Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

The Society for Neuroscience meeting is coming up, taking place in San Diego in the midst of all the furor and flames. While I’m not going to the meeting, I was reminded of a funny fake science poster I saw at SFN back in 2004: “Joint Encoding of Motion and Music in a Neuron in the Sea Monkey Artemia Salina – An Evolutionary Antecedent of Trouba Du?” (PDF here) by Kai Schreiber.

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Figure 1

Why is this an awesome poster? Check out the abstract:

When we see an unfamiliar person in a parking lot, sporting a guitar and dressed in quaint clothing, we instantly are overcome with an intense feeling of trouba du, the instinctive recognition of a traveling poet. Little research has been done on the neuronal basis of this striking phenomenon, but it would be highly probable that some neurons strongly correlate with its occurrence. Neurophysiological experiments in the past have shed some light on the details of neuronal behavior, but traditional laboratory animals for such experiments are quite expensive in acquisition, rather smelly, and difficult to maintain. Some of them even bite. In contrast, the animals chosen for this study are comparatively cheap, easy to obtain, and can be kept in a little jar on an averagely cluttered desktop. Their humanlike appearance and behavior are evidenced by numerous illustrations (e.g. Figure 1), making them ideal experimental models for human behavior. Contrary to the impression created by Figure 1, they are not really people, though, so putting them in experiments is fine.

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Figure 2 illustrates the sophistacated experimental housing for the sea monkeys.

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Figure 5 shows how recordings were taken during the experience of trouba du.

As shown in the Figures above, methods included super-gluing a very very thin wire to the head of experimental animals and positioning headphones on the outside of the sea monkey’s tank (filled with saline).

Stimuli consisted of colourful moving visual patterns and an auditory presentation of contemporary popular music and were displayed using Winamp 5.

Read the results under the fold!

The results were fascinating, as illustrated by Figure 4 (below).

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I want to stress that measurements using this device were extremely difficult and required great experimental skills. Analysis of the FMRI data revealed that the focus of FMRI activity was also inside the animal’s head. These results clearly demonstrate the feasibility of functional mechanic resonance imaging in the Sea Monkey and validate FMRI as a technique.

Phew! Now all those fMRI critics can finally shut up! Dr. Schreiber wraps up the poster with these sage remarks:

All things considered, the present study must be considered extremely well founded and highly valuable to human society as a whole.

Well said.

I also want to note that this was an accepted abstract which made it through the apparently nonexistant screening methods of SFN. Dr. Schreiber presented the poster and was even kind enough to provide print-outs of the poster, in case you wanted to review the detailed figures later, away from the hustle and bustle of the conference. He has also presented an illuminating poster at SFN 2003 explaining the relationship of ignorance, blunt force trauma, and fMRI using Shakespeare and this chart. Genius.

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Comments

  1. #1 Coturnix
    October 26, 2007

    Brilliant! And I can’t even get my Artemia salina to swim where I want them to!

  2. #2 Kai
    October 26, 2007

    Why, thanks for the honorable mention. I can reassure your belief in the process of review, while they didn’t catch me these two times, they did filter me out in 2005, and I haven’t tried to sneak anything in since. I probably will, though.

  3. #3 Shelley Batts
    October 26, 2007

    Kai, keep fighting the good fight! Your funny posters make SFN tolerable. Actually, you are a bit of a hero to me and my friends in the Neurosciene program at U of M. We still talk about your posters to this day.

  4. #4 Tim
    October 26, 2007

    Retrospectacle make Tim Sad…Shelley highlights research poster gags but neglects the folks in her own back yard. The trilogy will be complete this year. Two years ago: “Stock Market behavior predicted by Rat Neurons” One year ago: “How many neurons must one man have before you call him a man” and final for this year “The cingular theory of unification: the cingulate cortex does everything.”

    The cingulate cortex is derived from the latin word cingulum, which is a special belt worn by Roman legionnaires to protect the groin. My jaw dropped when I found that out. You can imagine how we’re gonna go with this one.

  5. #5 Shelley Batts
    October 26, 2007

    Tim! :D Send me the details of your fake posters and I will do a follow-up post.

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