Sunday, June 30, 2013

Autobiographical Memory Conference

Last week, on Thursday and Friday I got the opportunity to attend a conference: Social Perspectives On Autobiographical Memory - Memory and Imagination held by Con Amore (the center I am working at). It was held downtown and my PI was nice enough to drive me to the conference and back. About 150 people from all over the world attended. On the first day there were 6 speakers and a poster session. The three speakers in the afternoon were all from Con Amore so I had already heard them present their talks when they were praticing earlier that week. The first three speakers all had done intriguing research in suggestion and false memories in adults and children. The first speaker was my favorite as she was very entertaining and funny, she talked about how her lab used photo shop to insert a childhood photo of the participant into a picture of a hot air balloon so it seemed like they had taken a hot air balloon ride when they were little when in fact they hadn't. The adult participants then came in for three sessions. During the first meeting most of the participants stated that they couldn't remember taking a hot air balloon ride but during the next two sessions they told the examiner about their "false memory" of riding in a hot air balloon adding more detail each time they came, believing that the event had actually happened when they were little.

The second talk was the same idea of false memory but with children. The researchers were examining if repeatedly asking a child about a certain event could cause children to tell a false memory. The researchers also looked at whether the disposition, comforting or distant, of the experimenter asking the child about the memories caused the child to talk about false memories. They found that the more distant the experimenter was, the more the children told false memories in order to try and please the experimenter. They also found that children, especially very young children, will eventually give in to an adults persistence that an event did or did not occur.

The poster sessions were interesting too and I got a chance to talk to some PhD students about there work. There were a lot of little breaks in between everything and man they feed you a lot at conferences. All of the Con Amore center was at the conference which gave me a chance to get to know them better and talk to people in the lab that I hadn't really gotten a chance to talk to before. Especially since we were with each other all day, I didn't leave the hotel till 9:00 pm the first night. Before the conference dinner there was a reception at the Aarhus city hall. The people of Aarhus are very proud of their city hall, which was designed by famed Danish architect and designer Arne Jacobsen, in the 1940's.  

The second day of the conference was pretty much the same as the first except shorter with four speakers instead of six. 

It was such a great experience to go to a conference for the first time and hear what people all over the world are doing research in and getting a chance to learn more about the field of autobiographical memory.

After the conference on Friday night, I went with two other Americans (one is doing her PhD in the Con Amore lab and has lived in Denmark for 5 years and the other one is doing her PhD at Duke but came to visit the center) and got North Carolina BBQ at this American owned restaurant downtown. The BBQ was really good. I have been adjusting nicely to life in Denmark but there is nothing like eating BBQ to make you think of home. 

The Search for the Elusive Ketchup Bottle & More

Since I've been trying to cook most of my meals at home, I generally go to the market a couple times a week to constantly stock up on supplies and groceries. It definitely saves a lot of money since most restaurants in Buenos Aires seem rather pricey. While cooking for myself, I realized that a little bit of ketchup goes a long way in regards to flavor. Also, the Heniz Ketchup was a homey item that added a bit of familiarity in this unfamiliar environment.

However, I found out that ketchup is not a universal concept! I went to the local supermarket, trying in vain to explain what ketchup is in my broken Spanish. A confused lady at the cash register directed me to some tomato sauce instead. But after walking many more blocks down and searching through several stores, I finally found (a rather expensive) bottle of Heinz, just like home!
I would consider this as one of my more luxurious indulgements, but ketchup is just something I can't do without! This was about 35 pesos (around $7), which may not be considered too expensive in the States, but compared to some other items, it is on the pricier end. For instance, this container of the Argentinian delight known as Dulce de Leche was only 7 pesos (around $1~$1.50) - it's cheaper than some bottled water brands here!
Dulce de Leche is basically sweetened, condensed milk that has been caramelized over a slow-heating process. It tastes very much like caramel but with a creamier consistency. Argentinians seem to love this confection and add it to just about any dessert they can. The cañoncitos are one such example: a flaky pastry covered in chocolate and icing with a dulce de leche filling. I wish they would have this in US, but we have enough fatty foods.

