SfN Day 1/Theme H: Left-sided brains, busting brain myths & a translational separation

Over in the theme H section of the gargantuan poster hall, in addition to running into one of my favorite undergraduate professors from Baylor (Sic ’em bears!), I got to check out some interesting posters.

I stopped by a poster (20.01SA) on the left-sided bias in brain depictions by Jeffery Wilson and his undergraduate students from Albion College. Think about drawing a picture of a brain on a chalkboard. Did you imagine drawing the left hemisphere of the brain? Apparently, so does everyone else. With a Google image search, Wilson and his students showed that most of the time depictions of the brain demonstrate this left-sided bias. Interestingly, this bias was not present when the search was restricted to only historical images. It’s not clear why we seem to have developed this laterality bias over time. Wilson hypothesizes that the handedness of the drawer or the left to right nature of English writing may play a part, but this random yet intriguing phenomenon deserves a closer look.

I also got to check out a poster (23.17SA) by the creators of Brain Busters, an outreach program geared toward breaking down common myths about the brain and increasing neuroscience literacy among educators and the general public. This online (free!) training program is composed of modules in which neuroscience misconceptions are confronted and discussed in an informative yet encouraging manner, leaving learners not only with a new understanding of the facts but also the ability to think critically about future neuroscience myths they may encounter. Check out this newly launching program at www.brainbusters.org. You can even buy some awesome t-shirts to support their cause.

Lastly, I stopped by a poster (20.16SA) by S. Robert Snodgrass from the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. He shared some interesting ideas on the utility of animal models of human diseases and disorders. Discussing models of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and autism specifically, he noted that what works in an animal model, either in terms of mechanism or treatment, often doesn’t translate into human clinical studies. He cited the oversimplification of human disorders and hype over “trendy” animal models as some of the causes of this translation separation. As far as suggestions for working around this problem, Snodgrass didn’t have much to offer. Perhaps acknowledging the issue is the first step.

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