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SfN 2013

Quick post about my time at the Society for Neuroscience conference this year.

First, if you're an undergrad looking to apply to PhD programs, or a grad student wondering what to do after the PhD, or a post-doc on the job market, please feel free to come chat with me. I'll be at the conference every day, and you can easily grab me after my two talks.

Professional Development

I'm speaking at the "Careers Beyond the Bench" panel Saturday morning at 9am. I'll be talking about my work with Uber and my "startup sabbatical", options for technically-oriented neuroscientists looking to leave academia (see my notes on data munging and "big data"), and why I chose to stay within the academy (and how I ended up at UCSD).

Here's the information about the panel:

Date & Time: Saturday, November 9, 2013 9am - 11am
Location: 31C
Panelists: Andrew Bean, PhD; Katja Brose, PhD; Joe Hardy, PhD; Bradley Voytek, PhD

The workshop will discuss career trajectories of individuals in non-academic settings. An emphasis will be placed on providing tips to prepare for a career shift, tools for networking, and strategies to build your resume. Panelists will address the following questions: 1. What career trajectories are available with an MS vs PhD in neuroscience? 2. What are the most effective strategies for transitioning into a non-academic research career? 3. What qualifications, skills and traits are needed for a career in science communication? 4. What are the skills that ‘tech' companies are looking for and how to use social and real-life networking to help make a career transition.

Research Presentation

I'm also giving a presentation on some of my latest research. This is a very short talk, but it's part of a much larger theme in what will be a major part of lab at UCSD. If any of the topics in the talk (aging, ECoG, neural simulation, etc.) are interesting to you, come talk with me!

Presentation Title: Aging increases neural noise in humans
Presentation time: Sunday, Nov 10, 2013, 10:00 AM -10:15 AM
Location: 25A
Abstract: With aging we are faced with the likelihood that our cognitive faculties will decline. Our neural and behavioral response times will be slower, our memories less certain, and our attention less focused. These behavioral phenomena are hypothesized to be a consequence of increased neural noise in aging, however, because neural noise is difficult to quantify, there is no physiological evidence for age-related increases in neuronal noise in humans.

At the neuronal level aging is associated with a loss of auditory cortical parvalbumin inhibitory interneurons. These interneurons, when stimulated, suppress spiking of excitatory neocortical neurons and set up gamma oscillations via feedback from excitatory pyramidal cells. This, in turn, reduces pyramidal cell noise and enhances network precision. We hypothesize that the loss of these neurons with age results in age-related increases in temporally decorrelated neural noise, a secondary consequence of which would result in decreased phase/amplitude coupling (PAC) between low-frequency theta (4-8 Hz) phase and high gamma (80-150 Hz) power.

Here we analysed electrocorticography (ECoG) data from 16 participants spanning 41 years of age performing auditory tasks. Intracranial ECoG provides researchers with invaluable data on mesoscale neuronal population activity. High gamma power in ECoG correlates with neuronal spiking. While task-related increases in local population spike rate results in an overall broadband increase in high gamma power, temporally de-correlated neural noise affects the slope of the high gamma power spectrum, providing an estimate of neural noise.

Consistent with the neural noise hypothesis of aging, we observed a significant correlation between participant’s age and the slope of their high gamma power spectrum such that older adults show a slope closer to zero (more flat) than younger adults (r = 0.61, p = 0.013). We also observed a significant negative correlation between age and theta/HG PAC (r = -0.66, p = 0.005).

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