The Neural Architecture of Consciousness Summer School in Krakow has come to an end. Its participants had the opportunity to work with the best scientists worldwide. We talked to Dr. Renate Rutiku about the school, science and… spaghetti.
Dr Samuel Nowak: Every summer universities around the world announce hundreds of summer schools, including those neuroscience profiled. How was this any different?
Dr Renate Rutiku: Most often summer schools like this one teach about a specific and limited type of data. You’re taught how to approach, study and work with one particular data package. But we aimed to introduce students to three data types and multiple tools to analyze them so they have a bigger picture of the field… In this case, the big idea behind the project was to bring together young and advanced researchers in their area of expertise– those who come up with research questions and those who have the technical know-how. The MRI data is complex, it takes years to learn how to approach it correctly. The summer school was designed to help young researchers become fluent in MRI faster and enable them to start applying this data to answer their particular research questions.
You mentioned three types of data…
Well, let’s start with widely used brain activity data. You simply load a person into a scanner, let her mind wander and you observe. Next, there is diffusion MRI which allows us to look at connectivity patterns in the brain. Have You seen those colorful ‘spaghetti’ images of brain tracts? Diffusion MRI allows us to create such images for each individual’s brain.
And there is the structural MRI data, a very detailed 3D picture of the brain. This is very advanced, rich, and complex information. It gives us insights similar to in vivo histology about the iron concentration in brain tissue, for example.
What could participants learn during the school?
In general: how to properly gather, preprocess, select and apply data correctly in research practice. We had a variety of PhD students: some had never worked with MRI data before. Others were already experienced in some of the methods we covered. The experts we invited started classes with the fundamental basics and then moved onto more practical aspects - how to approach the data, what the quality checks are etc.
And what feedback you received? I checked Twitter and bumped into very enthusiastic opinions about the school. “Chen Song left us speechless and curious about what constitutes an optimal brain”, tweeted Mariana Pereira, PhD student.
It’s always thrilling to read comments like the one you quoted. We did our best to invite great minds who also happen to be wonderful didactis. They say you can do all teaching processes online; why waste money for travelling and hotels when you have a Skype school? But science is much more – meetings generate personal bonds, those result in other meetings, and that is how many new great scientific ideas are born.
The Neural Architecture of Consciousness Summer School was organized at the Institute of Psychology at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow from 22nd to 27th of Agust, 2022. The aim of the event is to present to you the dataset we have collected as part of the COST Action CA18106 and the SkuldNet consortium alongside an introduction to the key analysis methods used. The first three days of the school focus on the structural imaging of the brain: how the anatomical and functional connective properties of the brain can inform our understanding of individual differences in behavior. The remaining days offer an opportunity to dive into other pivotal aspects of the dataset, that is DNA phenotyping and multimodal statistical patterns.
Spekaers: Agoston Mihalik (Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge) Antoine Lutti (Centre for Research in Neuroscience, University of Lausanne) Borysław Paulewicz (Consciousness Lab, Jagiellonian University) Chen Song (Brain Research Imaging Centre, Cardiff University) Christophe Phillips (GIGA Institute, University of Liège) Claude Bajada (Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, University of Malta) Daniel Margulies (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) Irene Mikkelsen (Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Aarhus University) Kristian Sandberg (Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Aarhus University) Michał Wierzchoń (Consciousness Lab, Jagiellonian University) Paola Galdi (MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh) Per Qvist (Department of Biomedicine, Aarhus University) Renate Rutiku (Consciousness Lab, Jagiellonian University) Aleksander Nitka (Consciousness Lab, Jagiellonian University).