Gail Jenkins Learning and Mentoring Award

Gail Jenkins was a dynamic teacher and long-time HAPS member.  Gail loved teaching. Most of all, she loved to make difficult concepts in anatomy and physiology easily comprehensible to her students.  To accomplish this, she employed the “Keep is simple, Sweetie” (KISS) approach.  When facing a difficult concept, she’d urge her students to “KISS” it by using everyday analogies or tools to visualize and simplify the subject.  Her students loved this approach.

In Gail’s honor and to keep her memory at HAPS alive, Wiley Publishing, in partnership with HAPS, has established the Gail Jenkins Teaching and Mentoring Award. This prestigious award recognizes a HAPS member who:

  • Uses engaging learning activities to help students comprehend difficult concepts and,
  • Is willing to mentor other instructors in this approach.  

The award includes a $1000 cash award and waiver of the 2018 Annual Conference registration fee. Award recipients will present a workshop during the workshop sessions at the annual conference.

To qualify for the award, applicants must be HAPS members engaged in teaching anatomy and physiology, must provide an explanation of how engaging learning activities are incorporated into their classes, must provide an abstract of a workshop to be presented at the 2018 conference, and must provide a letter of recommendation from a colleague with direct knowledge of the applicant’s teaching and student interaction.  Applicants who can demonstrate a spirit of sharing this approach and mentoring their colleagues will be given preference. 

HAPS expresses its thanks to Wiley Publishing for support in the establishment and continuation of this award.
HAPS expresses its thanks to Wiley Publishing for support in the establishment and continuation of this award.

Applications can be found on the HAPS website.  The application deadline is December 1st.

Don Kelly
HAPS Grants and Scholarships Committee

Looking for Community College A & P Instructors Who Wish to Engage in Research on Student Attrition

First, a few questions:

  1.  How many of these abbreviations do you know?
  • SoTL
  • DBER
  • IUSE
  • CAPER
  1.  Where do most students in the USA take entry-level anatomy and physiology?

The answer the first question will be at the end, but it’s the second question that is important now.  Answer: Community Colleges!

Community Colleges are where thousands of instructors are teaching tens of thousands of students lessons in anatomy and physiology every day of the academic year.  Students in these courses often have high hopes – they hope to change their lives by gaining the qualifications to enter allied health professions such as nursing, surgical technology, and emergency medicine.  But as most of us know, many students do not complete the two-semester A & P sequence, and others complete the course but do not have high enough grades to continue in the program.  The course needs to be difficult; it’s a difficult topic. But too many students are failing.

I recently gave a SoTL (Science of Teaching and Learning) workshop at a community college that had an attrition rate of well over 50% in A & P.  The instructors in the program all talked about students being academically ill prepared for the rigors of an A & P course.  Other students, they said, were just too busy with work, kids, and “life” to devote the time required to succeed.  “Stress” was a common theme; stress caused by financial problems, family problems, and in many cases academic struggles.  In the workshop we talked about different strategies that “might help” students who struggle.  We can never “save” all our students, but we can improve the present situation.  We can help a few students succeed in A & P who otherwise might fail.

During the next month, a group of HAPS members will develop a National Science Foundation (NSF) ISUE (Improving STEM Undergraduate Education) grant targeting the attrition problem in community colleges.  If funded, we will work with instructors at community colleges who wish to try out a new teaching practice and conduct a small research project on its effectiveness (i.e., Discipline Based Education Research, or “DBER”).  We have to start out small, but if successful we will expand the program to include larger numbers of instructors and community colleges.  (And of course, NSF grants are hard to get – but you’ll never get one if you don’t apply!)

Are you teaching at a community college?  Are you interested in such a project?  If so, read about our project (CAPER) in the text below, which will also be posted on the HAPS List serve later today.    

And now the answer to the first question:

  • SoTL: Science of Teaching and Learning
  • DBER: Discipline Based Education Research
  • IUSE: Improving STEM Undergraduate Education
  • CAPER: College Anatomy and Physiology Education Research

(CAPER is the name of our HAPS/NSF research project!  So a bonus point if you got that one.)

College Anatomy and Physiology Educational Researchers (CAPER) – We want you!

One topic guaranteed to start up chatter on the HAPS Discussion Board is attrition – the disturbingly high number of students failing and withdrawing from our A & P courses, especially at 2- year colleges.  The HAPS Attrition Task Force has spent the past 18 months gathering data to document the problem.  The causes are complex, and the solutions equally so, but as HAPS members we posit that how we teach matters.   Unfortunately, while many of our members teach at 2-year schools, very little data that we use to inform our practices has actually been gathered at these institutions.  We are submitting an NSF grant application to help address this deficiency, and we need participants.  We are looking for 6 to 8 instructors at large enrolment community colleges serving diverse student populations who are willing to act as partners and participants in this grant. We want people who love teaching, love their students, and want to develop methods to help their students succeed – especially those who struggle.

