An enthusiastic crowd of glial cell researchers gathered in record numbers at the 24th European Meeting on Glial Cells in Health and Disease. The venue was the beautiful historic city of Porto, along the river Douro. The meeting delivered a stimulating programme of plenary talks, specialized symposia, and lively poster sessions, covering all aspects of glial life. PhD students Sarah Steffens and Mikaela Laine from the Neurogenomics lab attended with poster presentations. We warmly recommend the meeting for both experts in glia biology and those of us newly acquianted with the field, and look forward to the next meeting in Marseilles in 2021!

On the 28th of June, which also happens to be the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles, we were joyed and proud to witness the PhD defense of our esteemed colleague Marie Mennesson. Marie defended her thesis titled ”Kainate receptor auxiliary subunits NETO1 and NETO2 in anxiety and fear-related behaviors”, and PD Dr Carsten Wotjak served as the opponent in what was a fascinating and accessible debate. With her post-doctoral position set to start in the very near future, we congratulate Marie for her success in the Neurogenomics lab, and Marie’s future co-workers for gaining such a talented, hard-working and supportive colleague!

The third bi-annual Nordic Neuroscience meeting was attended by nearly all Hovatta lab members, and what an excellent scientific programme it was! Exciting symposia, including several focusing on the new directions and developments in the glial research field, and the diverse plenary talks from experts in their field kept us all buzzing for the whole meeting. Check the tag @NordNeurosci19 on Twitter for a glimpse of the atmosphere of the event! Posters were presented by PhD students Sarah Steffens, Marie Mennesson, Mikaela Laine, and visiting PhD student Jessica Mingardi. During the meeting dinner the location of the next meeting to be held in 2021, Denmark, was announced, and we are sure the programme will continue to highlight excellent neuroscience from the Nordics and beyond.

PI Iiris Hovatta and PhD students Marie Mennesson and Mikaela Laine attended the annual IBANGS meeting organized at the sunny campus of the University of Edinburgh in May 2019. The programme included a phenomenal array of topics, and covered research on model organisms ranging from wood ants, through Bengalese finches, to mice and men. Award lectures were delivered by Zoe Donaldson (Young Investigator Award) on her wonderful work on social behaviour and its diversity in rodents, and by Seth Grant (Distinguished Investigator Award) on the exciting role of postsynaptic proteins in CNS function. Both Marie and Mikaela presented their work in forms of talks, and were supported by travel awards from IBANGS. We returned to our nearly-equally-sunny home campus refreshed and inspired.

Neurogenomics

On April 3rd we were excited to be present at the PhD defense of Zuzanna Misiewicz. Zuzanna's thesis is titled "What Makes Us Anxious: A Cross-Species Multi-omics Approach to the Biological Basis of Anxiety Disorders", and Prof. John Cryan served as the opponent. We wish Zuzanna all of the success in her undoubtedly exciting future research!

Zuzanna Misiewicz Neurogenomics Iiris Hovatta

On a rainy March morning the Neurogenomics lab packed up from our space in Viikki and relocated to the Haartmaninkatu 3 building in Meilahti, Helsinki. The start of this year also marks the kick-off of the SLEEPWELL Research Program, part of the Research Programs Unit, as well as our affiliation with the Neuroscience Center at HiLIFE. With the lab unpacked we now look forward to exciting research and collaborations in the vibrant surroundings of the Faculty of Medicine!

On a snowy Monday morning, students, researchers, and clinicians within the broad field of biological psychiatry arrived from several different institutions to Biomedicum in Helsinki, for a day filled with exciting science. The 4th Finnish Symposium on Biological psychiatry received a record number of abstract submissions, contributing to the lively poster session and selected short talks from enthusiastic young investigators. The programme covered both basic research and clinical topics, including talks from Anu-Katriina Pesonen (University of Helsinki) on sleep and circadian rhythms, from Jarmo Hietala (University of Turku) on endocannabinoid receptors in the brain, and from Esa Korpi (University of Helsinki) on the GABA-A receptor and anxiolytics. The keynote lecture was delivered by Tomás Paus (University of Toronto), touching on important issues regarding the power of population neuroscience in combining methods like omics, epidemiology and neuroimaging to increase our understanding of the brain in healthy and pathological states.

