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HSC symposium to bring top scientists to Louisville

by Jill Scoggins, HSC communications and marketing last modified Jul 24, 2013 01:41 PM

Some of the top scientists in the nation, including National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine members, will make presentations at a University of Louisville-hosted symposium during the first week of August.

“Neuroscience Symposium: Anatomical and Functional Modularity of the Cerebral Cortex,” will take place Aug. 1 ‒ 2, at the Jewish Hospital Conference Center, 200 Abraham Flexner Way. Admission is free, but advance registration is required by calling 502-852-4077.

“We have brought together some of the most accomplished scientists in the United States to share the latest research currently underway in the area of cerebral cortex modularity,” said Manuel Casanova, professor, the Gottfried and Gisela Kolb Endowed Chair in Psychiatry at UofL and event organizer.

“This symposium represents an unprecedented opportunity for clinicians, researchers, scientists and students to engage with the top neuroscience researchers in the nation,” he said.

The study of cerebral cortex modularity focuses on the relatively recent discovery of the existence of subunits within the brain’s cerebral cortex that control different functions.

Vernon Mountcastle discovered the concept in the mid-20th Century. At age 95, he now is professor emeritus of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University.

Mountcastle’s research revealed a fundamental truth about brain physiology unknown until that time: Cells performing the same functions are connected in intricate “modules” arranged in vertical columns. The finding was controversial at the time because scientists previously believed that brain cells, or neurons, were arranged only in horizontal layers.

“Accepted as commonplace today, Mountcastle’s columnar hypothesis was met with disbelief, resistance and even ridicule on the part of many neuroscientists when it was first proposed in the mid-1950s,” said Casanova, who opened his 2005 book, “Neocortical Modularity and the Cell Minicolumn,” with a two-chapter review of Mountcastle’s life and scientific achievements.

“He set the standard for all subsequent research in behavioral neurophysiology, and the UofL symposium will reflect the direction that research is taking today,” Casanova said.

In addition to Casanova, presenters include National Academy of Sciences members Pasko Rakic, of Yale University and Jon H. Kaas, of Vanderbilt University; and Institute of Medicine member Apostolos Georgopoulos, of the University of Minnesota.

Other presenters are Estate Shokadze, of UofL; Mikhail Lebedev, of Duke University; Oleg Favorov, of University of North Carolina/North Carolina State University Biomedical Engineering; Sam A. Deadwyler, and Ioan Opris, of Wake Forest University; Greg A. Gerhardt, of the University of Kentucky; Valentin Dragoi, of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston; and Jeffrey Hutsler, of the University of Nevada, Reno.

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