If ever in an intimate moment of self-reflection you have considered just what is going on in your head when you wonder why you think, feel and act the way you do, then you should be here in New Orleans. At the annual conference for the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), 24,000 scientists from around the world are unveiling 16,000 posters of new research for five days.
It’s a whirlwind appropriately held in a city famous for jazz and booze. On day one you will need coffee. By day two you will need bourbon. Both on day three. And if by day four you still have your feet under you, by the end of day five you will be toasting out of a trumpet atop a balcony on Frenchman Street. Ladies and gentlemen, this is your brain on a neuroscience conference.
The only complaint you could lodge against SfN, one of the world’s largest conference in any science, is that it is too big. Indeed, the field is disparate. The SfN media hot-topics handout lists no less than 131 abstracts across twenty-six themes which is still a very sample of the whole which you can’t get your head around, much less your brain. Neuroscience is, loosely, the study of the brain. But if one were to compare it to a live band, the drummer is playing blues, the pianist is playing Mozart, the guitarist doesn’t seem to grasp volume control, the bassist is experimenting with bowing his string with a clarinet, and the clarinet player is chatting up the girl who does communications for the start-up throwing the social. Their only connection is music, or in this case, brains.