6th APRU Brain and Mind in the Asia-Pacific Research Symposium

6th Brain and Mind Research in the Asia Pacific Symposium 2016

Conference Report

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The biennial meeting hosted by The University of Auckland was well attended by senior academics, postdoctoral staff and students of all levels. A total of 70 delegates from New Zealand, China, USA, Japan, Singapore and Germany attended the event.

Day 1

The cocktail function and opening of the conference was a highlight with the Kaiarahi Michael Steedman welcoming everyone from the Maori perspective and as a representative of the local Tamaki Makaurau tribe. Professor Stuart McCutcheon the Vice-Chancellor of The University of Auckland, Dr Christopher Tremewan, APRU Secretary General, Distinguished Professor Richard Faull and Associate Professor Maurice Curtis all welcomed guests to the University and to Auckland for this event. All highlighted the importance of APRU for the Pacific region as the knowledge exchange of specialisations in medicine and research from each country could lead to significant advances in the fields.

The keynote address was given by Professor Stuart Firestein, who challenged the audience through a riveting, relevant and comical discussion on the importance of capitalising on ones failures in science and to embrace high quality ignorance as a means to ask better, more informed questions. There was a Q&A session which produced a good discussion and many people took the opportunity to discuss the lecture’s contents with Stuart afterward.

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Professor Stuart Firestein and Associate Professor Maurice Curtis

Day 2

The first day of scientific talks kicked off with a focus on olfaction – four invited and keynote speakers presented in this session as well as one student. The line-up produced a Master class in olfaction research in the past 15 years and included Stuart Firestein, Leonardo Belluscio, Peter Mombaerts and Philip Heyward and Bonnie Gardner. The question time was important as there was a lively discussion between participants and speakers. The take home messages were that the human olfactory system is a great model for understanding how the nervous system works and that it is an important sense to understand because dysfunction in the olfactory system can indicate that neurodegenerative brain diseases are setting in.

The afternoon session was focused on developmental brain injury and related plasticity. Keynote presentations by Professor Stephen Back and Professor Alistair Gunn addressed how white matter injury can be improved in brains of babies that are born under hypoxic and ischaemic conditions. The lectures were highly clinically relevant and also highly reductionist focused. These two talks set the scene for excellent post-doc and student presentations that followed with focuses on autism genetics and developmental plasticity, white matter regeneration by hyaluronic acid and related motifs and general developmental brain plasticity topics. There was a lively discussion particularly arising from the student talks.

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Bonnie Gardner, Natacha Coppietiers, Thomas Park, Bernard Kim, Lakshini Mendis, Victor Dieriks

The day was concluded with the conference dinner at an iconic Auckland restaurant Toto’s which was a great success. There was mixing and mingling of all levels of scientists and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the fun and social atmosphere. 

Day 3

The morning session was programmed around the psychological aspects of brain plasticity and the two keynote speakers were Professor Mary Pat McAndrews and Professor Donna Rose Addis. Their topics were on imaging of memory in humans with a focus on the frontal and posterior connections that drive both normal and pathological memory states. The rest of the session included senior faculty, postdoctoral fellows and students presenting their work largely focused around the MRI studies of the human brain undergoing memory or cognitive tasks. The session was well attended and there was a high quality question and answer section after each talk and each session.

The afternoon session was focused on brain plasticity in the adult brain and in degenerative diseases. The anchor speakers were Professor Cliff Abraham and Professor John Montgomery and we also had great input to the speaker list from postdoctoral fellows and PhD students.

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Professor Faull introducing Professor Cliff Abraham

Poster sessions

Poster sessions were held before the talks began for the day, at tea breaks and during lunch time. The posters received much attention due in part to their proximity to the lunch areas of the conference making it social and easy to attend the posters. The calibre of posters was high and the judging was tough. We asked three international speakers to judge the posters and the two winners of the poster prizes were: Mhadvi Pandya and Christine Arasaratnam.

Picture4.pngBernard Kim, Bonnie Gardner and Karan Govindpani

Hosts and organising committee:

Distinguished Professor Richard LM Faull,  Associate Professor Maurice A Curtis, Associate Professor Paul Corballis, Dr Justin Dean, Dr Dean Robinson and Mrs Mirelle Powell.

Locality: The Centre for Brain Research, The University of Auckland and the Clinical Education Centre Auckland Public hospital. New Zealand

Picture6.pngChristopher and Maylene Tremewan, Distinguished Professor Richard LM Faull, Associate Professor Maurice A Curtis