Behavioural and Cognitive Neurosciences Symposium - Sensory systems: from Molecule to Mind

  • Date: June 23, 2016
  • Time: 9:00-17:00 hrs
  • Location: Bernoulliborg
  • Application for PhD students
  • Application for non-PhD students: please send an email to Evelyn Kuiper
  • No fee

Program

9:00 – 9:30                 Registration
9:20 – 9:30                 Opening by chair: Dr. Sonja Pyott
9:30 – 10:10               Prof.dr. Alex Wade: 
  Fly vision and its application to neurological                                          disease
10:10 – 10:50             Pr of.dr. Wolfgang Kummer: The taste of infection
10:50 – 11:10             Coffee break
11:10 – 11:50             Dr. Ilona Croy: Life is boring without smell – The impact of                                                          olfaction on depression
11:50 – 12:30             Prof.dr. Eddy van der Zee: Good vibrations improve brain                                                            functions 
12:30 – 14:00             Lunch 'Meet the Speakers' and other activities 
14:00 – 14:40             Dr. Liam Browne: Casting light on the molecules and cells that                                                 drive pain 
14:40 – 15:10             Drs. Sanne Brederoo: Two hemispheres: two visual systems? 
15:10 – 15:30             Coffee Break 
15:30 – 16:30             Prof.dr. Hannie Kremer: The auditory system, a fine-tuned                                                         sensory system molecularly unraveled through deafness 

16:30                              Closing remarks and drinks

 

 

Abstracts

Prof.dr. Alex Wade ( Department of Psychology, University of York, England) - Fly vision and its application to neurological disease

 

The fruit fly Drosophila Melanogaster is emerging as an important model for studying basic neuroscience and human genetic neurological disease.  In humans, the visual system has traditionally provided a valuable window into both normal and abnormal neurophysiology and methods for assaying human visual function using objective, non-invasive electrophysiological measurements are well established. To generate a comparable assay for flies, we have translated a rapid, non-invasive measurement technique (the steady state visually evoked potential - SSVEP) to Drosophila.
I will describe our SSVEP measurements of contrast response functions and spatiotemporal sensitivity profiles in Drosophila at different ages and in different genetic backgrounds. I will relate these data to human neurological disease – specifically Parkinson’s Disease and epilepsy and describe parallel work that we are performing with Parkinson's patients in Tunisia. I will also discuss our recent work using flies as in vivo screens for novel therapeutic compounds and using machine learning algorithms to classify mutant flies based solely on their visual response.
Finally, we find that flies respond to spatial frequencies well above the sampling Nyquist limit. I will discuss whether the ability to detect aliased information of this type should be considered as a feature or, so to speak, a ‘bug’ in the insect visual system.

Prof.dr. Wolfgang Kummer (Institute for Anatomy and Cell Biology, German Center for Lung Research, Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Germany) - The taste of infection

 

Specialized epithelial cells of the respiratory tract have been termed “solitary chemosensory cells” based upon expression of components of the canonical sweet, umami and bitter taste transduction pathway, or “brush cells” based upon their characteristic apical, brush-like tuft of rigid, villin containing microvilli. Cells defined by these criteria might not match one-to-one, and a generally accepted terminology is still lacking. Bitter substances are produced by bacteria, e.g. quorum sensing molecules (QSM) that serve to communicate information about bacterial population density. Free amino acids (umami) result from proteolytic breakdown and favor bacterial growth. Hence, by monitoring of the chemical composition of the mucosal lining fluid, brush cells serve as sentinels detecting bacterial colonization or the presence of other harmful components on the mucosal surface. These cells are cholinergic and are approached by sensory nerve fibers expressing nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. Upon stimulation with bitter substances, including bacterial QSM from Pseudomonas aeruginosa, brush cells elicit the initiation of avoidance reflexes and/or local defense mechanisms including neurogenic inflammation. Bacterial infection leads to increased brush cell numbers and upregulation of the taste transduction cascade. Based on the sentinel concept of brush cells, their presence was anticipated at other mucosal surfaces where they had not been reported before. Indeed, this led to the discovery of such cells in the auditory tube (the entrance to the middle ear), the urethra (the entrance to the genitourinary tract), the ocular conjunctiva, and even in the thymic medulla where epithelial cells are of endodermal origin. Application of bitter substances in the urethra elicit detrusor activity and thereby micturition, which can be interpreted as a cleaning (flushing) reflex. In the urethra, these cells respond to more than one canonical taste quality (bitter and umami) so that they, in analogy to polymodal nociceptors, may serve as polymodal chemosensors of potentially dangerous signals.

