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Kristina Holmberg
Kristina Holmberg's picture

Brain diseases, in particular neurodegenerative diseases, represent a growing public health problem. However, brain diseases and their relation to the normal functions of the brain are only beginning to be understood. For example, it has become increasingly clear that neurodegenerative diseases cannot simply be explained as non-specific neuronal cell death that 'happens' to be region-specific. Instead, current evidence suggests that neurodegenerative diseases represent selective pathophysiological processes that share some molecular and physiological properties, but differ in others. The goal of the proposed conference is to assemble a group of scientists who will discuss the molecular basis and pathophysiological consequences of brain disorders, especially neurodegenerative diseases, and who will interpret the disease processes in the context of the rapid advances in fundamental neuroscience that are currently being made. In this fashion, the conference is meant to provide a platform for an international interdisciplinary discussion that unites scientists who work on basic molecular and physiological mechanisms of brain function with researchers who study specific disease processes and/or are interested in translational approaches. Specifically, the conference has the following goals:

* To identify commonalities and differences between diverse pathogenetic processes
* To discuss the molecular and physiological components of neural circuits, and to examine changes in the circuits involved in specific brain diseases
* To assess approaches to investigate, understand, and possibly treat neurodegenerative and other neurological and psychiatric diseases

The overall format of the conference will be to interweave presentations of basic neuroscience and of specific diseases in order to foster discussion between these two approaches. This format is prompted by our concern that one of the major current limitations in the overall field of brain disease research is its relative isolation from basic neuroscience. For example, to our knowledge there is no ongoing conference series that provides a venue connecting neurodegenerative disease research to basic neuroscience. Thus we feel that there is a real need for such a meeting.

In the proposed conference, we hope to integrate molecular and physiological approaches with genetic, cognitive, and behavioral studies to produce a rigorous discussion platform that relates basic neurobiology to brain disease research, with an emphasis on neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease) and later expanding to psychiatric and mental retardation disorders (e.g. schizophrenia and autism), because of the tremendous current interest in these diseases. We believe that studying brain diseases will not only provide information about how to diagnose and treat such disease, but will also reveal more about normal circuit function by understanding how these diseases affect specific circuits. In agreement with the planned location of this conference in an international setting in China, we do not want to target one particular disease or brain area in the conference, but would like to situate the conference at the interface between basic neuroscience and translational research, with the ultimate goal of relating brain disorders to our rapidly advancing knowledge of neural circuitry.

The conference will bring together experts with diverse backgrounds in molecular and cellular biology, biochemistry, electrophysiology, behavior, cognition, and disease research, and the first conference will cover the following topics:

* Biology and pathology of apoptosis
* Protein folding and apoptosis in neurodegeneration
* Development, physiology and pathology of synaptic plasticity and circuitry
* APP function and dysfunction
* Biology and pathology of presenilins and g-secretase
* Functions and dysfunction of dopaminergic circuits
* Cognitive and behavioral consequences of circuit and plasticity abnormalities