Every year, over 30,000 neuroscientists gather at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting to present their latest research and catch up with long-lost colleagues. This year’s meeting took place November 15-19th at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington DC. The meeting is often dominated by researchers working with mammalian models (we Drosophila researchers often attend conferences specific to our model instead), but invertebrate scientists still make a good showing every year. And this year’s meeting was a great one for fruit flies!
This year, two of the Special Lectures were dedicated to fruit fly research. First, Dr. Amita Seghal presented her lab’s latest sleep research showing that young flies need more sleep for normal brain development (I reviewed their latest paper). This finding highlights how important it can be for children of all species (including humans) to get enough sleep. Later in the week, Dr. Vivian Budnik presented her lab’s discoveries on the mechanisms neurons use to form stable connections (called synapses) and talked about how problems in these processes in humans can lead to disease.
Fruit fly researchers also presented over 100 posters and gave several short talks on a range of topics, from basic molecular and cellular research to complex behavioral studies, such as how sleep and memory can arise from a network of cells. Although it can sometimes be hard to imagine how fruit fly research could be relevant to humans, research in this animal model often has important implications for human diseases. In particular, fly researchers presented in several sessions related to Alzheimer’s disease this year, and they also showed up in sessions for other human diseases such as schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, and autism. In fact, a fly poster about a possible new treatment for a genetic form of autism was highlighted in a SFARI post by blogger Virginia Hughes (also an official blogger for SFN 2014).
Did you see (or present) any fascinating or surprising fruit fly research at SFN this year? Leave a comment below!