 

Armed with new knowledge and connections, we wish everyone a a Happy New Year 2019 filled with thrilling science!

September was a busy month for neuroscience and genomics in Helsinki, with two exciting symposia organized on consequtive weeks. On Sept 10-11, the 7th ”Building Bridges” symposium was organized in Biomedicum, showcasing interesting advances and future directions of research aimed to bring basic and clinical knowledgebases together. The record-large audience got to hear about the proceedings of international projects like ePerMed. The following week, on Sept 20-21, the Brain & Mind Student Council hosted the annual B&M Symposium, continuing the tradition of high-tier national and international neuroscience presented in a lively student-driven environment. Hovatta lab members were in attendance at both of these events, which also inspired several discussions back at the lab afterwards. PhD student Mikaela Laine presented the work titled ”Gene-environment interaction in myelin plasticity after chronic psychosocial stress”, which was awarded Best Speed Talk at Building Bridges and Best Poster at the B&M Symposium.

Neurogenomics Iiris Hovatta

Doctoral students in the life science field representing all Nordic countries came together in Helsinki for the 2nd annual NorDoc PhD Summit on August 23-24 2018. The event was an inspirational mixture of talks from diverse corners of health sciences, with a whole session dedicated to neuroscience research. Prof. Scott Gilbert delivered a memorable about the nature of individuality in symbiotic systems. From the Neurogenomics Lab, PhD students Marie Mennesson and Mikaela Laine attended with posters, and Mikaela also gave a short talk on the topic of gene-environment interactions in myelin plasticity after chronic psychosocial stress.

 

We look forward to next year's meeting to be held in Aarhus, Denmark!

The 11th Fens Forum meeting was held in the Berlin City Cube, 7-11th of July 2018. Once again many European neuroscientists attend the meeting and a plethora of poster were presented everyday. Paola Arlotta (Cambridge, USA), Beth Stevens (Boston, USA) and Botond Roska (Basel, Switzerland) gave highly inspiring plenary lectures related to neurogenomics. Symposiums relevant to our lab focusing on the neuron microenvironment, inhibitory brain networks, vulnerability to stress and fear memory were also really interesting. Marie Mennesson from our lab had the chance to attend and present her research in a poster format entitled “Neto2 regulates fear expression and extinction in mice”.

The 3rd Finnish Symposium on Biological Psychiatry was once again organized at the wintery Viikki Campus (Dec 19, 2017), with a record number of attendants arriving from all corners of Finland. The day featured a diverse selection of talks regarding biological psychiatry, including renowned Finnish neuroscientists Dr Eero Castrén and Dr Tarja Stenberg. This year’s keynote lecture was delivered to an enthusiastic audience by Dr Isabelle Mansuy (University of Zürich) on her work with transgenerational epigenetic transmission in mouse models. Several participants also shared their work in the form of a poster, and a handful of young investigators were selected to present their work also in the form of a short talk.

We thank all participating parties for a fantastic and invigorating symposium!

 

Finnish Symposium on Biological Psychiatry

This year's Brain & Mind Student Council organized a fascinating two-day symposium, attracting both speakers and audience from a broad range of neuroscience interest. The talks were, as per tradition, divided into four specialist Sessions including Psychedelic drugs, Perception, Acidity in the brain and Neural networks. Inspired by the visit the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat produced a series of articles concerning the potential development of psychedelic drugs for treatment of major psychiatric illnesses, showing the wide public interest in the field. The first article featured interviews with two of the B&M symposium speakers, Dr. Robert Carhart-Harris and Dr. Jordi Riba, and a link to the text (in Finnish) can be found below. 

 

We look forward to next year's symposium, organized by the newly-elected Student Council!

The 13th European Meeting on Glial Cells in Health and Disease was organized in Edinburgh with the highest attendance rate in the meeting’s history: over 1300 participants and 700 poster presentations. The meeting took place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, where the impressive revolving auditoria were outmatched by the expertise and enthusiasm of the speakers. The programme consisted of plenary lectures and specialist symposia, giving attendees a wide perspective on the current state of glia research. From the Neurogenomics lab, PhD student Mikaela Laine attended the conference and presented a poster titled “Glial cells in the transcriptomic response to chronic psychosocial stress exposure in two inbred mouse strains”. The next GLIA meeting will be held in the summer of 2019 in Porto, Portugal, with hopefully an equally if not more interesting spread of glial science!

