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What happens inside a membrane

Little is known about how the proteins forming ion channels – the “pores” on the cell membrane - change when they open and close, especially the portion that is “embedded” in the membrane. Scientists at SISSA have invented a method, based on the combined and innovative use of known techniques, which allowed them to observe in detail a specific membrane protein and its structural changes. The study has just been published in Nature Communications

Quantum “gruyères”

They are “strange” materials, insulators on the inside and conductors on the surface. They also have properties that make them excellent candidates for the development of spintronics (”spin-based electronics”) and more in general quantum computing. However, they are also elusive as their properties are extremely difficult to observe. Now a SISSA study, published in Physical Review Letters, proposes a new family of materials whose topological state can be directly observed experimentally, thus simplifying things for researchers.

Shedding light on rods

By using “unusual” optic fibres in a novel fashion, an international team of researchers led by the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Trieste, scrutinized the response to light of rods, the light-sensitive cells of the retina, and demonstrated that the intensity of response varies according to the region of the cell hit by the light.

Desirable defects

Introducing flaws into liquid crystals by inserting microspheres and then controlling them with electrical fields: that, in a nutshell, is the rationale behind a method that could be exploited for a new generation of advanced materials, potentially useful for optical technologies, electronic displays and e-readers.

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.