Speaking of which, I visited the local McDonald's and was pleasantly surprised by many things. As I mentioned in the previous post, the McCafes seem to have a huge presence in Argentina. They are almost like another section of the McDonald's that had an even more extensive menu than the actual restaurant. What I thought was even more interesting was the part of the building overhanging the drive-thru entrance: The Ronald Gym Club. Perhaps the Argentinian branch of McDonald's is doing something positive for the Argentinian community and not contributing to obesity? 
For my first time though, I ordered something off of what is equivalent to the Dollar Menu. The burger ended up costing something more like $3.00, but it still seemed like a decent deal because it came with three full-sized patties that would have defeated any Dollar Menu item from the US without contest. I believe the quality of the patty was of higher quality than the US ones as well.

And of course, Argentinians have developed a new kind of McFlurry loaded with more Dulce de Leche. It also included bits of chocolate infused with more Dulce de Leche. It was simply heavenly and only cost around $3.00 for a huge serving.
Unfortunately, I was not able to do much else in terms of exploring because I was trapped in my room for around a 15 hour period over the past weekend. Argentinian doors and locks are extremely tricky because they are not exactly a "perfect fit" as they are in the US. Furthermore, I managed to get the key stuck in the lock, so I was literally trapped.

Those tricky keys and locks.

My roommate had gone away for the weekend, so I was all alone in the apartment. I did however remember that my roommate/subletter said that her mother would be coming during the weekend to water the plants. To make sure I didn't miss her, I took some paper and wrote a note in Spanish, asking whoever was on the other side of the door to save me. Fortunately, the mother came by and was able to speak English. I was eventually saved from my self-imposed prison. Luckily I had some food inside my room to keep me alive for a little bit.

Getting my work started in the lab was initially slow due to a holiday and some unforeseen circumstances. However, my host PI and I were able to get things on the road after we were able to visualize how the preparations of the leeches would be made. She has taught me a couple new dissection preparations already, and we have shotgunned about 30-40 mini-experiments using only a couple preparations. Since my research has a heavy electrophysiology component, once the dissection preps are in place, experimenting and seeing results are a matter of pushing some buttons and impaling some neurons.

We initially opted to test for muscular tension induced by stimulation of a particular non-spiking cell, which has been linked to all the motorneurons in the leech ganglion. However, after our initial experiment, we have decided to include some other cells, including the P (pressure-detecting) and AE (annulus erector) cells. We have not analyzed any results so far, but we can make a qualitative guess on most experiments by observing them in live action through the digitzed data on the computer screen. It is a very interesting and adaptive process that allows us to plan our experiments and direction as we go along, noting which procedures work and which procedures don't.

The lab members have also been eager to introduce me to the lab culture and my further enculturation of Argentinian customs. I was finally able to try mate (MAH-teh), a traditional Argentinian tea-infused drink. It is actually bitter but reminiscent of my usual morning black coffee. Argentinians seem to use it for a similar effect, always sharing the drink in their hollowed gourd bowls and metal straw. It is truly an interesting tradition. I am hoping to buy a mate gourd for myself before I leave!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Glory of Rome

Did you ever think there was something that was just so amazing that you wanted to tell everyone about it? Or maybe you wanted to do something that showed everyone just how important this thing was? Did you think to yourself, I’ll just construct a building over a seventh of a mile long and 450 feet tall without using any power tools or modern machinery, and the I’ll cover every square centimeter of its surface in carved marble, gold, or renaissance and baroque artwork that should last thousands of years?

Because that’s basically St. Peter’s Basilica

And that’s basically how they build things in Rome. I’m pretty sure the phrase “bigger is better” was Roman long before Americans started using it. Yes, those are people down there. It does look like they stole this cathedral from a nearby horde of giants, doesn’t it? (If the Statue of Liberty visited she could wave her torch around her head and not hit the ceiling of the dome. I looked up the dimensions)

And yet Rome is a big city in a much different way than the city from which the Statue of Liberty hails. It's not a city of metal and glass and skyscrapers on the horizon. 

Around practically every corner in Rome you're confronted with a relic of the past. It may be crowded by apartments built within the last hundred years, vying for space in dense, modern city. I imagine something like the Pantheon once dominated a vast plaza, so that back in 100 AD, Romans could admire its beauty from all sides, but now it's impossible to take a picture of that building without also capturing the hotels and shops and such that have been built just beyond its walls. And yet, that's something amazing about Rome. Rome is not a museum; these monuments have not been cloistered. Rome is still a living, growing city, and the monuments of ancient times have been incorporated with the present. The Romans here live with history as a visible part of their everyday lives. The glory of Rome continues.

