the position of the spot (left or right) generated a certain confusion, especially when the spots alternate fast ( seriously, I’ve tried!). Scientists have shown that this confusion effect, caused by conflicting signals, is reduced in bilingual people, practically conferring bilingual people an advantage in solving difficult tasks.
Another particularly interesting counterpart of bilingualism is the beneficial effect that it has on some diseases.

In bilingual people symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease occur in average around four year later than in non-bilingual people. Unfortunately, even bilingual get AD, and both languages are affected by the disease in the same way, with the same rate of decline in ‘finding words’.
This evening was a fascinating way to start BAW in Barcelona.Were you there? What did you learn that surprised you?

If you want to learn more, don’t miss the Unconference, next Wednesday, 20th March, 2013.

I hope to see you there!

MÚSICA EN LA INFANCIA: La Neurociencia de las canciones de cuna explicada por la psicóloga del desarrollo Sandra Trehub

La Prof. Trehub explicando la canción de cuna de la madre gabonesa (al fondo en la diapositiva). Foto:NMM

En la segunda charla del ciclo de música y cerebro que tuvo lugar en el auditorio del museo CosmoCaixa de Barcelona apenas si cabía un alfiler. Los allí congregados teníamos un objetivo en común: escuchar lo que la doctora Sandra Trehub, psicóloga del desarrollo y profesora emérita en la universidad de Toronto, tenía que decirnos sobre el desarrollo de las distintas habilidades musicales en la infancia. … Continue Reading

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

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.


1. ¿Dónde hiciste la tesis? ¿En qué campo?

Hice la Tesis doctoral en el Instituto de Neurociencias de Castilla y León (INCyL) y el Departamento de Biología Celular y Patología de la Universidad de Salamanca. También que decir que gran parte de mi trabajo también fue realizado en colaboración con el laboratorio del Dr. Lafarga y la Dra. Berciano de la Univesidad de Cantabria. En concreto, estudié procesos de neurodegeneración a nivel nuclear y la neurogénesis adulta en un modelo animal que pierde, entre otras células, las principales neuronas de proyección del bulbo olfatorio: las células mitrales.

2. ¿Dónde vives ahora? ¿Cuánto tiempo llevas viviendo en el país?

Llevo viviendo en Coimbra (zona centro de Portugal) algo más de año y medio. Coimbra es una ciudad universitaria y turística, en ese aspecto, bastante parecida a Salamanca.

3. ¿Dónde investigas? ¿Qué estás investigando?

Desarrollo mi trabajo en el laboratorio del Dr. João Malva en el Centro de Neurociencias y Biología Celular de la Universidad de Coimbra. En la actualidad estoy estudiando el efecto de procesos neuroinflamatorios en la memoria espacial y la neurogénesis hippocampal en un modelo murino de la enfermedad de Alzheimer.

4. ¿Qué es lo que más te gusta de tu centro de investigación? ¿Qué diferencias ves con el centro donde hiciste la tesis en España?

Lo que más me gusta de este centro de investigación es la gente que lo compone, hay mucha gente joven con muchas ganas de colaborar y hacen cosas muy interesantes. Además, el centro mantiene una gran actividad educativa acogiendo a estudiantes de master, doctorado y postdoctorado de diversas nacionalidades. Hasta hace poco tiempo (ahora con la crisis las cosas están cambiando) Portugal ofrecía bastantes posibilidades a jóvenes investigadores para conseguir un proyecto propio. Una de las mayores diferencias con respecto al centro en el que hice la tesis en España es la interacción con la sociedad en general. Este centro posee un gabinete dedicado a la comunicación entre ciencia y sociedad que está continuamente incitándonos a participar en eventos de divulgación científica. Esto hace que la labor investigadora tenga una mayor visibilidad en la sociedad de Coimbra y que, en cierta medida, se le de un mayor reconocimiento al trabajo que desarrollamos.

5. ¿Qué es lo que más te gusta de la ciudad? ¿Y lo que menos?

Lo que más me gusta de Coimbra es que está inmersa en la historia y contiene parajes naturales de gran valor como el parque verde del río Mondego. Además, se come muy bien y muy barato, aunque no hay pinchos. Lo peor es que está ubicada en una zona con un relieve accidentado. Se trata, por tanto, de una ciudad llena de cuestas. Esto hace un poco incómodo los desplazamientos a pié.

6. ¿Qué es lo que más echas de menos de España?

Lo que más echo de menos de España son la familia y los amigos.


