Mon, Oct 3, 2022
Biology Fall Honors Presentations: Week 2
Biology Honors students will present their research plans in the form of a short research presentation.
There will be two Monday seminar sessions from 4:00 - 5:00 PM with five or six presentations at each seminar. All Biology students are encouraged to attend to support their peers, and attendance is mandatory for senior Biology majors.
Mon, Oct 24, 2022
Biology Monday Seminar: "Bioelectric circuits: the mechanism of collective intelligence in development, regeneration, and cancer"
Dr. Michael Levin
Distinguished Professor and Vannevar Bush Chair, department of Biology, Tufts University
Director of the Allen Discovery Center, Tufts University
Each of us took the remarkable journey from physics to mind: starting as a blob of chemicals in an unfertilized oocyte, we became a complex, intelligent, metacognitive being. How does a collective of neurons work together to solve problems in 3D behavioral space as a unified, coherent agent? In this talk, I will argue that evolution solved this puzzle long before brains and nervous systems appeared. The remarkable capacities of brains have their origins in similar computational capabilities that all cells, not just neurons, can deploy; in fact they are as old as bacterial biofilms. But what did body tissues think about, and how did they do it? I will describe the processes of embryogenesis, regeneration, and cancer suppression as navigation of morphospace - the space of possible anatomical configurations. A number of examples, from classic developmental studies to our most recent work with synthetic proto-organisms (Xenobots), reveal the amazing plasticity and problem-solving capacities of cells working together as a collective intelligence. We have now created the tools to read and write the bioelectric patterns that serve as a kind of cognitive medium to this intelligence, allowing us to develop new applications in birth defects, traumatic injury, and carcinogenesis (using machine learning to discover ways to reprogram the bioelectrical interface without genetic changes). I will show some examples of the bioelectric software that controls growth and form, and conclude with some speculations about the future of regenerative medicine and ways to understand how evolution (re)programs cellular collectives as the agential material.
Persons from the college community who wish to attend should please register by sending an email request to the biology ADC, Leah Davis.
Mon, Oct 31, 2022
Mon, Nov 7, 2022
Biology Monday Seminar "Exploring the social worlds of cichlids and spiny mice by combining cognitive ecology and social neuroscience"
Dr. Kelly J Wallace
NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Psychology, Emory University
An animal’s social world can profoundly influence their behavior, yet we know much less about how these outcomes in turn impact cognitive performance. For example, in the cichlid fish Astatotilapia burtoni, a male's status in the dominance hierarchy dictates his behavior, physiology, coloration, and even brain gene expression. But does his position in the hierarchy influence his cognitive performance? Or conversely, is his position dictated by his ability to solve novel problems? Similarly, the desert-dwelling Spiny mouse Acomys cahirinus is highly gregarious due to its communal social system. Does early-life rearing in a cooperative breeding system shape not only adult prosociality, but also cognition? In investigating these two social systems across biological levels, Dr. Wallace has uncovered previously undescribed relationships between task performance (novel object recognition, spatial memory, novel social encounters), physiology (cortisol and testosterone), and neurobiology (immediate early gene expression) in these two charismatic species.