Fantastic creatures III: masters of escape

What would you do if someone (or something) came at you with the unashamedly obvious intention of eating you? Would you try to outwit it by dressing up and becoming part of the scenery? Would you make use of your ninja skills and kick it in the face before running away? Or would you keep it cool and wait until this someone (or something) suddenly realised it doesn’t actually have the guts to digest you? Whatever imaginary stratagem your mind is plotting right now has the potential to be vastly overshadowed by what you are about to read. Welcome to the 2019 edition of Fantastic Creatures.

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Preparing for PhD interviews

Your name is up. You are nearly the last one to be called. For the last four hours you have been sitting in a seminar room with a dozen other applicants that all seem much more confident and much less nerve-racked than you feel. The excitement of getting offered an interview has long past, and you attempt to go over everything you have prepared during the last two weeks in a split of a second. You take one last sip of water, dry your hands on your trousers, and make sure you still remember your opening sentence. You turn your head, take a deep breath, and swallow your nerves. “That’s me”, you reply, standing up and shaking the hand of Professor Interviewer #1. You smile. “It is nice to meet you”. PI#1 smiles back – “Let’s do this” – and starts walking towards the room where the interviews are being held. 

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Letters from my PhD (II)

It’s funny how ideas work. Sometimes a bunch of them come to you at once, and although you may manage to write some down, you usually end up forgetting most of them. Once in a while you are able to turn one of these ideas into a post, and sometimes you even think it might become something regular, like a series. Then two years later you read that post again and you smile at how naively optimist you were. But then you decide to give it a second chance. One and a half months into my PhD at UCL I wrote what I thought would “start a new section in my blog: a place where once a month(ish) I’ll try to write about how this PhD thingy is going”. Two years later, it is time for part two.

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The 2018 UCL Neuroscience Symposium

For the second year in a row I’ve had the chance to attend and write about the UCL Neuroscience Symposium. Whether you just came back from FENS and are struggling to remember what did even happen during the symposium or whether you simply would like a glance on what it is like when a big portion of the neuroscience community in London gathers in the same hall, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for my take on this year’s event or, if you are feeling nostalgic, check out the 2017 UCL Neuroscience Symposium.

On Friday 22nd of June, just under 800 researchers gathered at the Institute of Education to celebrate the 9th edition of the UCL Neuroscience Symposium. With two fantastic keynote speakers, six talks by UCL group leaders, and 129 posters spread across three sessions, the event was once again a big success that marked the culmination of another impressive year for the UCL Neuroscience Domain.

Daniel Wolpert


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10 long reads to make you think

Chances are that if you are a human being that has survived the lingering festive period you will be either patting your back after coming up with a remarkably-self-embettering-yet-very-much-achievable brief list of New Year’s Resolutions, or struggling to stick to them. You are not alone.

Let us assume, for the sake of the argument, that you have resolved to read more this year. Let us assume, just because it is a New Year’s Resolution, that you want this reading to be meaningful, to teach you something. Let us assume, just follow me on this one, that you want 10 long reads to make you think. What a marvellous coincidence, my digital friend! For I was just thinking of writing *precisely* about that.

[Full disclosure: if patience is neither your forte nor an item in your list of resolutions, you can find the links to the reads at the end of the article.]

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Les albors de la Neurociència (VI): segles XVIII i XIX

Ha arribat l’hora de tancar la sèrie d’articles sobre les albors de la Neurociència, on hem viatjat als orígens de la neurociència per tornar navegant a través de la seva història. Com que ja fa uns mesos de l’última entrada, crec que el millor serà que fem un breu flashback per refrescar les nostres sinapsis: vam començar descobrint les trepanacions de l’era precolombina i els primers casos clínics relacionats amb el cervell documentats a l’Antic Egipte; tot seguit ens vam apropar a l’Antiga Grècia per conèixer les primeres teories postulades pels filòsofs grecs i com aquestes es van anar desenvolupant fins arribar a la doctrina de les cambres que es mantingué al llarg de l’Edat Mitjana; finalment, vam veure com l’arribada del Renaixement i les importants contribucions de Leonardo da Vinci i Andreas Vesalius van permetre establir les bases de l’anatomia, fisiologia i patologia modernes.

En l’últim article ens vam plantar al segle XVII, on vam ser testimonis dels raonaments i experiments que Descartes, Borelli i Swammerdam van dur a terme per intentar descobrir la naturalesa de l’spiritus animalis, el que llavors es creia que era la base del funcionament del sistema nerviós. En aquesta última etapa del viatge visitarem les idees de Monro i Galvani, i finalment arribarem a port amb les cabdals contribucions de Camilo Golgi i Santiago Ramón i Cajal, que van donar pas al naixement de la neurociència moderna.

Dibuix del circuit neuronal de l’hipocamp de ratolí. Santiago Ramón i Cajal. Histologie du Systeme Nerveux de l’Homme et des Vertebretes, Vols. 1 and 2 (Paris, 1911). Wikimedia Commons

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