An Evening with Neuroscience

The brain is amazing. Rather, your brain is amazing.

Most of us take for granted that the brain and its 86 billion neurons quietly goes about the business of being "you" without much fuss. It senses the environment, coordinates movement, processes thoughts, stores and recalls memories, and replays that song over and over and over again.

The Evening with Neuroscience is a celebration of that remarkable brain in your head. This event is an opportunity for the public to engage directly with brain researchers. We invite neuroscientists, psychologists, and clinicians to discuss up-and-coming research, dispel myths, answer your questions submitted prior to the event, and share a few brainy laughs with the public. After an hour of discussion, we will open up the floor to audience questions and discussion with the panelists. EVERYONE is invited to participate.

So, come join us for an informal, casual, and fun opportunity to learn about neuroscience. EVERYONE is invited - no neuroscience background needed! So, strike up a conversation, ask a question, and learn more about the "mush between your ears!"

Because this event is free to all, we rely in donations and support from our audience. There will be opportunities to donate to Grey Matters at the event, or purchase merchandise featuring artwork from talented undergraduate artists. All proceeds go to covering the costs of EWN and publication costs for our quarterly journal. We will provide more information on items for purchase as the date gets closer.

Lead the discussion

The Evening with Neuroscience is your event. After all, the whole purpose of the evening is connect neuroscientists with the public. So, have your say. What stories would you like to hear? What should the panel discuss?

Meet the Panel

Martha Bosma, Ph.D. (Moderator)

Associate Professor, Department of Biology

The processes leading to final placement and functioning of cells in the nervous system include proliferation, migration, and electrical and morphological differentiation. My research interests are in the areas of physiology of ion channels and receptors in mammalian CNS neurons, and their roles in neuronal development and migration. At present we are concentrating on two different types of neurons: peptide-secreting neurons from the hypothalamus and motor neurons of the brainstem. We are also examining the expression of ion channels in motor nuclei of the brainstem, in order to characterize the endogenous rhythms that underlie not only the adult pattern of physiological functioning, but also to understand the role that such endogenous activity plays in survival and final patterning of neurons. In this work I have employed electrophysiological techniques (patch clamp), transfection methods to insert foreign ion channels into cultured cells, molecular detection methods to assay RNA and protein levels for specific ion channels, and calcium imaging technology.

Richard Palmiter, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Biochemistry

Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Adjunct Professor, UW Genome Sciences

Dr. Palmiter’s lab uses genetic techniques to explore the role of neurotransmitters in the development and function of the mammalian nervous system. Most recently they have used gene inactivation methods to produce mice that cannot make noradrenaline, dopamine, or neuropeptide Y. Mice that cannot make noradrenaline die as embryos but they can be rescued to birth pharmacologically. Mice that cannot make dopamine are born and begin to grow normally but after about 2 weeks of age they become hypoactive and stop nursing and will die without intervention. The role of dopamine in the regulation of appetite is particularly intriguing. The lab is using pharmacological, genetic and gene therapy approaches to dissect the pathways involved. The lab has also been exploring the function of NPY because injection of NPY into the brain stimulates voracious feeding; however, mice lacking NPY eat and grow normally. The lab is trying to understand the discrepancy between the pharmacological and genetic results. This lab is also studying the role of zinc as a neuromodulator. Zinc is packaged in synaptic vesicles with glutamate in some neurons. The lab has produced mice that cannot transport zinc into the vesicles and is now studying their behavior.

Bing Brunton, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Biology

Data Science Fellow, UW eScience Institute

UW Graduate Program in Neuroscience

With recent advances in technology and infrastructure, we continue to increase our capacity to record signals from brain cells in much greater numbers and at even faster speeds. My research leverages tools from modern computer science and mathematics to understand patterns in these rich, big neural data. I am particularly focused on building concise descriptions of complex data to enable neural-engineering solutions, including the capacity to interpret and manipulate states of the mind in real time.

Eberhard Fetz, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Physiology and Biophysics

Adjunct Professor, Department of Bioengineering

Affiliate Faculty, DXARTS

Core Staff, Washington National Primate Research Center

Our overall research has concerned the neural control of limb movement in primates. This began with studies of monkeys’ ability to volitionally control the activity of brain cells and muscles using biofeedback. We also investigated the activity and connectivity of motor cortex cells controlling forearm muscles by identifying their correlational linkages with muscles using spike-triggered averages of EMG. We recorded activity of spinal interneurons in behaving monkeys and discovered interesting similarities and differences between spinal and cortical neurons controlling muscles. To elucidate neural computations in large-scale neural networks we developed dynamic recurrent network models that simulate the neural interactions generating behavior like target tracking in monkeys and short-term memory. Most recently, our lab has developed a head-fixed bidirectional brain-computer interface that can record activity of cortical cells during free behavior and convert this activity in real time to stimulation of cortex, spinal cord or muscles. This so-called “neurochip” creates a continuously operating artificial feedback loop that the brain can learn to incorporate into behavior. A second application of the neurochip is to produce changes in the strength of synaptic connections through activity-dependent stimulation. These two capacities of the closed-loop brain-computer interface have promise for many basic research and clinical applications. In addition to this scientific research I am interested in the relation between art and the brain, and using artistic approaches to communicating brain mechanisms mediating cognition and behavior.

