Brain talks explore human brain-device interfaces and how birds learn to sing

Brains, brains, brains!

Two upcoming Portland-area talks will be all about the gray matter — connecting human ones to computers (and related ethics) and how those of birds work to help them sing.

Brain-computer interface science has the potential to help people but also raise ethical questions. Freeimages.com

The first of the two talks will look at brain-computer interface research and how BCI devices can help people to control computers, wheelchairs and brain stimulators, as well as record brain activity. The devices also raise ethical concerns, ranging from what brain data should be considered private to what stigmas might arise regarding people who use them.

The BCI talk will begin at 5:45 p.m. May 8 at Lucky Labrador Pub, 915 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd., Portland. Speaker will be Dr. Eran Klein from Oregon Health and Science University’s neurology department.

For more information, see the event page on OHSU’s Brain Institute website.

An Anna’s hummingbird visits a feeder for a sweet sip in Oregon. Susannah L. Bodman | Science in Portland

The second talk will delve into new research about birds that sing, their songs and how they learn to sing. Claudio Mello, a neuroscientist and OHSU associate professor, will cover the three bird groups that sing: songbirds, parrots and hummingbirds. He’ll also discuss how song learning in birds is similar to the way in which humans acquire speech.

Mello’s talk will begin at 7 p.m. May 9 in Chapman Elementary School, 1445 N.W. 26th Ave., Portland.

For more information about the bird talk, go to the event page on the Aububon Society of Portland’s website.

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

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Get to know your brain and what music and pleasure do to it at May Science on Tap talks

Your belly craves beer, but your mind craves knowledge — of the scientific persuasion. Where, or where, can you feed both in Portland?

At the May (2017) editions of Science on Tap, the ongoing science lecture series presented by Via Productions at area theater venues.

First up on May 2 is a dive into the melodic: “Every Brain Needs Music: The Neuroscience of Composition, Interpretation and Performance.”

Learn about the origins of music, how practicing music might enhance brain development and limit the effects of aging and injury, and what happens to our brains when we create music.

The talk, presented by Oregon Health and Science University neuroscientist Larry Sherman, will begin at 7 p.m. in Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 N.E. Alberta St. Doors will open at 6 p.m. Cost is $8 to $13.

Later, on May 22, check out “The Neuroscience of Pleasure and Love.”

The speaker again will be OHSU’s Sherman, who will cover the brain chemistry of love, pleasure and addiction; how the brain sorts out pleasure from discomfort; and how neurochemistry around the things and people we love can impact our behavior.

This talk also will begin at 7 p.m. with doors opening at 6 p.m. Venue will be Artists Repertory Theater, 1516 S.W. Alder St. Cost is $8 to $10.

At both events, beer, wine and various food items will be available for purchase.

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

 

 

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Science entrepreneurship, science march on tap April 22 in Portland

This is just a quick post to give readers a heads-up about two events happening in Portland on April 22, 2017.

First up is the second annual Oregon Science Startup Forum, presented by the American Chemical Society’s Portland Section. The forum provides a one-day crash course in science entrepreneurship.

Little Eppendorf tube dude looks excited for science. Susannanh L. Bodman | Science In Portland

OSSF will run from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Collaborative Life Sciences Building, which is part of Oregon Health and Science University’s waterfront campus. Cost is $30 student/post-doc/unemployed or $55 general admission.

More details are available on the OSSF website.

Nearby at Tom McCall Waterfront Park will be the Portland version of the March for Science events being held in Washington, D.C., and several hundred other cities worldwide. The events also coincide with Earth Day.

March for Science PDX will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. A march route and more information about the local event’s mission and values is available online.

Other cities in Oregon holding science-related march events or rallies include Salem, Corvallis and Eugene.

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

 

 

 

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Dreams, morality and touch: OHSU’s 2017 ‘Brain Awareness’ lectures delve into them all

Morality, responses to touch and dreams — what do these things have in common? The brain.

To learn more about what current neuroscience has to say about each of these brain phenomena check out the upcoming “Brain Awareness” lecture series presented by Oregon Health and Science University’s Brain Institute.

