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Neuroscientist Set as Speaker for Brain Awareness Week

By Edwin Smith

University of Mississippi

Javier Gonzalez Maeso, professor of physiology and biophysics at Virginia Commonwealth University, will discuss ‘Psychedelics and the Brain’ during the Oxford Neuroscience Cafe at 6 p.m. April 11 at Heartbreak Coffee Shop. He will also lecture at 3 p.m. April 12 in Brevard Hall, Room 134. Submitted photo

Globally renowned neuroscientist Javier Gonzalez Maeso will discuss the effects of psychedelics on the mind as part of Brain Awareness Week, set for April 11-13 at the University of Mississippi.

The professor of physiology and biophysics at Virginia Commonwealth University will address the topic during the Oxford Neuroscience Cafe at 6 p.m. Tuesday (April 11) at the Heartbreak Coffee Shop and again during a lecture at 3 p.m. Wednesday (April 12) in Brevard Hall, Room 134.

“The main characteristic of Brain Awareness Week events is that they are thought for nonacademic audiences,” said Alberto Del Arco, UM associate professor of health, exercise science and recreation management and coordinator of the week’s activities. “Everyone, regardless of their background, will enjoy and learn about what are these drugs and how they are helping us to better understand the brain and ourselves.”

González Maeso earned two bachelor’s degrees in biology and in biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of the Basque Country in Bilbao, Spain. He continued there as a doctoral student, narrowing his research interest on neurotransmitter receptors in the human brain.

He completed his postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Stuart Sealfon at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, where he proposed a molecular mechanism by which psychedelics, such as LSD or psilocybin, induce their unique behavioral effects in mice.

“Psychedelics are currently a focus of intensive research due to their recently discovered therapeutic potential,” Gonzalez Maeso said. “New studies suggest that the subjective effects of psychedelics are necessary for their therapeutic effects.

“The question is how transient alterations of brain function and behavior can improve the symptoms of psychiatric disorders such as depression.”

A graduate and undergraduate research poster competition is set for 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday (April 13) in Bryant Hall, Room 200. Short talks will be also presented by Eric J. Vallender, director of the neuroscience graduate program at the University of Mississippi Medical Center; Barbara Gisabella, assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomical sciences at UMMC; and Harry Pantazopolous, director of the Medical Center’s Postmortem Brain Core.

“Each year we have had this showcase, our students presented research of exceptional quality,” said Lainy Day, associate professor of biology, director of the neuroscience minor and event coordinator. “This year’s showcase promises to be the best one yet.”

Gisabella will also speak at 2 p.m. Friday (April 14) on “Regulation of Emotional Memory in Psychiatric Disorders.”

All events are open to the public. The annual program is sponsored by the School of Applied Sciences, Graduate School, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs and College of Liberal Arts.

Brain Awareness Week is a global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. For more information about Brain Awareness Week, contact Del Arco at adelarco@olemiss.edu.

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