Northern California Science Writers Association

Daniela Kaufer - Stress & the Brain

  • Thursday, April 03, 2014
  • 6:00 PM - 9:30 PM
  • Pyramid Alehouse, Berkeley


Humans have dealt with stress since the first Africans had to outrun lions. But modern men and women are increasingly suffering from chronic stress, which has been linked to everything from heart disease and stroke to mental illness. Daniela Kaufer, an associate professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley, is interested in how acute stress pushes us "to the level of optimal alertness, behavioral and cognitive performance," while chronic stress leads to disease.

Kaufer will discuss what is known about the good and bad effects of stress, and how her research in rats and mice is uncovering the cellular and molecular processes underlying these effects. Her work increasingly involves neuronal stem cells, a small population of cells in the brain that mature into neurons and support (glial) cells. She has shown that chronic stress skews the proportion of new neurons and glial cells (oligodendrocytes), altering the connectivity of the brain and possibly priming the brain for later mental illness. She is now studying good and bad rat moms to assess the impact of early life stress on later mental illness.

Conversely, she has shown that brief or acute episodes of stress also tweak neuronal stem cells, but in a way that primes the brain to be more alert.

One area of her research is already bearing fruit. She and colleagues in Israel showed that extreme stress, such as that experienced in combat, can break down the physiological barriers that normally protect the brain, the so-called blood-brain barrier. They followed the pathological consequences of prolonged blood brain dysfunction, such as after stroke or traumatic brain injury, and documented the steps that lead to the development of epilepsy, which involves glial cells called astrocytes. They have now found a drug that blocks one of the key molecular triggers, and may protect the brain from damage that can lead to epilepsy.

WHERE: Pyramid Brewery & Alehouse, 901 Gilman St, Berkeley

WHEN:Thursday, April 3, 2014

6:00 pm – Enjoy Pyramid’s various brews during a no-host happy hour (sodas, coffee and tea are free)
7:00 pm - Dinner
8:00 pm - Speaker

MENU: Choice of 3 entrees from the Brewmaster Buffet

  • Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Cream Sauce (veg option)
  • Herb Marinated Tri-tip w/ Alehouse Amber Reduction
  • Apricot Ale Glazed Salmon

Mixed Green Salad, Sautéed Seasonal Vegetables, Roasted Red Mashed Potatoes & Gravy

Cost: $28 for members (each member may bring one guest at that price), $33 for nonmembers, $18 for students.

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