Dr. Ilona Croy (Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University of Dresden Medical School, Germany) - Life is boring without smell – The impact of olfaction on depression

 

Olfactory and emotional higher processing pathways share common anatomical substrates. Hence, depression is often accompanied by alterations in olfactory function. These alterations are negative in nature and may involve decreased activation in olfactory eloquent structures or decreased volume in the olfactory bulb (OB). Olfaction and depression may interact in two ways. First, olfactory function in depression is impaired as a consequence of reduced olfactory attention and diminished olfactory receptor turnover rates. Second, the OB may constitute a marker for enhanced vulnerability to depression. Closer analysis of these interactions may help to explain observed experimental data, as well as to elucidate new therapeutic strategies involving olfaction.

Prof.dr. Eddy A. van der Zee ( Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences, Molecular Neurobiology, University of Groningen, the Netherlands) - Good vibrations improve brain functions

 

Whole body vibration (WBV) is a technique to provide sensory stimulation to the body (and brain) through regular, low-amplitude vibrations using a vibrating platform. We first examined the impact of WBV on mouse brains. Mice were placed in a cage connected to a vibrating platform and exposed to 10 minutes WBV (30 Hz–1.9 g) per day for five weeks. Controls existed of sham WBV. After WBV, brains were analyzed for Glut-1 (a glucose transporter protein), c-fos (an immediate early gene indicative for neuronal activity), ChAT (Choline-Acetyltransferase, the rate-limiting enzyme for the production of Acetylcholine), and TH (Tyrosine-Hydroxylase, the rate-limiting enzyme for the production of dopamine). WBV increased the expression of Glut-1, ChAT (in many forebrain target regions) and TH (striatum). C-fos expression was enhanced selectively in the brain. Balance beam tests revealed that the performance improved gradually over time, and was significant after three (young mice of 3-4 months of age) or five weeks (old mice of ca. 24 months of age) of WBV treatment. This functional gain was still present two weeks after WBV intervention was stopped. Results of spatial memory testing showed significantly improved cognition. Next, we performed human studies, and showed that two minutes passive WBV (sitting on a chair mounted on the vibration platform) with 30 Hz frequency improved executive functioning in the Stroop test by about 8 % (acute effects; Regterschot et al., 2014). A series of experiments with healthy adults in which we used a duration of four minutes of passive WBV in a chronic treatment protocol (5 weeks, 3 days per week, n = 5), revealed even stronger improvements in Stroop test performance (maximally 14% improvement). Moreover, the effects were still significantly present after one week without WBV treatment, illustrating the potential of passive WBV to improve cognition. WBV may stimulate vibration-sensitive mechanoreceptors in the skin activating the brain, such as the Meissner corpuscles sensitive to 10–80 Hz vibrations and specifically responsive to 30–40 Hz vibrations.

Dr. Liam Browne ( Molecular Nociception Group, Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research, University College London Division of Medicine, England) - Casting light on the molecules and cells that drive pain

 

Animals need to identify and then minimise danger in order to survive in a hostile environment. Noxious stimuli activate high-threshold nociceptor sensory neurons that drive pain and a rapid withdrawal from the stimulus, a reflex described by Sherrington over a century ago. However, many of the molecular and cellular processes that underlie these behaviours are not fully understood, partly due to a lack of tools. I will describe a new method to engineer endogenous ion channels for control with light, so that they can be controlled with exquisite spatial and temporal precision. One wavelength of light rapidly opens the channel and another wavelength closes the channel. This will allow dissection of their specific functional roles in pain signalling and other physiological processes, in intact tissues. Additionally, I will discuss how rapid withdrawal behaviours can be resolved in freely-behaving mice using optogenetics combined with high-speed imaging, allowing us to map their fine-grained temporal structure.

Drs. Sanne Brederoo ( Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Groningen, the Netherlands) - Two hemispheres: two visual systems?

