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Brains in Attendance

Brains in Attendance

The Kavli BRAIN Showcase will forge new connections between brain researchers across campus

By Harrison Tasoff

Neurons will be firing, fast and furious, when UC Santa Barbara brain scientists and scholars converge Friday, Jan. 18, for the inaugural Kavli BRAIN Showcase. The half-day event, which explores new research and opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration, will feature talks by campus researchers aimed toward their colleagues and educated non-specialists.

Co-sponsored by the UCSB Brain Initiative, the SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind, the Neuroscience Research Institute, and the Kavli Foundation, the showcase is organized by the SAGE Center’s four junior fellows. These postdoctoral researchers were selected based on the excellence and originality of their scholarship and their potential to advance knowledge in their field.

The 2018-2020 class of fellows includes neuroscientists Caitlin Taylor and Mary MacLean, physicist Eyal Karzbrun and biophysicst Dhananjay Thakur.

The event is free and open to the public, and reservations are requested by emailing Taylor at [email protected]

Since its inception 13 years ago, the SAGE Center has strived to bring together scholars from varying academic disciplines, according to Distinguished Professor Michael Gazzaniga, the center’s director. “Our current group of SAGE junior fellows reflect this goal,” he said, “with physicists, engineers and neuroscientists coming together to think about the brain and mind.”

Interdisciplinary collaboration is particularly important, if not downright necessary, in neuroscience, according to Thakur. The areas of inquiry span so many subjects that solving them requires making connections outside your own lab, or even department.

Assistant Professor Matthieu Louis, a neuroscientist based in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, agrees. “Brain science is too broad [a topic] to be linked to one specific field. We are providing a cross-disciplinary platform for the SAGE Fellows to explore and fulfill their creative potential together,” said Louis, who oversees the junior fellows together with Emily Goard Jacobs, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences.

Researchers from different departments contribute diverse perspectives on questions in cognitive science. “How does a three-pound mass of neural tissue enable the vast complexities and capabilities of the mind?” asked Jacobs. “To crack the neural code we need biologists, psychologists, physicists and philosophers at the same table.”

This is exactly what the SAGE Junior Fellows Program provides, she said, and what the group hopes to promote at the Kavli BRAIN Showcase.

The event will feature a total of eight 10-minute talks by faculty, followed by six short presentations by postdocs. The diverse group of presenters spans most of the natural science departments on campus, including chemistry; geography; electrical and computer engineering; and molecular, cellular, and developmental biology. Topics will range from the role inhibition plays in sequential action choice to efforts to understand human navigation through neuroscience and virtual reality. The junior fellows intend each presentation to promote new connections and conversations.

The SAGE Center has also invited experimental psychologist Charles Spence and Chef Jozef Youssef to discuss the interface between gastronomy and neu

source: University of California, Santa Barbara

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