It's that magical time again at the Salk Institute. In just a few days, dazzling singer Katharine McPhee will grace the Symphony at Salk stage, performing with the San Diego Symphony, under the baton of Thomas Wilkins.
Each year during Symphony at Salk, I am struck by the confluence of captivating music, iconic architecture and groundbreaking science. It's really very appropriate that these endeavors-each a testament to the human capacity for ingenuity-should meld here. At the Institute's genesis, Jonas Salk and Louis Kahn, a scientist and an architect, came together to build a special place that fosters the creativity of the human spirit.
The Symphony at Salk is a celebration of that creative spark, and of the many life-changing scientific discoveries it has engendered. It's also a terrific way to spend a summer evening, a chance to listen to wonderful music and relax in the beauty of the Salk Institute courtyard surrounded by our many friends.
"Top-down plasticity" of brain may help explain autism
Mice are nocturnal, so they have a large somatosensory area (S1) in the cortex, responsible for feelings of the body that include touch, pain, temperature and proprioception.
"The area layout of the cortex directly relates to the lifestyle of an animal," says Andreas Zembrzycki, a postdoctoral researcher in Salk's Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory. "Areas are bigger or smaller according to the functional needs of the animal, not the physical size of the body parts from which they receive input."
In a recent study, Salk Professor Dennis O'Leary and Zembrzycki, demonstrated that the mouse brain exhibits "top-down plasticity," meaning that genetically-induced changes in the layout S1 subsequently affected other regions of the brain that feed sensory information into the cortex.
Journalist Carl Zimmer wrote about the discovery in his popular National Geographic science blog, The Loom. "Clearly, O'Leary's research shows, genes play a big part in building an accurate sensory map," Zimmer wrote. "But they do more. Their effects ripple downwards, to earlier steps in the information pathway through the brain."
O'Leary and Zembrzycki theorize that genetic mutations combined with top-down plasticity might play a role in the development of autism. Zimmer wrote: "If this hypothesis is correct--and it's important to note that it's still based on the study of relatively few people--it could explain why people with autism often have trouble with processing the information of their senses."
Caption: Sense receptors distributed over the body surface are represented in corresponding sensory maps in somatosensory cortex (S1). Their size in S1 is dictated by the number and density of sense receptors and nerves that connect each body part with S1, rather than the size of the body part. A normal mouse contains highly enlarged maps representing the face and whiskers.
Image: Courtesy of Andreas Zembrzycki and Jamie Simon, Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
We are delighted to announce that Salk received a record-setting $93 million in private donations during fiscal year 2012 to support the Campaign for Salk
. The extraordinary year of fundraising brings the total amount raised to nearly $215 million since the quiet phase of the campaign began in 2009 and we are deeply grateful for the vision and generosity of our donors who have joined us to achieve this milestone. Your support will ensure that our scientists can continue to make discoveries that will benefit human health for generations to come.
Salk has record year in private donations
San Diego Union Tribune
|Upcoming Issue of Inside Salk
Our next edition of Inside Salk will be making its way to your mailbox very soon! In this latest issue, we highlight our newly established Helmsley Center for Genomic Medicine and elucidate the potential impact genomic medicine may have on decoding chronic diseases.
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Pedal the Cause
Front left to right: John Young, Maryam Ahmadian, Sam Pfaff, Michael Sullivan, Matthew Lewsey
Back row: Kevin Waldrop, Mara Sherman, Henry Juguilon, Nick White
Click here to support Salk Cancer Center team»
Pedal the Cause San Diego's aim is to raise much-needed funds for cancer research and to promote stronger relationships among San Diego's complementary research centers. Their ultimate goal is to expedite innovative cancer treatments from the labs to the patient's bedside by encouraging collaboration.
|Science News |
Two recent studies led by John Reynolds and Tatyana Sharpee rewrites what was believed to be established science and takes understanding vision a major step forward. Their research reveals important insight into how one part of the visual cortex known as area V4 can distinguish between objects even as they are moved around in space-findings that may lead the way to better computer object recognition and future therapies for visual disorders.
Ground breaking research by a team of Salk scientists and investigators from The University of Western Australia has provided an extraordinary view of the epigenome during brain development. The new study will allow scientists to investigate the role the epigenome plays in learning, memory formation, brain structure and mental illness.
Brain methylation map published
Jan Karlseder's lab has discovered an important way that precancerous cells evade a checkpoint that normally stops their growth. The research, which also has implications for aging, identifies why disruption of a vital pathway in cell cycle control leads to the proliferation of cancer cells. Their study could lead to the ability to influence cellular aging and, as a result, inhibit cancer cell growth.
Cancer-causing pathway explained
The War Against the Microbes
This short film created by Nobelprize.org presents a fascinating exploration into the fight against infectious diseases and the relentless efforts of a century of scientific minds to uncover the mysteries of microbes. As the visionary who developed the first successful Polio vaccine, our Institute's founder, Dr. Jonas Salk makes an important appearance at the 9-minute mark!
Interested in finding out more about Post-Polio syndrome and survivors like Francine, featured in the film? Stop by PolioToday.org to join the community and the discussion.
Almost Sold Out!
The 18th annual Symphony at Salk, featuring superstar guest artist Katherine McPhee, is fast approaching on August 24th! Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are still available so come join us for an unforgettable evening filled with beautiful music, camaraderie and fine dining----all in support of scientific discovery. We'd love to see you there! For more information or to purchase tickets, call
We'd also like to extend a very special thank you to our two Zenith-level sponsors, Frederik Paulsen, and Conrad Prebys and Debbie Turner, who generously provided the underwriting support of Katharine McPhee and the San Diego Symphony for this year's event.
|Question of the Month |
A kaleidoscope of color makes this image a visually stunning piece of art (watch out Jackson Pollock!!), but it actually shows nerve cells within a mouse brain, which have been illuminated through the use of a virus. These nerve cells send direct connections to an area of the brain that regulates voluntary movement. What is this area called?
What degenerative diseases disrupt it?
Image courtesy of Nicholas Wall, Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Post your answer to our Facebook page:
One randomly chosen winner from the entries with the correct answer will win a special memento of Salk merchandise. (Your choice of a t-shirt or coffee cup.)
Symphony at Salk
August 24, 2013
San Diego members dinner
September 25, 2013
Back to Basics Lecture
Spicing Up Alzheimer's Drug Discovery
October 2, 2013
New York reception
October 30, 2013
Pedal the Cause
October 26-27, 2013
This month's image courtesy of Nicholas Wall, Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
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|Salk's pioneering biomedical research has transformed our understanding of the most critical health-related problems of the 21st century.|