Felix Viana, M.D., Ph.D.

Tenured Investigator of the Spanish Council for Scientific Research

Institute of Neurosciences, Alicante (Spain)

Visiting Scholar in the Department of Biological Structure, UW

My research group is interested in understanding how neurons sense external stimuli, focusing on the role played by ion channels in pain and temperature sensing. Because animals live in a constantly changing environment (think about the fluctuations in temperature that take place seasonally or during a single day), their survival depends critically on their ability to detect and react to these alterations. For example, they need to signal the brain when external temperatures are too low to adjust peripheral circulation or trigger mechanisms of heat generation, like shivering. To this end, the entire surface of the body, including the eyes and the mouth, are equipped with tiny nerve endings that express specialized receptors that act as miniature signal amplifiers, to detect changes in temperature, mechanical forces and a variety of chemical irritants. Detecting these signals is obviously useful but, at the same time, abnormal electrical activity of the same nerve terminals can lead to exaggerated pain and other unpleasant sensations like itch. In our studies we combined different approaches. Using genetic labeling strategies, we can identify subpopulations of sensory neurons that are involved in specific sensations. These neurons are further characterized using electrophysiological recordings or purified for genomic profiling. We also perform behavioral characterization of animals lacking specific ion channels in different models of chronic pain. The ultimate goal of our research program is to establish the contribution of particular ion channels to the correct adjustment of body temperature and their role in pathological conditions like chronic pain and inflammation. Finally, we also explore the potential to develop novel analgesic drugs targeting these receptors.

William Spain, M.D.

Professor, Department of Neurology, Joint, Department of Physiology & Biophysics

After tabling the quest for a complete understanding of consciousness, I have settled to the more pragmatic task of studying the mechanisms by which central neurons code information under normal conditions and how those processes are altered in neurological disease. To that end, my lab is identifying the rules for transducing synaptic input into frequency-coded trains of action potentials in neocortical neurons and brainstem auditory relay neurons. Because those neurons perform different functions, their transduction mechanisms contrast sharply. For example, the cortical Betz cells provide the primary motor output to brainstem and spinal cord. Cortical integrative processes converge on Betz cells; thus, they sit in a position critical for the summing of cortical commands prior to relay to lower centers. Accordingly, they are designed primarily as temporal integrators. In contrast, auditory relay neurons enable the coding of sound location via the difference in the time of arrival of sound at the two ears. The neurons preserve precise timing information by phase-locking to sound of a given frequency and by acting as coincidence detectors. Thus, the auditory relay neurons must (and indeed do) possess membrane properties that differ from the cortical neurons. By learning as much as possible about the different types of neuronal building blocks and their relation to one another, we are gaining insight into how the brain processes information.


Kane Hall is located in Red Square at the University of Washington. There is a parking garage conveniently located beneath Red Square. The location is also accessible via a number of bus routes.

Finding the room

Enter Kane Hall from the front entrance. Room 130 is located on the far left, with two entrances leading into either side of the lecture hall. Signs will be posted outside of the building and Kane 130 for additional assistance in finding us.

Click here to see a map of the area around Kane Hall.

Bus Routes

Many bus routes stop very close to Red Square. When using the Metro Transit trip planner, you can use "Landmarks > COLLEGES/UNIVERSITIES > University of Washington" as your trip destination. Additionally, Google Maps Transit can help you plan your trip.

Driving directions

Click here for driving directions to Kane Hall at the University of Washington.

  • From I-5: Take the NE 45th Street exit to the University of Washington.
  • Go east on NE 45th to 15th Avenue NE, turn right.
  • To get to the Central Plaza Garage entrance:
    • At NE 41st St, turn left into the garage entrance.
  • To enter the garage via the West Gatehouse:
    • At W Stevens Way NE, turn left, staying in the left lane.

From the garage, you can take the elevator directly up to Red Square.

Parking at UW

Parking is available in the C1-C6 Central Plaza Garage, conveniently located beneath Red Square. Visitors MUST make parking arrangements at any one of the gatehouses upon entering campus or by contacting UW Commuter Services.