¿Cómo cantaban los neandertales? Las bases evolutivas de la música


El jueves 31 de enero dio comienzo el ciclo de conferencias en torno a la música y su impacto sobre el cuerpo y la mente en el museo Cosmocaixa de Barcelona. Esta iniciativa pretende ante todo atraer al gran público al campo emergente de la neurociencia cognitiva de la música. Pero no se queda aquí. Entre la lista de los conferenciantes encontramos investigadores pertenecientes a disciplinas muy diversas, desde la musicología hasta la arqueología. Se trata por tanto de un ciclo de naturaleza altamente integradora. Prueba de ello fue la primera conferencia a cargo de Steven Mithen, profesor de la universidad de Reading en el Reino Unido y autor del libro “Los neandertales cantaban rap”. … Continue Reading

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

Los zombies y el estudio de la consciencia

Hay veces que la divulgación de la ciencia se hace de una forma tan espectacular, que hasta los más reacios a aprender algo nuevo son incapaces de resistirse.The Science Museum en Londres explota el filón cinematográfico y televisivo de los muertes vivientes para hablar sobre la consciencia.

La exposición “Zombielab” se plantea como una aventura: un brote virulento desemboca en un ataque zombie en las instalaciones del museo, y  los asistentes han de realizar una serie de actividades para sobrevivir. Entre las propuestas hay charlas sobre consciencia, juegos interactivos e incluso la posibilidad de participar en experimentos en vivo.

Zombielab reune a científicos expertos en consciencia para explicar los últimos avances de la neurociencia en este campo. Puede que los zombies no den miedo a ningún neurocientífico en sus cabales, pero enfrentarse a las preguntas del publico puede ser terrorífico.

Pinchar aquí para ver el Programa de Zombielab.

ZombieLab at the Science Museum's January Lates

… Continue Reading

Finaliza el año de la neurociencia en España

diciembre 30, 2012 Curiosidades No Comments

El Año de la Neurociencia acaba y con él, un año lleno de grandes acontecimientos alrededor de la ciencia y su divulgación. Uno de los eventos más destacados durante este año fue el FENS Forum 2012 que tuvo lugar el pasado Julio en Barcelona.

La SENC fue la sociedad anfitriona encargada de co-organizar los múltiples encuentros y conferencias. En la conferencia especial de la SENC tuvimos el gran honor de contar con Jose María Delgado García, Catedrático de Fisiología y Director de la División de Neurociencias de la Universidad Pablo de Olavide de Sevilla. Me gustaría aprovechar la despedida del Año de la Neurociencia para destacar su magnífica intervención en el FENS Forum 2012.

Su ponencia, “Learning as a functional state of the brain: Studies in wild type and transgenic animals” completó el aforo y nos permitió conocer sus últimos hallazgos sobre aprendizaje y memoria con el uso de una metodología minuciosamente perfeccionada a lo largo de su trayectoria investigadora.

… Continue Reading

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? INTERVIEWING PROFESSOR EVA CANDAL

diciembre 17, 2012 Curiosidades No Comments

Quite often, in our daily routine we tend to forget that a researcher is much more than just the academics. The main goal of the GRADschools courses is to develop skills that sometimes are forgotten in a corner somewhere under our desks filled with papers. These abilities are tremendously helpful for having an investigation career and are not usually measured by regular methods.

As a student I have attended the first international GRADschools course which had taken place in Santiago de Compostela and A Coruña thanks to the Fundación Barrié funding ( and Vitae organization ( that has been developing this kind of courses over the years in England. The tutoring network of these courses was formed by a group of professionals coming from different fields of knowledge who are the master living examples of what they try to help us develop. Headed by Caron King, the group was formed by Louise Turner, Piero Vitelli, Tracey Stead, Andrew Durrant and as the course manager, Lisa Ellis. People who has achieved a successful career with a lot of hard work and being able to improve themselves under stretching situations.

Starting with an open mind, some of these skills you don´t realize you can develop until you find yourself in a situation where needed. I´m talking about negotiation and networking skills, coordinating and planning tasks, achieving objectives, making decisions in your career based on your own values, and choosing the job you want in the conditions you need to be happy. Along this four days full-timed course, we´ve got to known ourselves in ways we couldn´t imagine. Sometimes we even tried to repress some of our not so good qualities in order to be able to work in group and reminding that each one of us had their own aims to achieve.

Besides, there were a group of Spanish tutors supporting the sessions. One of them was Eva Candal, PhD Neurobiology Professor in the University of Santiago de Compostela who has kindly provided her personal point of view about this experience for us.

… Continue Reading

Cristina Solveira Neurolam Group Celular Biology Area Dpt of Functional Biology and Health Sciences Faculty of Biology University of Vigo Lagoas-Marcosende s/n 36200-Vigo Pontevedra. Spain. Telf: 986.818.616 / 986.812.390


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European Journal of Neuroscience