Venice, on the other hand, is a museum. It's a beautiful city, don't get me wrong. Sitting down next to some small canal and watching the decorative gondolas paddle slowly past Venetian architecture, where the houses are just as likely to have a door to the water as to the street, 

enjoying a glass of wine and the sardines freshly caught off the coast of the city that now make your pasta taste oh-so-good...

That's hard to beat. But Venice is a museum, in that this city on an island ran out of room hundreds of years ago. Almost every part of Venice seems like either an exhibit or a gift shop, and it may have more "gift shops" than any other museum in the world. You could almost believe that every Venetian that lived there simply worked for the tourists, and a Venetian business man or factory worker would have seemed out of place. I did once see some post office workers, delivering mail by boat, but if Rome is a city of giants, Venice is certainly a city of tourists. Maybe the city would have been more interesting on a boat. As Hannah and I made our way through the haphazard maze of narrow alleys and bridges that is Venice on foot, we got lost several times, 

but I've heard that Venice makes complete sense when traveling by boat. In that aspect, it really is a unique city, and although overcrowded, still a place worth visiting. Also, St. Mark's Basilica was one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen in my life.

Really, it was hard to go back to lab on Monday. But, fortunately for me, I'm guaranteed a visit back to the glorious city of Rome someday! Or at least that's what they say about throwing a coin into the Trevy fountain.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Flat tires and tourists

It's been one heck of a week since my last post.  Where do I even start?

I guess I'll start with the epic bike ride on Wednesday.  After work, I joined 15 of my labmates on a 35km bike ride to the Ammersee lake outside of Munich.  My labmates wanted to take advantage of the nice weather and the incredible beer garden right next to the lake.  They assured me that the 35 kilometers would only take two hours to bike there.  Only two hours.  No big deal, right?

I was initially a little hesitant about going because I had just caught a cold and I had to wake up early the next morning to head off to Italy, but as I started the journey with my labmates, I soon realized that I didn't need to worry about myself surviving the trip.  Instead, I needed to worry about whether the ancient bike my landlady gave me would survive.  Sure enough, 3/4 of the way to the lake, the front tire of my bike popped.  Luckily, Germans are bikers and they know how to handle these situations easily and efficiently.  I was soon on my way again after my labmates replaced the inner tube of the tire.  (albiet still concerned because the tire wasn't 100% in place properly as the bike was so old and rusty).

But that's not all!  Just as we reached the beer garden, my front tire popped again!  35 kilometers, 2 flat tires, and 2 hours later, I made it to the lake and sat down with my labmates to enjoy some delicious authentic Bavarian food.  The perfect weather, relaxed beer garden, and nice conversation with my labmates definitely made up for the two flat tires.  And it certainly did make for a memorable bike ride!
The beer garden inches away from the lake.  Filled with locals doing what they do best--drinking beer!
The lake.  We got there just in time for the sunset!

After the bike ride, the adventure continued.  I left early Thursday morning to go to Frankfurt and meet up with Shawn.  Together, we went to Venice on Thursday, left Venice for Rome early Saturday morning (waking up at 4:30am to catch a 6am train, yay!), and then narrowly caught our overnight train back to Munich on Sunday evening.  I'm sure you'll hear much more about the trip from Shawn, but it was filled with sightseeing, delicious pasta/pizza, gelato, and picture-taking.  We even saw the Pope through a window in the Vatican on Sunday!  He actually spoke to the crowd for a good ten minutes.  About what?  I'll never know because he wasn't speaking English.  But the experience was still incredible!
 Venice really is a beautiful and unique city.  I've never seen so many boats used as a main form of transportation before!  They even have "water buses," which is Venice's version of public transport.
We went up the Campanile and got the best view of all of Venice!  Venice is surprisingly small though.. you can walk across the whole island in half an hour.  However, what little room Venice has is completely jammed packed with tourists.
 It's not immediately apparent from this picture, but this was taken outside the Colosseum.  
The Pantheon, my favorite building out of all my travels so far.  Don't let the outside of it fool you, the inside is the most stunning place I've ever seen!
 Blurry picture of the Pope!

After arriving back in Munich early Monday morning, I went to work and met up with Melanie in the evening for some traditional Bavarian food.  We went to the beer garden Augustiner-Keller, one of the most popular beer gardens in the city with, arguably, the best beer in the city.  Delicious food.. awesome company.. complete with live music.. what more could I ask for?

