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University of Iowa News Release


May 29, 2007

Conference June 1-7 Will Explore Brain Structure And Function

Better understanding of how the brain processes and stores information will be the goal of a conference at the University of Iowa Friday, June 1 through Thursday, June 7.

The conference, "Structural and Function Organization of the Synapse," will draw international leaders in neurosciences to Iowa City. It will be divided into two sessions: June 1-3 will feature talks covering critical issues in the field; and a research seminar June 4-7 will provide a forum for interactions in a unique format allowing ample time for discussions.

Synapses are the points of intimate contact between neurons that transmit, process and store information. Johannes Hell (left), conference organizer, said: "Without understanding the structure and function of the synapse, it is not possible to understand information processing by the nervous system, modulation of information processing in learning and memory, and disruption of information processing and storage in neurological and psychiatric diseases and in brain trauma."

Hell, a professor in the UI Department of Pharmacology and director of the Predoctoral Training Program in Pharmacological Sciences at the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, organized the meetings to provide high caliber researchers with a rare opportunity for extensive and rigorous in-person conversation about current research.

"Despite tremendous progress in the last decade in elucidating the structure and function of the synapse, a multitude of important questions remains," Hell said. "The general goal is to advance our conceptual thinking in this area by bringing together the internationally leading experts in this field."

The conference, which is open to the public, begins at 7 p.m. Friday, June 1, with a keynote address by Mark Mayer, a senior investigator at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, an affiliate of the National Institutes of Health. The keynote address will be in Room 1110A in the UI Medical Education and Research Facility. The rest of the conference will consist of 24 talks by various researchers followed by brief discussions.

Many of the speakers from the conference will convene at the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies on Monday, June 4, for the annual Obermann Summer Research Seminar. This four-day meeting will provide a more in-depth forum for discussing recent findings and theories in synapse formation and function.

Both the conference and the seminar are open to the public. There is a registration fee for the conference, which is being held at the UI's Medical Education and Research Facility. For more information and to register, visit the conference web site at: For more information or special accommodations to attend, contact Johannes Hell at

The Obermann Center for Advanced Studies is dedicated to scholarship and intellectual exchange. Some Obermann Scholars work independently, stimulated by uninterrupted blocks of time and by informal conversation. Others work in close collaboration. Obermann Scholars have published numerous scholarly books and articles and have been awarded many external research grants and fellowships for projects begun at the center.

For more information or special accommodations to participate in the symposium, contact Neda Barrett at the Obermann Center at 319-335-4034.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Lois J. Gray, 319-384-0077, Program: Neda Barrett, 319-335-4034,; Writer, Jennifer New