Our goal is to identify specific classroom interventions that will reduce attrition in diverse student populations.  These interventions will target two important components of student success: conceptual understanding of physiology and psychological distress. Educators involved in this project will work together to develop, implement, and evaluate the impact of curriculum and pedagogy designed to influence one or both of these determinants.  We know full well that we cannot “save” all students, but we know that implementing some simple methods into our regular teaching practice can make a big difference our students’ chance of success.

Here is our preliminary plan, but we are interested in working with grant participants to fine-tune the methods.

What Do I Have To Do?

  1. July to December 2018:  Complete a 1-credit HAPS –I course (Title:  Introduction to Educational Research Methods) that covers basic principles of instructional design and assessment, and the mechanics of carrying out classroom research projects. The course includes online sessions as well as an in-person meeting at a regional HAPS conference in the Fall, and your tuition and travel will be covered by the grant.  We know that many of you are also teaching during this period, so will be asking to commit no more than 3 hours per week for this endeavor during the Fall semester. By the end of the course (probably in early December) you will have a plan for an intervention that you would like to try out, and evaluate, in your course.
  2. While completing the course, you will work with one of the course instructors to refine your classroom research project focusing on your specific student population.  Each participant will test the impact of an intervention on student performance (attrition) and stress levels using tools such as validated student surveys, instructor reports, and/or student interviews.  We will provide you with a list of interventions and research tools to choose from, but participants are also welcome to come up with their own.  For instance, one participant might look at how student stress and performance is impacted by two-stage cooperative quizzes, in which students complete a quiz both individually and in groups (cooperative quiz).  Another participant might decide to investigate if his or her students feel less psychological distress, and/or perform better, if they spend 3-5 minutes at the beginning of each group activity discussing their everyday lives. A third might examine the impact of instituting active learning activities, such as those that will be published in an upcoming Special Issue of the HAPS Educator, the inquiry activities on the HAPS website (HAPS Archive of Guided Learning Activities), or the many teaching tips on the HAPS website (A & P Teaching Tips).  We will also help you get Institutional Research Board (IRB) approval for your project. Note that interventions will be realistic and achievable – we are looking for small-scale interventions, not changing an entire course.
  3. January-May 2019: Carry out, analyse, and write up your classroom research project, with the support of the instructional team.  We hope that all participants can present their findings at the 2019 Annual HAPS conference at the end of May, and we also would encourage participants to submit their findings to the HAPS Educator.
  4. We will also ask each participant to participate in informal entry and exit interviews, in which your will discuss your perspectives on teaching and educational research with an interviewer.

Why?  What’s in it for me?

First of all, the educational community needs your input, and data from your students, to inform our practices.  Second, it will be FUN.  Educational scholarship has the potential to revitalize your teaching, and make your job more interesting, challenging, and satisfying.  Third, we will help support your travel to two HAPS meetings (one regional and one national), and there will be a stipend for completion of the manuscript describing your work.   

Sounds Interesting….What’s the Catch?

First, all participants will need to talk to their administrators. They must know what you are doing (research on teaching and student retention), support you in your efforts, help secure IRB / Human Subjects approval for you to conduct your project with students, and work with us to collect data on attrition.

Second, the project will work best if we have teams of two or three anatomy and physiology instructors from one community college, city, or region.  It isn’t an absolute requirement, but apply with a colleague from your own or neighbouring colleges if you can.  It’s even better if your school in involved in a program such as Community College Biology Instructor Network to Support Inquiry into Teaching and Educational Scholarship, or the SEPAL project.  

And third, please remember that this is a grant proposal, and there is no guarantee that the grant will be funded.  We can only accept 6 to 8 participants for the first year, but, if funded, we would run a second group of 6 to 8 participants in the second year.  

Still interested or have questions?  Email the project lead, Murray Jensen, at msjensen@umn.com.  Please include as much of this information as possible:

  • Names of instructor(s):
  • Name of your school:
  • Number of students enrolled in your anatomy and physiology program each year:
  • A rough estimate of your attrition rate (that is, the percentage of your class that receives a D or an F or withdraws before completion:
  • School involvement in national programs:
  • Name and title of your administrator who will support you in this project:

We need to have the list of participants finalized by November 21, so let us know if you are interested ASAP!   

Teaching Backwards: From Motion to Muscles

Have you taught those boring muscles lately? And those dreaded origins and insertions?