My favorite part of being abroad this summer has been the conversations with the people I've met.  The grad students and masters students in the lab have shown me a lot of what life is like in Munich for young people who are full of energy and enthusiasm.  While in Italy, we encountered lots of other tourists and locals who added an additional perspective to the world with their different backgrounds.  For example, on the overnight train, I had a long conversation with an Italian young woman on pop culture in the US and Italy.  It was fascinating to hear her opinion on things and to realize that even though we're from different parts of the world and grew up in completely different settings, the world is not so different for us.  And we're not so different from each other.  In many ways, it seemed like we could have grown up right next to each other.

Anyway, stay tuned for where I go this weekend.  No weekend is a boring weekend here. :)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ein bier bitte!

--- the first thing I learned to say in German even before I got there. A German doctor on my 10-hour train ride to Munich taught me how to ask for a beer in German. Turned out to be pretty useful because beer is, in fact, cheaper than water in Germany! 
 Beer gardening with Hannah in Munich.
There is so much more than beer in Munich though - from biking up to the Neuschwanstein castle to exploring the Deutsches museum, I almost didn't want to come back to France! Munich is the perfect mix of urban and green-ness, its characteristic churches in city center and large public parks wherever you go!

I only stayed a weekend but it has been one of the most fun I've had in Europe so far. Meeting up with a friend from WV and later Hannah, my itinerary were as follows:


Neuschwanstein castle ~ absolutely GORGEOUS. It was built by King Ludwig, who was a little delusional in that he built these magnificent castles to escape reality. With a view like that, who could blame him?

Authentic German cuisine - Fresh sausages, potatoes, and black forest cake!

Inside a eukaryotic cell.
Deutsches museum - 5 floors of awesome science than you can imagine, from pharmaceutics to coal mining! It's like everything they teach us in science class, except really interesting!

Sandeman's walking tour of city center - some points of interest: the stadium where Hitler gave his first speech, and a church (there is one every block or so) that was built in the name of the devil. I highly recommend this tour - it's completely free! I also went to a beerhall with some American students - the first ones I met so far in Europe!

I stayed in a hostel for the first time, on a street called Mozartstrass right next to the place where Octoberfest is held, one of the largest celebrations of beer in the world!

My lab in Lyon.

In any case, it's also good to be back sleeping in my cozy attic with my quirky French roommates in Lyon. I'm happy with the progress I'm making the lab. Since the post-secondary school system works a little differently in Lyon, they treat me as a 'Master's student' here in lab, where I even got to order my own antibodies, and work independently with our lab technician. (My PIs are in Canada for a meeting right now. They told me that if I can finish the immunochemistry and Western blot with my new antibodies, I am free to travel, which is why I visited Hannah in Munich last weekend. It's perfect!)

A word of advice for future IRES students in Europe: buy your EURAIL pass in the US - you get free shipping. I had to take a train to Geneva in order to buy one in order to go to Munich. But with the work schedule of a scientist, where you never know if your experiment is going to work perfectly and you can take some time off, the 10 day travel pass over 2 months for 470euros is perfect for me.

The problem is where to go next...Geneva, London, Paris, so many places, so little time! 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The streets of London

I can't believe I'm already at the halfway point of my visit to the Crossmodal Research Laboratory. Time sure goes by fast when you're having fun, I guess. My fifth week in Oxford started off with festivities of Professor Spence's birthday on the 18th. There had been much debate over the weekend of what to get him, and what he likes, but in the end we decided on a stone mortar, a hearts ice cube maker, and some drink stones.The weather was beautiful throughout the week, and I even spent some time relaxing and reading by the Thames.Throughout the week, I continued to gather more participants and by Thursday I had 15, a good number from which I could see if there was a trend in the data. So far, it looks like we have a trend and are receiving our desired results!

The lab is slowly becoming even more empty, as some of the of the other visitors are heading back to their home countries. This week, we said a preliminary goodbye to Emanuela, a PhD student from Italy. We attended a SciBar event at Port Mahon that explored the possibility of life on other planets and grabbed dinner to eat in the park soon after. I tried an gnocchi, a breaded ball full of rice, cheese, and vegetables. We continued with the goodbyes on Friday at lunch in the University Parks. Friday was also the summer solstice, the longest day of the year-it truly felt like it too, since I only headed to bed around 3am, working late to submit my secondary medical school applications. Pressing submit was a bit anticlimactic, but now I can relax for a bit..

the lab outside the Italian restaurant
Earlier this week, my cousin Sanya landed in London to start her research internship through Arcadia University and we had made plans to meet up over the weekend. I spent the weekend with her, exploring the streets of London and navigating the London Underground. We truly made the most of our weekend-eating, exploring, and just spending time together.

