NevadaNews - University of Nevada, Reno

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Professor organizes first-of-its-kind international symposium on brain molecules

Recently, University of Nevada, Reno Professor Christopher von Bartheld organized a first-of-its-kind symposium on the evolution of neurotrophic factors in the brain.

Neurotrophic factors are molecules contributing to the survival (nourishment) of nerve cells in the brain, and therefore the development of an organism as a whole.

“There must be communication between nerve cells and target organs,” von Bartheld said. “Trophic factors help to provide feedback and survival signals, assuring proper development and function of the brain.”

Von Bartheld organized his symposium in order to foster a dialogue on the role of neurotrophic factors in organisms throughout their evolutionary development.

The symposium, which took place in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, D.C., featured a wide range of speakers representing six countries and three continents. Von Bartheld called it the most internationally varied panel ever seen at this annual gathering of comparative and evolutionary neurobiologists.

“There have been literally thousands of papers written on trophic factors during brain development,” said von Bartheld. “But this was the first symposium to explore what role trophic factors play in evolution in an organized and systematic way.”

The study of trophic factors has the potential to play a key role in research and breakthroughs concerning debilitative ailments such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

In addition to being the first of its kind, the symposium is affiliated with the publishers and editorial board of the journal "Brain, Behavior & Evolution." Dr. von Bartheld was granted the position of guest editor on a special issue of the journal focusing specifically on neurotrophic factors, and their evolution.