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Shannon Boehme and Dr. Jessie Ferrell from the Chiang Lab in the COM; me (Christine Dengler-Crish) and Dr. Matthew Smith from COP

GABAa Brain Lounge Creates Relaxed and Informative Atmosphere During COVID-19


Categories: College Update, Faculty Pride, Research Pride

During the COVID quarantine in March 2020, Dr. Christine Dengler-Crish initiated on online science journal club called the “GABAa Brain Lounge” for faculty, research staff, and students at NEOMED and our surrounding community.

The “Brain Lounge” meets every Friday via Zoom to engage in relaxed, informative, and fun discussions on the latest biomedical research led by a different NEOMED researcher every week. Discussion leaders present hot new lab data or the latest intriguing research publications, and topics have included Alzheimer’s disease, TBI, the role of bile acids in health and disease, toxicology of diabetes drugs, neurohormones involved in appetite, and even the neurobiological mechanisms of how swearing can increase a person’s pain tolerance! The journal club’s 20+ members include the 5 main COP labs in the Neurodegenerative Disease and Aging research group along with faculty/researchers from the COM, members of the Pharm Sci department research staff, Kent BMS and NEOMED IPM graduate students, Kent and UA undergraduates, NEOMED lab alumni, and now, NEOMED Pharmacy and Medicine student Summer Research fellows.

Dr. Dengler-Crish started this forum because she felt she “was getting dumber during quarantine” and that “we often forget how critical our social interactions are to the scientific process.” Dengler-Crish states that, “Scientific creativity is fueled by discussion of ideas and feedback and group problem-solving—this why we (in less pandemic times) loved coming to work in the lab. We make each other better scientists.”

Dr. Dengler-Crish chose the name of the journal club, GABAa, because it is the brain receptor on which anti-anxiety medications and alcohol work to produce their calming effects. “I want all our scientists to feel relaxed in this crisis—even if its just for 1 hour a week. I want one hour where we can enjoy science in a low-pressure, fun, and animated atmosphere.”

Keeping with that low-pressure theme, Dr. Dengler-Crish, other faculty, and senior researchers carry the main responsibility for leading discussions, and enforce a light-hearted atmosphere where no one should feel intimidated in participating. The GABAa Brain Lounge meets every Friday at 3:30pm via Zoom and welcomes anyone interested in science who has a “GABAa-attitude” to join.


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