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Brilliant eccentric heroes

Collaborators and friends of John Nicholls, pioneer of neurobiology studies and Professor at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Trieste, celebrate the publication of his autobiographical book “Pioneers of Neurobiology: My Brilliant Eccentric Heroes”, a very personal take on the evolution of neurobiology, but especially on the protagonists of this field of research, today one of the most important in neuroscience. The event is open to the public and will be held in English.

Semantic processing and its disorders

June 29-30, 2015

SISSA, Big Meeting Room, 7th floor

Via Bonomea 265, Trieste

SISSA will host a workshop entitled “Semantic processing and its disorders” in honor of Prof. Tim Shallice. Alfonso Caramazza, Maria Gorno-Tempini, Alex Martin, Morris Moscovitch, Matthew Lambon-Ralph, David Plaut, Caterina Silveri, Lorraine Tyler, Gabriella Vigliocco and others will attend the event. 

The most powerful learning “tool”

We learn how our world works by observing the frequency of events: if (almost) every time I press a button a light comes on, by repeating the same experience over and over again I will learn that to turn on the light I need to press that button. In addition to this sort of “statistical evaluation” of observed events, there is another very powerful instrument that the brain uses for learning and that sometimes clashes with the former: communication.

An “unfocused” eye that sees the big picture

Designed to detect the fossil radiation of the Universe, the Planck satellite, working in tandem with Herschel, can also help to understand the macrostructure of the Universe. A just-published experimental study, carried out with the participation of SISSA, has detected astronomical sources that may be precursors to galaxy clusters, the largest dynamically stable structures existing in the Universe. These primitive elements have long been sought by astrophysicists since they are crucial for tracing the development of the Universe’s macrostructures.

The killer protein, properly explained

The hope is to be able, one day, to fight the pathogenic action of the amyloid-beta protein, whose build-up is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. In the meantime, scientists (including a group from the International School for Advanced Studies, SISSA, in Trieste) have synthesised the knowledge acquired about this protein over the last few decades in a review paper that is destined to become a milestone for future research.

A “sponge” for culturing neurons

By using an innovative yet simple technique, a team of Italian research scientists (from SISSA in Trieste, the University of Trieste and IIT in Genova) have managed to obtain an in vitro culture of primary neurons (and astrocytes) that is genuinely three-dimensional. The neural network showed a more complex function than its two-dimensional counterparts. The structure is also the first to incorporate carbon nanotubes, which promote the formation of synapses among the neurons in the culture. The study has been published in Scientific Reports.

An important appointment at CERN

Guido Martinelli, Director of the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Trieste, has been appointed to the Scientific Policy Committee of CERN in Geneva, a prestigious appointment given solely on the basis of scientific competence. The appointment of the School’s Director confirms once again the high international standing of SISSA’s scientific personnel.

A new grant for supercomputing

SISSA has received European Community funding equivalent to 18 million hours of supercomputing, corresponding to almost half the hours that the SISSA supercomputer, inaugurated last September, can provide in a whole year. The grant was awarded thanks to a research project in particle physics. SISSA is placing high stakes on high performance computing, as also confirmed by the second edition of the Master in High Performance Computing (MHPC) which has just opened enrolments.

Molecular Lego of knots

Trefoil, Savoy, or simple … how do you fashion a “molecular” knot that has one of these shapes? Or better still, what are the most suitable “building blocks” for enabling the knot to assemble itself? A team of scientists coordinated by the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Trieste has studied and catalogued the shapes that molecular building blocks should have so as to be able to assemble spontaneously into knots having specific forms, each with a possible utility in nanotechnology. The study has been published in Nature Communications.

Half spheres for molecular circuits

Corannulene is a carbon molecule with a unique shape (similar to the better known fullerene) and promising properties. A team of scientists from SISSA and the University of Zurich carried out computer simulations of the molecule’s properties and discovered that it might help overcome the difficulties building molecular circuits (i.e., of the size of molecules). The study has just been published in Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics.