The brain, hormones and behavior focus of briefings at international meeting June 19-22

International Congress of Neuroendocrinology to present new research findings

PITTSBURGH – Living longer, the perils of puberty and aggression in men -- each is focused on the interaction between hormones and the brain and its influence on behavior. Research on these and related topics will be presented at the 6th International Congress of Neuroendocrinology (ICN 2006) in Pittsburgh, June 19 – 22, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh.

Held in a different part of the world every four years under the auspices of the International Neuroendocrine Federation, this year's congress – Bridging Neuroscience and Endocrinology – is being sponsored by the American Neuroendocrine Society and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The first full day of the program, June 20, will be held in conjunction with the 10th Annual Meeting of the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology.

To accommodate media, a press room will be located in Rooms 306-307 of the Convention Center and will be open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday, June 20 through Thursday, June 22. During the meeting, the phone number in the press room will be (412) 325-6080. Two press briefings will be held each day. Reporters may participate via telephone conference call by dialing 800-860-2442 (from within the U.S.) or 866-519-5086 (from Canada). From other countries, call 001-412-858-4600. To be connected to the briefing you must reference ICN 2006. The scientific program, abstracts and lay summaries of the abstracts being featured in press briefings are available at http://newsbureau.upmc.com/ICN2006.

The press briefing topics are as follows:

TUESDAY, JUNE 20

10 a.m.
Winners and Losers: Conflict, Competition and Stress
According to a Portuguese study, a rise in testosterone gives female soccer players the winning edge. In another study, Canadian researchers find hockey players produce more cortisol when defending home ice. But what if your opponent is your spouse? A team of Swiss and American investigators report that a nasal spray with the hormone oxytocin can reduce stress during marital conflict. As of yet, there's no remedy to deal with the health consequences of chronic stress. But, animal studies are revealing new information about the brain mechanisms involved and how they differ from responses to acute stress.

Participants: James P. Herman., Ph.D., University of Cincinnati; Beate Ditzen, Ph.D., Emory University; Rui F. Oliveira, Ph.D., Institute for Applied Psychology, Lisbon, Portugal; Justin Carré, Brock University, Ontario, Canada
Moderator: John Russell, MBChB, Ph.D., chair of Neuroendocrinology, University of Edinburgh, Scotland

12 p.m.
Hot and Bothered: The Basis for Aggressive and Sexual Behaviors
Aggression in men may be due to variations in one of two genes involved in the activity of the neurotransmitter serotonin, reports a University of Pittsburgh study. However, men with the "aggression" genes aren't necessarily all cads; genetics appears to be predictive only if men have hostile attitudes and fathers who never completed high school. Yet a primate study conducted by a National Institutes of Health researcher suggests a caring mother can trump a genetic predisposition toward aggression. Looking for the essence of sexual arousal and behaviors, small animal research is revealing new information about the molecular and biophysical mechanisms that determine intimacy.

Participants: Stephen B. Manuck, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh; Stephen J. Suomi, Ph.D., National Institutes of Health; Donald W. Pfaff, Ph.D., Rockefeller University
Moderator: Eric B. Keverne, Sc.D., FRS, FMedSci, University of Cambridge, U.K.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21

10 a.m.
The Perils of Puberty
Puberty, that awkward phase when boys and girls are primed for their sexual reproductive years as men and women, also is a delicate and dynamic time in the development of the brain, when important neural pathways essential for behavioral and cognitive functions are formed. It's also when most kids are likely to try marijuana. According to animal research, such exposure can have negative and long-lasting effects on the brain. Meanwhile, a Michigan State University study involving 1,500 college students suggests early puberty can result in abnormal eating behavior and anxiety later during young adulthood.

Participants: Yasmin Hurd, Ph.D., Mt. Sinai School of Medicine; Tony Plant, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Julia Zehr, Ph.D., Michigan State University
Moderator: Selma Witchel, M.D., Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh

11:30 a.m.
What's New About Getting Old
What's the secret to living longer? The answer to this age-old question might be found through research looking at neuroendocrine changes throughout the lifespan. A University of Poland study, which included women aged 20 to 102, reports that adiponectin, a small protein derived in fat tissue, may be an important determinant of longevity, while a University of Washington-led study suggests boosting growth hormone can extend the time that the elderly can live independently. The placebo-controlled study involved nearly 400 men and women.

Participants: Agnieszka Baranowska-Bik, M.D., University of Poland; George R. Merriam, M.D., University of Washington/VA Puget Sound Health Care System
Moderator: Robert B. Gibbs, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy

THURSDAY, JUNE 22

10 a.m.
Prenatal Programming: A Womb with a View
New research suggests girls who were born following pregnancies that were encumbered by stressful life events may be at greater risk for developing fibromyalgia later in life. While little is known about the causes of fibromyalgia, a condition affecting mostly women and characterized by extreme fatigue and widespread muscle pain, a German study suggests "prenatal programming" likely plays a role. According to University of Toronto animal studies, a synthetic hormone commonly given to pregnant women at risk for delivering early not only can result in permanent changes to the newborn's neuroendocrine system, but it may have even greater effects on those born in the next generation.
Participants: Dirk Hellhammer, Ph.D., University of Trier, Germany; Stephen G. Matthews, Ph.D., University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine
Moderator: Claire-Dominique Walker, Ph.D., McGill University, Montreal

10:30 a.m.
Staying Awake, Alert and Less Anxious
Only recently discovered, a small protein in the brain known as neuropeptide S has been found to induce both profound wakefulness and a less anxious state in animals, and, according to new research, may represent a novel target for the treatment of psychotic behavior and schizophrenia. Neuropeptide S can reduce the biochemical and behavioral symptoms of schizophrenia in an established animal model for this mental illness that affects some 2 million Americans.

Participants: Rainer K. Reinscheid, Ph.D., Naoe Okamura, M.D., Ph.D., University of California, Irvine

Other research that may be of interest to news media include:

  • Confused at midlife: Clear thinking about estrogen therapy and the menopausal brain
    Barbara B. Sherwin, Ph.D., McGill University, Montreal
  • Hormones make it even harder for some to kick the habit
    Ann Rasmusson, M.D., Yale University
  • The next fad in weight loss: The cytokine diet?
    Laurence Macia, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Pasteur Institute
  • One lump or two? Oxytocin influences a sweet tooth
    Janet Amico, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy

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Formerly the International Society of Neuroendocrinology, the International Neuroendocrine Federation consists of six member societies and seven regional groups, representing all parts of the world. The federation's president is John A. Russell, MBChB, Ph.D., chair of neuroendocrinology, University of Edinburgh. The chair of the ICN 2006 scientific program is Iain J. Clarke, Ph.D., professorial fellow in the department of physiology at Monash University in Australia. Tony Plant, Ph.D., professor of cell biology and physiology and director of the Center for Research in Reproductive Physiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, is chair of the local organizing committee.

NOTE TO EDITORS: To request additional information that is not available at http://newsbureau.upmc.com/ICN2006 or to register as press, please contact Lisa Rossi at RossiL@upmc.edu or (412) 647-3555.


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