Saturday, June 15, 2013

Brains, Beaches, and Buses

Oi todos, I've been in Florianopolis for just over a week and I still can't get over how unbelievably amazing it is here. Last weekend Adam, Britney, Erica, and I took a bus to Praia Mole, one of the two beaches (out of 42 on the island) that allows surfing. Despite it being "cold" here (at least to the locals), we walked for miles along the beach and through the forest that overlooks it, eventually reaching a giant pile of boulders that overlooked the sea. The ocean stretched endlessly into the distance, interrupted only by local fishing boats dotting the horizon; it was my first time seeing the ocean, and I still can't believe how beautiful it was.

A few days later, Britney, Erica, and I decided to try walking to an inland national forest, as we had only briefly walked through the forest near Praia Mole. Since bus workers across Florianopolis were on strike and the bus system was down, we decided to try to walk there. After over 6 hours of walking, we only managed to get lost in a few neighborhoods and climb halfway up a "hill" (which seemed more like a mountain to us) before giving up and heading home. Later that week, the buses were running again so it looked like our days of getting lost were behind us. However, on Thursday, thinking that I was getting on a bus headed to the university, I ended up on the other side of the island, closer to the mainland than my lab. After switching buses, getting off at the wrong bus stop, and walking 8 kilometers, I finally made it to my lab (only 3 hours late).

I'm currently working in a neurobiology lab in the pharmacology branch of UFSC, with my mentor Padua and three PhD students. Padua's lab uses a behavioral paradigm called olfactory fear conditioning to attempt to understand the body's natural stress response to threatening stimuli, rather than focusing on anxiety disorders. We spent most of the week doing stereotactic surgery on rats, implanting intracranial cannulas into specific brain regions which will allow us to alter the different phases of fear learning (acquisition, consolidation, expression). Between working in the lab, enjoying the boundless beauty of the island, and learning how to get around the island without getting lost, these first 10 days have flown by. I can't wait to see what is in store for us next in Florianopolis!

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