Wiring the Campus: Humphreys Lecture Connects Disciplines

March 30, 2009

Whether you are interested in biology, healthcare, psychology, economics, or you are just plain curious, the 2009 Mary E. Humphreys Biology Lecture, “Wiring the Brain” is wired in. Bridging the pursuits of researchers and the broader community of scholars and interested citizens, University of Virignia’s Barry Condron will explain how his lab uses fruit flies and grasshoppers to map the entire history of a single neuron in a developing brain.

Details of the patterns of connection in the brain studied by Dr. Barry Condron“Anyone interested in one of the greatest frontiers of modern biology — how the brain develops — will get insight into how researchers are studying the question,” said Lundy Pentz, associate professor of biology and a member of the selection committee for the Humphreys Lecture.

Non –biologists may find their first connection in appreciation of how organisms so anatomically different from humans use the same processes to guide their development, Pentz said.

Those interested in healthcare, economics, and ethics will connect with studies that could have major implications for new methods of treating brain injury and disease. If psychology is your passion — particularly developmental processes — you’ll find out how that field could be impacted by his discoveries.

People interested in the effects of drugs will also be intrigued to find that Condron’s research focuses on serotonin receptors — part of the brain’s guidance system — that are sensitive to drugs such as Prozac and cocaine.

In the lab named in his honor at University of Virginia, Condron works much like an electrician, except that the wires he manipulates are long, threadlike extensions that grow out from cells and the electricity is generated by chemical signals. Condron’s talk begins at 7:30 p.m. April 1 in Francis Auditorium on campus and is free and open to the public.

The Mary E. Humphreys Biology Lecture Series was established in 1992 to bring prominent scientists to the campus to present public lectures. Sponsoring the series are friends and former students of Dr. Mary Humphreys, professor emerita of biology, who served on the biology faculty at Mary Baldwin for 25 years. For more about Humphreys and a list of past participants, visit go.marybaldwin.edu/lectures/humphreys.php.