SfN Day 1: Saturday highlight

Rats on bath salts

This is going to be a short post. After the marathon that was Friday, it was all I could do to say hello to everyone in the aisles at the poster sessions, take in a single talk, and peace out to the zoo, where we saw only (wild) deer and a sleeping bear on PandaCam, which we could have done from our warm California apartments.

The talk was a couldn’t-resist morbid curiosity thing. Really nice work by Marcelo Febo from the University of Florida. I came in slightly late, saw that he was using fMRI, and thought, WHO did you get to go in the SCANNER on BATH SALTS? Rats is who, turns out.

fMRI can’t image fast changes in the brain, only the sluggish change in blood flow in response to neurons firing. More blood arrives to deliver more oxygen to fuel them, and we use this as a proxy for brain activity. At this slow timescale, the activity of the nucleus accumbens (the brain’s “pleasure center“) became desynchronized from, strikingly, pretty much everything it normally likes to sync up with around the brain. What this means, how long it lasts, and whether faster activity is doing something similar remain to be seen.

For anyone wanting to know more, you can catch a whole bunch more on bath salts and other crazy drugs on Tuesday. After you’ve visited me at my poster, of course.

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