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The University of Southampton
Southampton Neuroscience Group

8th Annual SoNG Meeting - Thursday 23rd September 2010  Event

23 September 2010
Highfield Campus, Building 85

Event details

The 8th Annual SoNG Meeting took place on September 23rd on the Highfield campus at the University of Southampton. More than 100 delegates from the University and the local region representing a broad range of disciplines in neuroscience participated.

This encompassed Faculties and Schools across the University and hospitals and clinics in the surrounding area. The talks were based around the theme of the ageing brain with contributions from Medicine, Health Sciences, Psychology and Biological Sciences. In keeping with the SoNG ethos that an important remit is to promote dialogue with lay members of the public, industry and other stakeholders, the event was also attended by representatives from charitable organisations (Wellcome Trust), patient groups (Huntington's Disease Association), local community groups (Solent Mind) and industry (Eli Lilly Neuroscience Research Centre).

The morning session started with a talk from Simon Liversedge, School of Psychology "Exploring change in memory for objects and their locations with age" in which he described an elegant experimental approach for tracking eye movements and fixation on objects and relating this to the ability to form memory. His research has noted some intriguing differences between young and old subjects and his talk triggered an interesting discussion concerning behavioural adaptations that might come in to play during ageing in an attempt to preserve cognitive performance.  In the next talk Andreas Wyttenbach, School of Biological Sciences asked the question "Protein misfolding in the ageing brain: what shall we do? ". He talked about the relationship between age and the onset of neurodegenerative disease. He provided a very lucid account of the central role that protein misfolding plays in this process and went on to describe progress that is being made in his research group delivering an insight into molecular mechanisms that might protect against nerve cell death. Whilst the long-term goal is to inform the therapy of devastating conditions such as Huntington's disease, Andreas made the very pertinent point that scientists must not raise false hope. He emphasized that it is important to listen to what patient groups have to say about their conditions. He favours the phrase 'bedside to bench' in preference to, the rather overused, 'bench to bedside'. In this regard, it is noteworthy that the meeting was attended by representatives of the Hungtington's Disease Association, illustrating the important dialogue that SoNG members endeavour to maintain with patient groups.

Next Andrew Lotery (School of Medicine) provided a stimulating presentation on the work of his research group, "Understanding and repairing macular degeneration". He highlighted his important contribution to understanding the molecular mechanisms of age-dependent macular degeneration, the major cause of age-related blindness. His talk was an elegant example of how fundamental research in cellular and molecular neuroscience can translate into a clinical context and he provided impressive examples of how gene therapy can deliver measurable improvements for patients with impaired vision.  Translational neuroscience was also the theme of the next talk from Geert Verheyden, School of Health Sciences, "Clinical and kinematic investigation of motor impairment of the trunk in people after stroke". His talk reflects a focus of interest in Health Sciences which seeks to understand mobility impairment in patients suffering from a range of neurological conditions such as stroke and Parkinson's disease and to apply sophisticated engineering and robotic led approaches to facilitate rehabilitation. 

Over lunch the meeting participants engaged in a lively poster session including contributions from across the University and neuroscientists in the region including from the University of Portsmouth. It also provided the opportunity for SoNG members to meet invitees from the Wellcome Trust, Solent Mind, the Huntington's Disease Association and Eli Lilly Neuroscience Research Centre. Members of the SoNG early career researcher steering group acted as judges for the poster contributions and our congratulations go to the three prize winners (Matthew Powell, Clinical Neurosciences School of Medicine; Michelle Joyner School of Biological Sciences; Katie Meadmore School of Psychology).

In the afternoon Roxana Carare from the School of Medicine addressed the topic of dementia in her talk "Alzheimer's Disease: a multifactorial condition of the ageing blood vessels". Her studies investigate the pathways by which interstitial fluid drains from the brain and the impact of amyloid on this process and are providing insight into mechanisms that may contribute to disease progression in Alzheimer's. The penultimate talk was delivered by John Rothwell, (Professor of Human Neurophysiology, UCL Institute of Neurology), "Using Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to understand and modulate the role of motor cortex in learning and rehabilitation". He has made a major contribution to the development and application of TMS in experimental neurology and rehabilitation and it was a particular pleasure to welcome him as members of SoNG in Health Sciences have benefited from highly valued collaborations over the years with his research group. Finally Professor Raymond Tallis, emeritus Professor of Geriatric Medicine and an alumnus of the Southampton Wessex Neurological Centre discussed "Why Neuroscience will Never Explain Consciousness". Professor Tallis is a Southampton alumnus (Wessex Neurological Centre) and provided a provocative philosophical discourse debating the relationship between biology and the mind.

Overall, this was a lively day which filled the purpose of bringing together neuroscientists from diverse disciplines to share their opinions, interests and ideas concerning the major problems in understanding the function of the healthy and diseased ageing brain.

The Annual Meeting is now firmly entrenched in the SoNG calendar and will take place next year on Thursday September 22nd. If members would like to suggest a theme for the next meeting please forward ideas to Debbie Buck

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