4–5 According to the World Health Organization, one in four of us will develop at least one mental illness or behavioral disorder in our lifetime. Depression alone affects an estimated 121 million people worldwide. At the two-day EMBO/EMBL Science and Society Conference, biologists, psychologists and neuroscientists will explore the ethical and social implications of major mental illnesses as well as their causes and treatment. Attendees will debate the definitions of mental disorders, financial interests in the refinement of both diagnoses and drugs, and controversial new therapies, among other topics.
5 Little-known fact: brain tumors kill approximately 13,000 people every year in the U.S. Although advances in treatments have reduced the progression of tumors and extended patients’ lifetime, new therapies are needed. During the fifth International Brain Tumor Awareness Week, supporters and survivors will organize activities to help raise awareness of this devastating disease, its causes and potential treatments. Past activities have included a charity walk, a picnic and a scientific conference.
Walks take place in several locations around the world
12–16 Which elements of human behavior are dictated by genes, and which are influenced by experience? C. elegans, the soil-dwelling worm that has achieved notoriety as a model organism in science, is helping researchers discover the answer. At the five-day Society for Neuroscience Conference, Cornelia I. Bargmann of the Rockefeller University will discuss her team’s findings on the behavior of worms, including a gene that determines whether they prefer to eat alone or in groups. Her lab has also found a molecule that guides neurons to form connections during worms’ early development, potentially hinting at how human brains develop, too.
Lecture Series Roundup: Talks on the Brain
You may recall the compelling story of Jill Bolte Taylor, the Harvard-trained neuroanatomist who suffered a severe stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain in 1996 and made a stunning recovery eight years later. As part of INSIGHT Lectures, Taylor will talk about the research she conducted before her stroke and the details of her disorder and recovery. Notably, she will discuss the differences between the right and left sides of the brain, tactics to minimize the effects of a stroke, and the experience of being both a patient and a doctor.
Empathy is a fundamental aspect of human social interactions. Recent evidence suggests we possess specific neural circuitry dedicated to experiencing the pain of others. A two-day symposium, Empathy: Self, Society, Culture, hosted by Indiana University, will delve into the biological and cultural roots of this trait. Attendees will discuss why empathy exists, advances in understanding the neural basis of altruism, and the ways in which society affects our empathetic tendencies.
Our brains continue to form new neural pathways and rewire old ones throughout our lives. At the weeklong International Psychology of Health, Immunity and Disease Conference, neuroscientists and psychologists will explore the brain’s malleability and how this trait can be exploited to help people reduce stress and heal trauma. Conference attendees will also delve into the potential benefits of energy psychology, which includes the alternative therapies of acupuncture and hypnosis, to treat patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and addiction problems.
Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Although mindfulness originated as a component of Buddhist tradition, the practice is fast gaining popularity in the U.S. and Europe as an alternative to pharmaceutical therapies in relieving the burden of anxiety disorders, depression and other conditions. In his lecture entitled The Psychology of Meditative Thinking, James Mitchell, an instructor at University of California, San Francisco, will explain how mindfulness meditation can improve overall health, reduce stress levels and create a calmer state of mind.