This past week, everyone gave short chalk talks on the research they’re doing this summer. After a week of listening to seventeen different chalk talks, I gained new knowledge about a myriad of different research topics. One of the projects that caught my attention was Jaan’s research on dystonia, a movement disorder that causes muscles to uncontrollably contract. She explained a complicated topic clearly and articulately, and in those eight minutes I learned a lot of new information.
When cells experience high stress, the protein pathway eIF2α typically responds by triggering phosphorylation. A hypothesis is that in dystonia patients, stress does not cause as much eIF2α phosphorylation as there should be. However, whether targeting eIF2α signaling can mitigate the symptoms of dystonia remains uncertain. Furthermore, it is important to identify the exact parts of the brain that are vulnerable to altered eIF2α signaling.
Jaan is researching whether mice with dystonia have a dysregulated eIF2α pathway using western blot. By examining the brain tissue of the mice for eIF2α expression at various times throughout development, she can study whether there is a period of susceptibility in which pathway dysregulation happens. She can also investigate which specific brain regions have altered eIF2α signaling.
While listening to all of my peers present, I was surprised by how many of them are researching the brain. All of the neurology projects were studying different proteins, pathways, and brain regions. The impression I formed was that the details of how and why our brains function mostly remain a mystery to us. But that mystery has an exciting allure about it. After all, the heart of research is that despite all the science and knowledge we’ve discovered, there is still so much more that we don’t know.