 

The two cerebral hemispheres each are specialised for a number of cognitive and sensory functions, referred to as ‘lateralisation’ of the brain. Lateralisation can be viewed as a particular instance of cortical specialisation, which enables the brain to use specialised routines, resulting in efficient and fast processing. A well-known lateralised function in humans is that of language: for most right-handed people, it is their left hemisphere that governs language-related processes. Lateralisation has also been shown for visual processes. For example, we know that the left hemisphere is specialised in reading, and the right hemisphere in perception of faces. A wide range of visual processes and their lateralisation have been extensively studied in the past, but mostly in isolation from one another. As a consequence, it has remained unclear whether and how lateralisation of one visual process relates to lateralisation of another.
In a recent study, we addressed this question by testing lateralisation of multiple visual processes within participants. We found there to be a relation between lateralisation of local processing and word recognition, as well as between global and face processing. This supports the hypothesis that similar visual sub-functions tend to co-lateralise. Moreover, it shows that individuals will differ in the strength or direction of hemispheric specialisation for visual processes. This in turn leads to interesting questions with regard to the development of lateralisation, and the effect the degree of lateralisation has on the way we see the world.

Prof. Dr. Hannie Kremer ( Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, the Netherlands) - The auditory system, a fine-tuned sensory system molecularly unraveled through deafness

 

The auditory system is a remarkably sensitive system that enables us to discriminate sound of a wide range of sources and intensities. This system has been and still is being characterized in great detail at the morphological and electrophysiological level. Knowledge concerning the molecular aspects of the peripheral auditory system was lagging behind partly due to the relatively small number of sensory cells. Identification of genes associated with hearing loss in both humans and model systems such as the mouse importantly contributed to our current knowledge on the molecular make-up of mainly the peripheral auditory system. This allowed the elucidation of the molecular composition of inner ear structures and biological processes essential for hearing. Identification of genes associated with Usher syndrome, the most common type of hereditary deaf-blindness, has unveiled important components of the mechanotransduction machinery in hair cells of the inner ear, the connecting cilium in photoreceptor cells and the ribbon synapses of both cell types. In addition, further analyses of these genes have shown the complexity of gene function with regard to expression and functional differentiation of protein isoforms. Other examples of insights provided by the identification of deafness genes are the identifications of proteins of the tectorial membrane of the cochlea and the characterization of consequences of these defects for sound perception. The molecular structure of the central part of the auditory system is mainly restricted to the spiral ganglion cells and several genes important for innervation of hair cells have been identified some of which will be discussed.

List of speakers

Prof, Dr. Liam Browne

Prof, Dr. Liam Browne

Prof. Dr. Liam Brown uses advanced optical and genetic tools with electrophysiology to address how stimuli are encoded and processed by the spinal cord. His research aims to dissect the neural circuitry underlying pain signaling.
Molecular Nociception Group, Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research, University College London Division of Medicine, England

Dr. Ilona Croy

Dr. Ilona Croy

Dr. Ilona Croy is head of the Research Centre for Psychosensory Interactions. Dr. Croy and her team use psychophysical methods as well as functional and structural imaging techniques to investigate various sensory modalities. More recently she investigates the intersection of olfaction and cognition and olfaction as an indicator of psychiatric disorders.
Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University of Dresden Medical School, Germany

Prof. Dr. Hannie Kremer

Prof. Dr. Hannie Kremer

Prof. Dr. Hannie Kremer's research aims to unravel the genetic defects that underlie different forms of hereditary hearing loss. Through her research the genetic causes of hearing loss have been identified in many families.
Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, the Netherlands

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Kummer

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Kummer

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Kummer is head of the Cardiopulmonary Neurobiology research group. His team has recently shown that the bitter taste transduction cascade is also expressed in the chemosensory cells of the respiratory tract. Using a variety of molecular and genetic techniques, his group aims to identify the role of this chemosensory system in pathogen recognition and clearance.
Institute for Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Giessen, Germany

Prof. Dr. Alex Wade

Prof. Dr. Alex Wade

Prof. Dr. Alex Wade current research investigates visual attention, the representation of color and contrast in the human brain and the way in which these processes are affected by neurological diseases.
Department of Psychology, University of York, England

Sanne Brederoo

Sanne Brederoo

After finishing the research master Cognitive Neuropsychology at the VU University Amsterdam, Sanne Brederoo started her PhD research at the department of Experimental Psychology of the University of Groningen, and the Neuro-Imaging Center of the University Medical Center Groningen. Her research focuses on the respective roles of the left and right cerebral hemispheres in visual perception. She aims to find out to what extent different aspects of visual processing are co-lateralised, and whether there are large individual differences to be found here in.

Prof. Dr. Eddy van der Zee

Prof. Dr. Eddy van der Zee

Prof. Dr. Eddy van der Zee is interested in various aspects of molecular neurobiology. His most recent research investigates the effects of sensory stimulation, in the form of whole body vibration, on cognitive function.
Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences, Molecular Neurobiology, University of Groningen, the Netherlands