University of Vermont

University Communications

Forum Draws on Neuroscience, Behavior and Health Spire, Attracts Wide Range of Participants

An annual forum presented by the Vermont chapter of the Society for Neuroscience had a new name and two-and-half times the number of enrollees this year, thanks to a connection with one of the areas of focus in UVM’s new Spires of Excellence program, also known as the Transdisciplinary Research Initiative, or TRI. 

The Neuroscience, Behavior and Health Forum – previously the Neuroscience Forum – had 242 registrants in 2011, up from 101 in 2010.  The forum took place on Jan. 21 and 22 in the Davis Center.

“After the Neuroscience, Behavior and Health spire was announced earlier this year, the committee that was putting on the forum said they’d like to focus it more broadly and really try to bring in all the people in the spire,” said Cindy Forehand, associate dean of the Graduate College and administrative liaison for the NBH spire. Organizers actively “recruited folks that might not normally come,” she said.

The point was to bring together researchers from different disciplines within the university’s large but decentralized neuroscience community who might not know one another’s work, and therefore to promote greater participation in the spire and create new or expanded strands of interdisciplinarity. 

During the first hour of the forum on Saturday, when a reporter dropped in to observe a series of presentations on the neuroscience of exercise, Forehand heard several participants say they wanted to learn more about the research that was being presented. 

“That’s the kind of conversation we hoped would happen,” she said.  “You just don’t make those connections” with colleagues “unless you meet people face to face.”

A particular focus of the forum was on “facilitating communication of graduate students with faculty and other graduate students they would otherwise be unlikely to meet,” according to a letter that was sent out in advance of the meeting by Tony Morielli, president of the Vermont Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience and an associate professor in the College of Medicine’s Department of Pharmacology.

Morielli’s letter said the forum also sought to “engage the greater community” by inviting high school students, UVM undergraduates studying in the College of Medicine and in the neuroscience major, and researchers from other colleges in the area. All of those groups were represented at the forum.

President Daniel Mark Fogel delivered opening remarks on Saturday morning. The keynote speech, "Cerebellar Function In Health & Disease,” was delivered on Friday by Kamran Khodakhah of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Contributing departments, who participated via 20 platform presentations and 65 posters, included a wide range of NBH spire participants: Anatomy and Neurobiology, Psychology, Psychiatry, Surgery, Pharmacology, Medicine, the Exercise and Movement Science Program, Biology, and Neurology.

The meeting received financial support from dues paid by members of the Vermont chapter of the Society for Neuroscience, MBF Bioscience, Med Associates, the NBH Spire steering committee, UVM Neuroscience COBRE and a chapter grant from the Society for Neuroscience.