I arrived around 10 a.m. on Saturday morning to King's Cross station (the same one that the "Harry Potter" series refers to) and by the time I had put all my stuff into her room, it was time for brunch. We headed to Cafe Oz, where we both had a full English breakfast-filling enough to last until dinner. We visited the British Library and spent a while looking through the "Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library" exhibit. The gallery hosts a permanent display of over 200 fascinating items from sacred texts to early literary works. From the Magna Carta to the Gutenberg Bible, from the scrawlings of Handle to the backs of letters with Beatles lyrics, it was truly a marvelous collection. As an ardent Beatles fan, I loved reading the manuscripts of John Lennon's lyrics to "Strawberry Fields Forever," "She Said She Said" and "In My Life," together with letters by John Lennon that were donated under the Cultural Gifts Scheme by Hunter Davies. After exploring the past in the Library, we went on to the British Museum, where we saw the Rosetta Stone and parts of the Parthenon. According to my cousin, there is much debate about the Parthenon. To cap off our busy day, we went into the heart of London for dinner at Nando's, a popular chain restaurant in England, where I finally got my hands on a veggie burger-so delicious! We then ventured to Piccadilly Circus and Big Ben to see them at night with all their lights.
The British Library

part of the Parthenon

Rosetta Stone

Piccadilly Circus

Big Ben at night
Sunday was an equally busy day, full of sightseeing. We spent the day at visiting popular landmarks like Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and went to the banks of Big Ben and the London Eye. Since the weather was particularly beautiful, we had the chance to sit out and enjoy the beautiful city.
Buckingham Palace

Westminster Abbey

Big Ben during the day! 
London Eye

Monday, June 24, 2013

Summer Solstice

     During the longest day of the year it is a Denmark tradition to have a bonfire and "burn a witch". The longest day of the year was Thursday, June 20th, so on Sunday people armed with blankets and picnic baskets visited the park in the middle of Aarhus University. There were speeches earlier in the day, music and a bonfire. They "burn a witch" (obviously not a real person) because the longest day of the year is supposed to be the day when "good" is the strongest and therefore able to rid the "evil", represented by the witch, from the earth.

Friday, June 21, 2013

¡Bienvenidos a Buenos Aires!

With the first week of my time at Buenos Aires drawing to a close, I still can't believe that I am on another continent. The entire experience so far has very much been mind-blowing. Even with just the beginning of my journey, I am so appreciative of this chance in enlightening me to what things are like outside of the United States, not only in the science but of the culture and sociality which defines our universal human condition.

It looks like I wasn't the only one not looking forward to the 10 hour flight :3
I think the anxiety of the trip first hit me as I landed in Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, waiting to board my flight to Argentina. Unfortunately, there was a one hour delay, which meant I was wallowing in my anxiety at the gate for an additional hour while being surrounded by Spanish-speaking (presumably) Argentinians; it already felt like I had left the US.

Yay for international flights!
I was pleasantly surprised when the flight crew started handing out dinner because I thought the custom of complimentary in-flight meals were all but abolished some 10 years ago.  The meal itself wasn't very good and literally half-baked, but I think I was hungry enough to eat the whole thing without complaining at the time. I watched three movies on the plane ride there, although I can't seem to remember which movies they were. United Airlines also sports an impressively large overhead luggage container because I realized the "carry-on" I brought was actually large enough to have been checked-in. A few flight attendants and passengers gave me some worried looks, but it would have all gone to Argentina on the same plane, right?

Dozens of these European-esque statues dot the city streets.
Going through customs and border police was relatively fast, and I was on my way to al centro, or downtown, Buenos Aires through a bus service. The Ezeiza International Airport which I landed in is actually 30 to 45 minutes away from the actual city of Buenos Aires. Once I reached the bus station, someone from my host lab came to pick me up and take me to my apartment. In total, it took me nearly 24 hours to get from Hartsfield-Jackson to my apartment, so I rewarded myself with a nap.

I would say Argentina is quite different from other Spanish-speaking Latin American countries because its development and culture and have been influenced by so many different sources. There is definitely a more European atmosphere to Buenos Aires than capital cities of other South American countries. My host PI, Dr. Lidia Szczupak, told me of the more prominent Italian tradition, rather than Spanish, in certain elements of Argentine culture, like cuisine. And due to continued immigration, many other ethnic groups, such as the Chinese and the Koreans, have effectively established their place in the country as well.

