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Recapping CSHL’s 88th Symposium

photo of Holly Ingraham and David Julius at the CSHL Symposium
Physiologist Holly Ingraham (left) with her husband, Nobel laureate David Julius, at the 88th Cold Spring Harbor Symposium. Image: CSHL Meetings & Courses
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We tend to regard the brain as a kind of thinking machine—an advanced computer that takes in data in the form of sensory information and spits it back out as communication or behavior. But it’s much more than that. The brain is a hub for numerous bodily processes, including metabolism, sleep, and immune response. How does it regulate these activities? How do they become disrupted in diseases like cancer? Those questions are central to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s (CSHL’s) growing brain-body physiology research. By their very nature, they bring together scientists from many different areas of study. And where better for that to happen than at CSHL. From May 29 to June 2, thought leaders from around the globe shared their research on the topic at the 88th CSHL Symposium on Quantitative Biology.

Altogether, 277 scientists from 14 countries attended. Participants ranged from graduate students to Nobel laureates David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian. (Notably, both have been involved in CSHL Courses—Julius as an instructor and Patapoutian as a student and, later, a lecturer.) The symposium featured over 50 invited speakers and more than 90 poster presentations.

CSHL Associate Professor Jessica Tollkuhn speaks about hormones’ role in brain-body physiology with Nature Communications Associate Editor Laura Corradi. Video: CSHL Meetings & Courses

Of course, several CSHL scientists gave talks as well. Assistant Professor Jeremy Borniger discussed how the circadian rhythm becomes disrupted in breast cancer patients. Professor Bo Li explored how neurons in the brain stem affect immune system function in cancer cachexia. And Associate Professor Jessica Tollkuhn addressed how hormones control the nervous system and behavior.

CSHL Meetings & Courses Program Executive Director David Stewart was one of three of the event’s co-organizers, along with CSHL President Bruce Stillman and Banbury Center Executive Director Rebecca Leshan. “The 2024 Symposium was over one and a half years in the planning,” said Stewart. “The Symposium changes topic each year. While we’ve had Symposia on hormones, circadian rhythms, the brain, immunology, metabolism, etc., this was the first to integrate many broad topics into a single unifying theme addressing brain-body physiology.”

The response, according to Stewart, was nothing short of “enormous enthusiasm.” In fact, the event was so well received that the CSHL Meetings & Courses Program has agreed to begin holding a biennial conference on brain-body physiology, starting in May 2026. The timing couldn’t be better. CSHL is currently building up its brain-body physiology program as part of the institution’s Foundations for the Future expansion project.

To learn more about the topic, check out the 88th Symposium playlist. You’ll hear from CSHL scientists, Nobel Prize winners, and other leading minds from across the field.

Written by: Luis Sandoval, Communications Specialist | | 516-367-6826

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