Bored student going through the motions of learning muscle origins and insertions...
Does this look familiar?

And when students get to the exam they are frazzled and sad? Why do we do the same things over and over and wonder why students don’t recall what we teach them? Muscles are one of the most dynamic tissues of the body so let’s teach them dynamically!

Working in healthcare for the past decade has taught me that patient “buy in” usually leads to better outcomes. Interestingly enough, students are the same way. So why not let them pick some of the muscles they have to learn? They can choose based on personal or occupational interest. For example, if your group is interested in occupational therapy, focus on muscles that are involved in activities of daily living. Are they mostly nursing students? Include muscles commonly strained by nurses in their daily practice from poor lifting mechanics or improper conditioning. This could incentivize strengthening to prevent future injuries. Student buy in may develop into personal investment, which enhances their compliance and advances their outcomes. Follow this formula, and see what happens!

Formula 1:  Buy in > Personal Investment > Compliance > Improving Outcomes

It is also important to think about the breadth of material to cover. It’s not essential that  students learn every specific muscle and attachment, and an operational method may enhance recall. Consider the following four step process starting with motion and ending with the muscle. First, focus on the motion desired. Second identify the plane of motion and axis of rotation. Third, isolate the line of action. Fourth, label the primary movers. A possible fifth addition could be offering an everyday example.

Formula 2:   Motion Desired > Plane of Motion/Axis of Rotation > Line of Action > Primary Mover

Are your students having difficulty identifying the plane of motion and axis of rotation? Try this!
Are your students having difficulty identifying the plane of motion and axis of rotation? Try this!

If students have difficulty identifying the plane of motion and axis of rotation, have them poke a pencil through the middle of a large index card. Then place the index card in the plane of motion desired. If the body part contacts the card while going through the full range of motion, they’re in the wrong plane. The axis of rotation will automatically be perpendicular to the plane of motion for easy identification.

Next, they overlay a piece of string to identify a logical line of action across the joint.

String can help students identify the logical line of action across a joint.
String can help students identify the logical line of action across a joint. 

Using this method, students can isolate the muscles in that region responsible for the action. As a bonus, they can suggest an example of how that muscle is used in everyday life.

 

If you have the students pick a few of their own muscles too, be sure they are able to complete the process despite the muscle’s obscurity. I have always included a few interesting muscles for their action, shape or function. For example, the gluteus medius not only performs hip abduction, but also executes hip internal rotation due to its line of action. The temporalis not only functions in mandibular elevation but also retraction. The piriformis, besides being a cute pennant shaped muscle, is the only gluteal muscle with a sole proximal attachment on the sacrum. If you have some high level students, dare them to discover how the gluteus maximus can perform knee extension! How else could a patient with an above knee amputation negotiate stairs in a reciprocal fashion? And if that’s not fun enough, challenge them to identify the motion that occurs if one muscle attachment is fixated and the other is not. For instance, if the distal end of the Biceps Brachii is fixated, by placing the hand under a table, then the trunk will flex forward (unfixed).  Try it with other muscles too! Muscles are dynamic and should be taught that way. Because in the end, we want our students to look like this!

This student is having her "AHA!" moment!
This student is having her “AHA!” moment!

John Zubek is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and is an Assistant Professor of  Physiology at Michigan State University. 

How does Physical Activity Exert Beneficial Effects on Atherosclerosis and Coronary Artery Disease?

This post describes an update seminar delivered by Harold Laughlin, Professor at the University of Missouri at the 2017 HAPS Annual Conference in Salt Lake City.


Update Seminar VII was given by Harold Laughlin.  In this talk, the benefits of exercise on cardiovascular health were clearly documented.  I’m sure we’ve all heard the sobering stats before.  Cardiovascular disease, largely due to atherosclerosis, is the leading cause of death in the USA, accounting for ~ 1/3rd of all deaths.  As our President-Elect Ron Gerrits announced, we were all left feeling very inspired to getting fit for the HAPS conference Fun Run next year!  

For those interested in a great review article on the regulation of coronary blood flow during exercise, Harold mentioned the Physiology Review article by Duncker and Bache (2008).   In particular, here is list of some of the things we know so far regarding coronary blood flow during exercise:

  • During exercise, heart rate and myocardial contraction increase to meet the increased oxygen demands of the body and heart itself.
  • In order to meet increased metabolic demand, coronary blood flow increases (~5 fold) and there is also a small increase in oxygen extraction.
  • An increase in heart rate, will increase the relative time spent in systole, which affects (impedes) coronary blood flow.
  • There are many factors which regulate coronary vessel dilation (neurohormones, endothelial factors, and myocardial factors)
  • During exercise, coronary vasodilation appears to be induced by many factors including: exercise-induced ischemia, shear stress, increased arterial pressure, tangential wall stress, higher levels of endogenous NO, and β-adrenergic activity.
  • Exercise training results in coronary microvascular adaptations including: the formation of new capillaries, increased arteriolar diameters, increased adrenergic receptor responsiveness, and increased endothelium-dependent vasodilation (as a result of increased expression of endothelial NO synthase (eNOS), increased NO production, and increased Kv (potassium voltage) channel activity).