This year’s (2017) series will begin March 20 with “The Criminal Brain,” in which Dr. Octavio Choi will explain research that suggests certain brain regions influence moral reasoning, possibly affecting why some people live lawfully while others fall into cycles of criminality. Choi also will explore the implications of this research on assumptions about punishment of criminal behavior. Choi is a director at Oregon State Hospital and a psychiatry professor at OHSU.

Gain insights about the inner workings of your brain in the upcoming “Brain Awarness” lectures.  Freeimages.com

Then on March 27, David Linden will delve into “Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart and Mind,” explaining how our touch receptors work, often in complex and counterintuitive ways, and how they influence our social interactions and health. Linden is a neuroscience professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Finally, on April 4, Robert Stickgold will present “Sleep, Memory and Dreams: Putting It All Together,” exploring what our brain does while we sleep and what the scientific reasons may be for why we dream. Stickgold is a psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School.

All lectures will run from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in Portland’s Newmark Theatre. Ticket prices range from $17 to $50 and can be purchased online.

For more information on the lecture series and other neuroscience-related activities and events, go to the OHSU Brain Institute website.

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

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Science on Tap talk explores the neuroscience of love and pleasure

Love, infatuation, commitment and addiction — the brain chemistry involved in these four experiences may have more in common than you think.

How does neurochemistry affect your behavior around the people and things you love? Find out at the March 2017 Science on Tap talk. Freeimages.com

To learn more about that chemistry and what neuroscientists know regarding how the brain sorts pleasure from discomfort, check out the March 18 Science on Tap event, featuring Oregon Health and Science University neuroscientist Larry Sherman.

Sherman’s talk, “The Neuroscience of Pleasure,” will outline how neurochemical changes in the brain can affect our behavior, including who, what and how we love.

The event will begin at 7 p.m. in Alberta Rose Theater. Doors will open at 6 p.m. Cost is $15 general admission or $10 for students with ID.

For tickets and more information, go to the event page on Via Productions’ website. Via produces the Science on Tap series.

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

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Portland area listed among cities with best pay for STEM jobs

The top 25 metro areas for pay in STEM fields — those that involve science, technology, engineering and math — for 2017 includes places such as San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle and now Portland.

That’s according to a recent analysis by Smart Asset, a New York-based company that provides tools for assessing various aspects of personal finances.

The Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro area came in at No. 11 on the list, behind various Bay Area cities and other metro areas but ahead of Seattle and Los Angeles.

This February 2017 screen shot of SmartAsset.com shows the Portland area's ranking. Smart Asset/Science In Portland

This February 2017 screen shot of SmartAsset.com shows the Portland area’s ranking. Smart Asset/Science In Portland

Average page for the Portland area for STEM professions was $74,470, with an annual rate of increase of 3.4 percent. Both figures placed the local area ahead of the national average.

To read more about the analysis, click the hotlink above. Alas, Smart Asset only gives additional details on the top 10 metro areas. Perhaps next year, the Portland area might crack the top 10.

Last year (2016), the local metro area didn’t make the top 25 list at all. Fingers crossed that this year’s ranking may be an indicator of favorable times ahead for those who work in STEM careers and for an expansion of local STEM-based industries.

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

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Oregon’s silverspot butterflies inch toward more reintroductions

Butterflies might be the puppies of the insect world, at least in terms of public acceptance. Even folks who are the most creeped out by our Arthropoda friends may find beauty in these frequent fliers. (Fireflies, too, but alas, we have yet to welcome them west of the Rockies.)

Aside from their aesthetic value, butterfly species play an important role in our ecosystems, whether that be as pollinators or prey items for other animals. As such, there is good reason to intervene when they’re struggling and help conserve them.

In Oregon, conservation efforts are underway to boost the numbers of one of our native butterfly species, the Oregon silverspots. Science In Portland has written about the silverspots, their conservation and the Oregon Zoo’s involvement in the effort previously.