During the midsummer week the lab got together to celebrate the successfully completed Master’s thesis and graduation of Laura Salminen. Congratulations!

NGL_lauras_grad

The Neurogenomics lab visited the Heureka Science Centre (Vantaa, Finland) for an afternoon of science and fun. The centre is a pioneer in exhibiting contemporary interesting scientific content to both children and adults in the form of changing themed exhibits, planetarium films and their own classical sections on different physical phenomena. We had the joy of receiving a guided tour of the workshop areas behind-the-scenes by exhibit producer Sami Pihkala, showing how the exhibits are created from initial prototypes to final products. The current main attraction is the “Body Worlds – Animal Inside Out” exhibition, showing the intricacies of animal physiology through the use of plastination. It shows in amazing detail both the similarities and differences between humans and other species, an issue which is very relevant for all of us involved in translational science to consider.

The International Behavioural and Neural Genetics Society (IBANGS) unites researchers that study the genetic basis of normal and pathological behaviour. As this is a one of the main focuses of our group, 3 members of our laboratory visited Madrid on 15-18 May and presented our data at the annual IBANGS meeting. Our PI Iiris Hovatta, who is also a member of the program committee, started the first symposium with a presentation titled “Gene-environment interaction in microRNA expression of a mouse model for anxiety and depression”. Doctoral student Marie Menneson and post-doc Natalia Kulesskaya presented their results in the poster session. At the meeting three sessions were devoted to the epigenetics of brain disorders and pathological behavior, and separate sessions concerned neuroimmune regulation in drug abuse and bioinformatics resources for brain and behavioral study. The next IBANGS meeting will be held on May 17-21, 2018, Rochester, USA.

NGL_IBANGS_sessionNEW

Mikaela Laine attended the FENS Brain Conference “New Insights into Psychiatric Disorders through Computational, Biological and Developmental Approaches” on Sep 26-29 2016 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Set in the historic Moeltke's Palace, the conference featured inspiring talks from researchers and students from a very wide variety of fields pertaining to psychology and psychiatry. Mikaela presented research titled "Neural activation patterns induced by chronic psychosocial stress in mice" as both a poster and as an invited short oral presentation.

The Brain & Mind (B&M) 2016 symposium was held in Helsinki University Main building on September 15 and 16. Marie Mennesson from our lab was part of the student council organizing the symposium. During this two-day symposium we heard talks on various field in neurosciences: “Fear emotion and psychiatric disorders” (Beats Lutz and Patrick Sullivan), “Complex system of the brain” (Olaf Sporns and Michael Breakspear), “Synaptic plasticity” (Jos Prickaerts and Eero Castrén) and “Consciousness and empathy in the brain” (Christian Keysers and Lauri Parkkonen). We also enjoyed two inspiring workshop about “How to publish right” (Paul Bolam, Editor-in-chief of EJN) and “Bayesian vs Frequentist statistics” (Eric-Jan Wagenmakers, Founder and Executive director of JASP). From the fall of 2016 onwards Iiris Hovatta is the chair of Doctoral Programme Brain & Mind. The next symposium will be organized at the same venue (Helsinki University, Main building, Small lecture hall) September 21-22, 2017. Visit The B&M for updated information!

The 10th Fens Forum edition (2016) was organized July 2-6 at the Bella Center in Copenhagen. There were approximately 5800 participants and more than 1000 presented posters. The Presidential lecture was given by the Medicine Nobel Prize 2014 winners: John O’Keefe (London, United-kingdom), May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser (Trondheim, Norway) for their discorveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain. Andreas Lüthi (Basel, Switzerland) gave an inspiring plenary lecture on “defining the neuronal circuit of fear”. Marie Mennesson from our lab, presented a poster entitled “A comprehensive analysis of anxiety-like behavior in Neto1 knock-out mice”.