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The September equinox, when the Earth’s tilt causes nearly equal day and night around the world, happened last week. As the Earth continued to spin, these Twitter threads made heads turn about two influential studies as people from around the world shared thoughts and images of the World Congress on Psychiatric Genetics (WCP).
**NEW PREPRINT ALERT** co-authored with @seb_trem (yes, 2nd in a week!!)
We show that inferring the function of a brain region from neural recordings alone can be misleading, with serious implications for neuroscience.https://t.co/1O5CxviIUK
— Camille Testard (@CamilleTestard) September 14, 2022
Brain activity that corresponds to a specific cognitive process does not necessarily indicate a real connection, according to Testard’s study, which showed a statistically significant association between monkeys’ performance on cognitive tests and areas of the brain known not to be involved in that particular process. This finding “suggests that unnecessary cognitive cues are prevalent in the primate cerebral cortex during task performance, questioning one of the fundamental assumptions of cognitive neurophysiology.”
The neurotwitter community responded in too many numbers to share it all, but here are some highlights.
“Really cool and disturbing findings!” tweeted Scott Tyler, a computational biologist at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City. “Would your interpretation be that these regions that are not required for the task of interest are required for secondary tasks that are not monitored (or even noticed?) that are correlated actions?” he asked.
Testard replied that this was one of many possible explanations, saying, “Our point is that we should be aware of this phenomenon and future work should explore why.”
It could be! That’s a good suggestion. We don’t know why we find these strong “unnecessary” correlations, there could be multiple explanations that we cite in the discussion. Our point is that we should be aware of this phenomenon and future work should explore why.
— Camille Testard (@CamilleTestard) September 14, 2022
— KordingLab ???? (@KordingLab) September 14, 2022
Some had a more reserved response to the paper. “I think neuroscientists understand that” correlation is not causation and neural attunement to tasks does not mean that those neurons are functionally required. . .” tweeted Ella Battycomputational neuroscientist at Harvard University.
It’s really nice to see this displayed so clearly, but a little confused by the (dramatic) look here.
I think neuroscientists understand that correlation is not causation and that neural attunement to tasks does not mean that those neurons are functionally required… https://t.co/jcY6VBkvNU
— Ella Batty (@EllaBatty) September 15, 2022
Do you think the paper represents a potential revolution in neuroscience? Let us know in the comments.
Another “potential game changer,” divided by John Lukensa neuroimmunologist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, caught our attention this week, this one for the treatment of neurological diseases.
— John Lukens (@LukensJohnR) September 15, 2022
The Nature study demonstrated a way to inhibit a pathway called mTOR only in brain tissue, minimizing the potential for side effects in non-brain tissue. This famous cancer path is overactive in various forms of autism and related disorders.
Such a brilliant strategy to attack the brain, not with the drug, but with the *effect of the drug.* Exciting!! https://t.co/CZlD4OU0ts
— Steven Shuken (@stshuken) September 15, 2022
Next, we take a virtual tour via tweet from the WCPG, which took place September 13-17 in Florence, Italy. The WCPG is an international scientific meeting for research in psychiatric genetics and related fields, with the participation of experts in genetics, neuroscience and psychiatry from around the world.
Jakob Groveassociate professor of biomedicine at Aarhus University in Denmark, presented updated findings from his genome-wide association study to identify regions in the genome harboring risk factors for autism, according to this tweet from Tinca Polderman, associate professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at Amsterdam UMC in the Netherlands. Grove’s new work identifies 12 regions of the genome that harbor autism-specific variants, an increase over the 5 autism-specific regions he and his colleagues identified. reported in 2019.
— Dr. Tinca Polderman (@tincatwin) September 14, 2022
“Great findings presented by @jakob_grove of the updated autism PGC, positive direction and progress but still a way to go,” tweeted Jack Underwooda clinical researcher at Cardiff University in Wales.
Fresh off the analytical press. Great findings presented by @jakob_grove of the updated autism PGC, positive direction and progress but still a way to go #WCPG2022 https://t.co/zD94QNqeol pic.twitter.com/mTAVb6e8MD
— Jack Underwood (@JFGUnderwood) September 14, 2022
The following is a thread from Veera Rajagopal, a scientist at the biotechnology company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in Tarrytown, New York, who noted a theme in some of the research being presented: “using the knowledge of biological pathways to better insights in genetic associations.”
Attend lectures and posters in the #WCPG2022 , I noticed that some of the research work followed an interesting theme: using the knowledge of biological pathways to better understand genetic associations. ????
— Veera M. Rajagopal (@doctorveera) September 15, 2022
Kristen Brennanprofessor of psychiatry and genetics at Yale University, called the thread a thoughtful one that “synthesizes a number of conversations pointing to convergence in psychiatric genetics.”
— Kristen Brennand (@kristenbrennand) September 15, 2022
Next stop on our virtual tour: some photos from the poster hall.
“Come and see @JFGUnderwoodwork. . . On polygenic scores in autism and their relationship to mental health phenotypes,” tweeted Kimberley Kendall, a psychosis and genetics researcher at Cardiff University.
— Kimberley Kendall (@DrKKendall) September 15, 2022
“If you are interested in the autism polygenic score and how it relates to ASD diagnosis and characteristics, comorbid mental health and general psychopathology, come see my poster today,” tweeted Melanie de Wita graduate student of developmental psychology at the VU University Amsterdam.
— Dr. Tinca Polderman (@tincatwin) September 15, 2022
In addition to the research, a meeting at a reception is a big highlight for meetings, and if Sarah Marziprofessor at Imperial College London in the UK, said: “#WCPG2022 chose a good location for the network reception.”
— Sarah Marzi (@sj_marzi) September 15, 2022
Finally, it’s time to say arriveci, often with a goodbye tweet, like this one from Jacob Forestman, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto in Canada, who wrote: “What a blessing to be able to reconnect with so many colleagues personal again.”
— Jacob Vorstman ???????? (@Jacob_Vorstman) September 16, 2022
That’s it for this week’s Community Newsletter! If you have suggestions for interesting social posts you’ve seen in the field of autism research, feel free to email [email protected].
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Cite this article: https://doi.org/10.53053/NPQN2240