Recently, SIP received an update on the silverspots regarding additional reintroductions from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office. The following is what FWS sent in a press release. FWS is seeking public comment on a proposal regarding reintroduced silverspot populations; deadline for submitting comments is Feb. 21, 2017:

An Oregon silverspot butterfly drinks from a flower on Mount Hebo, Oregon. ©Oregon Zoo/ photo by Kathy Street

An Oregon silverspot butterfly drinks from a flower on Mount Hebo, Oregon. ©Oregon Zoo/ photo by Kathy Street

“Threatened Oregon Silverspot Butterfly on Flight Path to Reintroduction

“Collaborative efforts would expand populations on Nestucca NWR, Saddle Mountain

“PORTLAND, OR – Imagine walking through an open meadow along the Oregon coastline and you are surrounded by butterflies with wings of yellow-orange fluttering all around you. This enchanting scene is closer to becoming a reality as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners are moving forward with a proposal for re-establishing two populations of the threatened Oregon silverspot butterfly.

“The locations identified for potential reintroduction, both within the butterfly’s historical range, are Saddle Mountain State Natural Area in central Clatsop County and the Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge in southern Tillamook County. Saddle Mountain State Natural Area, owned and managed by the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department, has high numbers of nectar and violet plants and should be to the butterfly’s liking. Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge has been actively restoring habitat for silverspots in preparation for their return.

” “The collaborative work by several partnering conservation organizations to restore the butterfly’s habitat at Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge began back in 2010,” Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex Project Leader Kelly Moroney said. “I’m excited to see all the hard work of those involved in restoring the coastal prairie habitat coming to fruition with the reintroduction of the butterfly in the early part of next year. It’s extremely rewarding to be a part of this effort to bring back a native species to its coastal ecosystem on our refuge.”

“The Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System plays an essential role in helping protect and conserve our nation’s most at risk species, including recent local conservation successes with the greater sage-grouse, Columbian white-tailed deer and Oregon chub.

“At one time, the Oregon silverspot butterfly was widespread among 20 distinct locations from northern California to southern Washington. Only five populations currently remain, four in Oregon and one in California. The species gained Endangered Species Act protections in 1980 when it was listed as threatened. More recently, concern for the species has increased due to dramatic declines observed in 2014 and 2015 at all four existing Oregon sites. The Service is working with our partners at the Oregon and Woodland Park Zoos, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, and the U.S. Forest Service to reverse this trend, including this effort to reintroduce new populations.

“To increase the likelihood of success, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to designate these populations as experimental to provide surrounding landowners with assurances the reintroductions will not impose economic or regulatory restrictions on their properties.

” “If we can successfully establish two additional self-sustaining populations of Oregon silverspot butterflies, it will contribute greatly toward meeting the recovery goal of 10 populations in six distinct areas” said Paul Henson, the Service’s Oregon State Supervisor. “By designating the new populations as experimental, we can alleviate concerns of adjacent landowners apprehensive about having an endangered species on their land, thereby encouraging conservation.”

“The Service is partnering with the Oregon Zoo and Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, which are providing Oregon silverspot pupae for the reintroductions through their imperiled species recovery programs. Each year, a small number of female butterflies are collected from the wild and brought to zoo conservation labs, where they lay large numbers of eggs. The eggs hatch into tiny larvae, which are kept safe over the winter and released the following year to augment wild silverspot populations. These programs substantially increase the number of offspring surviving to adulthood.

” “We are honored to be able to play a key role in recovering this species from the brink of extinction,” said Dr. Don Moore, Oregon Zoo director. “Pollinators like butterflies are vital for ecosystem health and, ultimately, for our own health.”

“The primary limiting factor for the Oregon silverspot is lack of its caterpillar host plant, the early blue violet. The butterfly needs these violets to be densely-packed and in high numbers, surrounded by other native nectar plants. This type of coastal prairie habitat was historically maintained by regular natural disturbances such as fire, but now it is very rare naturally and often must be created and managed for it to be sustained, mostly due to invasive species.
The proposed rule [was] published in the Federal Register on December 23, 2016. The proposal and instructions on how to provide comments can be found at www.fws.gov/oregonfwo/. Comments will be accepted through February 21, 2017.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit www.fws.gov/pacific, or connect with us through any of these social media channels at www.facebook.com/USFWSPacific, www.flickr.com/photos/usfwspacific/  [ … ] or www.twitter.com/USFWSPacific.”

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

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