Buenos Aires on a rainy day, taken from my apartment on the 11th floor.
Buenos Aires is divided into various districts. My barrio, Colegiales, is a sleepy, cobblestone-paved residential area tucked between some of the provinces most bustling sectors. Literally if I walk a couple blocks in any direction, I will be met by a busy avenue with people and shops open at nearly all hours of the day. I wasn't able to take many other good pictures of the neighborhood because many of the streets are under heavy construction. Hopefully by the end of my trip, things will have cleared up a bit more.

By the Colegiales train station.
Yes, they're open for 25 hours everyday!
On my second day at Buenos Aires, I ventured to take the public transportation system to one of the surrounding barrios, Recoleta. I am fairly sure that I was ripped off when getting a subway ticket, but I am just thankful that I got to where I needed to go. I remember getting on the subway not knowing which stop I had to get off at and wondering if I was on the correct subway line entirely. But somehow, I recognized the one street name that I knew and was able to get to my destination (after walking a kilometer or two). There were also some travelling musicians who got on my train and started jamming in the midst of the morning commute. I wanted to take some pictures of them, but the subway was more crowded than the C Route shuttle during rush hour at the time.

My main purpose of this trip was to get some USD exchanged for pesos through the so-called "black market." But as I've been reassured many times by many Argentinians and travelers to Argentina, this is a perfectly legitimate way to exchange money. Since the Argentine peso is so prone to inflation and instability, many Argentine citizens prefer to cash their savings in USD, often offering far better rates for dollars than the official market. This makes it a win-win solution between citizens and foreigners. Although I couldn't find the store I was searching for, I was able to strike a decent deal with a local family who owned a string of small markets (kioskos). 

Starbucks would not stand for this in the US.
While I was walking around, I found this standalone McCafe and was so surprised because I had just seen a McDonalds a couple stores away. Interestingly enough, as soon as I took this picture, a group of American tourists came by, remarked on the ingenious idea of a standalone McCafe, and took pictures. How American of us.

Dog walking, a full-time job in BA.
Here is an example of another sociocultural difference between the US and Argentina. Most Argentines are extremely busy people but not entirely because their schedules are full of things to do. But due to public transportation issues, traffic at nearly all hours of sunlight, and a host of other issues means that most working class Argentines get home and have dinner at 8 or 9PM. This doesn't leave time for many other things. But Argentinians also love dogs, and to combat the necessity of having to walk their dogs, they hire dog-walkers to take care of their dogs during the day. You'll run into multiple packs of dogs throughout the day, all handled by one person. I've already seen handlers with many more dogs than the ones in the picture above! It's also very interesting when two packs unexpectedly meet each other on the streets :3

My desk and computer at the lab.
My very own homemade power supply!

In regards to my research, I will be at the Ciudad Universitaria campus of the University of Buenos Aires in the Departamento de Fisología, Biología Molecular, y Celular. Our lab is more like a consortium of many different labs, all working in a communal environment. There are physiologists, neuroscientists, molecular biologists, and many other academics using various perspectives of study. My host PI introduced me to most of the people working in our shared space. Since most of them were fairly fluent in English, it was nice to have a conversation lasting longer than a minute!

My project will involve using intracellular recordings to stimulate the NS (non-spiking) neuron of the leech ganglion. The Szczupak lab has previously studied this particular neuron in detail to ascertain its properties and possible role in the leech Central Pattern Generator, specifically in leech crawling mechanisms. This neuron has been shown to be electrically coupled with major motor neurons in the ganglion, and, in a previous paper, the lab discovered that hyperpolarization and depolariztion of the NS caused reciprocal effects in the motor neuron firing frequency.

The exact role of NS is still debated; it could be a type of premotor neuron or another regulatory element altogether. To aid in this investigation, I will be using force transducers (which I have previously worked with on the leech heart) to measure tension of a piece of leech skin still attached to an isolated ganglion. We will use extracellular and intracellular stimulation of the NS to observe what effects it may have on the actual motor output, which will be measured by how it affects the leech skin movement, a mirror to leech crawling.

As such, I am excited to see what the rest of this trip has in stock for me! I will end my first post with some pictures of local graffiti artists. They definitely give an interesting look into the local culture and show how art can be represented on any kind of medium.

Until next time. Ciao!