In his talk, Harold brought up some current data from his experiments with swine vasculature (Simmons et al., 2012).  He noted that healthy individuals typically have good vasomotor tone, and express low levels of the inflammatory markers and adhesion molecules (e.g. E-selectin and vascular cell adhesion molecule-1, VCAM-1) that are associated with atherosclerosis.  It has been previously found that endothelial cells located at bifurcations and other points of turbulence, are more at risk for developing atherosclerotic plaques than straight conduit arteries (Davies et al. 2010).  Laughlin et al. (2012) decided to investigate the straight conduit arteries and veins in six different regions of the swine to determine whether there were any differences in susceptibility to the development of atherosclerosis.  Overall, they found conduit arteries expressed higher levels of both pro- and anti-atherogenic markers than veins.  Also as one might expect, vessels of healthy individuals that lack atherosclerosis, are the most responsive to exercise.

In this talk, the improvements in vasculature as a result of exercise training were specifically addressed (Green et al. 2017).  The exercise-induced effects on vasculature is actually remarkable.  It is estimated that physical activity increases longevity, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular mortality by 42-44%.  The positive effect of exercise is noted to have dose-dependent curve and exercise training has been found to be on par with contemporary drug interventions (Green et al. 2017).  Exercise induces structural and functional adaptations in the vascular walls that reduce the risk of atherosclerotic plaque formation.  In addition increased capillary density and formation of additional collateral circulation is observed, as exercise induces the release of VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor) (Green et. al. 2017).  Also, exercise was found to increase endothelial progenitor cell (EPC) activity which contributes to the growth of new vessels as well as repair.

It is important to note that exercise training increases cardiac output and oxygen uptake, without increasing mean arterial pressure.  This is because as cardiac output increases, peripheral vasodilation occurs (reducing afterload).  Exercise training improves vasodilation capabilities through structural changes.  During exercise, the increased systolic pressure stimulates vascular endothelial and smooth muscle cells to grow and align in response to stress, allowing for greater vasodilation.  In addition, vessel wall stretching induces vasodilation through increased eNOS activity (which produces the vasodilator NO) and activation of Kv channels (which causes smooth muscle cells to hyperpolarize and relax).  In addition, increased blood flow, has been found to increase both acetylcholine and prostacyclin levels which have been shown to induce vasodilation.  Conversely, low levels of shear stress, has been found to increase expression of adhesion molecules (ICAM-1 and VCAM-1) and reduce levels of the endogenous vasodilator NO (Green et al. 2017).

Thankfully for those of us looking to improve vasodilatory function in our conduit arteries and increase our capillary density, improvements through exercise can be seen in as little as 1-4 weeks of exercise and of course continue with longer training sessions.  So with that in mind, I’ll be sure to grab my running shoes and sign my kids up for sports, as fewer than 30% of females and 50% of males get the recommended 60 minutes 5-7 days/ week of exercise!  Yikes-arama!  Time to unplug and play…

A big thank you to Harold Laughlin for a highly motivating talk!


Post from Dr. Zoë Soon, School of Health and Exercise Sciences, University of British Columbia Okanagan, BC, Canada


Davies, P.F., Civelek, M., Fang, Y., Guerraty, M.A. Passerini, A.G. (2010). Endothelial heterogeneity associated with regional athero-susceptiblity and adaptation to disturbed blood flow in vivo. Semin. Thromb. Hemost. 36, 265-275.

Duncker, D.J. and Bache, R.J. (2008). Regulation of coronary blood flow during exercise. Physiol. Rev. 88, 1009-1086.

Green, D.J., Hopman, M.T.E., Padilla, J., Laughlin, M.H., Thijssen, D.H.J. (2017). Vascular adaptation to exercise in humans: role of hemodynamic stimuli. Phsiol. Rev. 97, 495-528.

Simmons, G.H., Padilla, J., and Laughlin, M.H. (2012). Heterogeneity of endothelial cell phenotype within and amongst conduit vessels of the swine vasculature. Exp. Physiol. 97(9), 1074-1082.

Join HAPS– for the conversations!

The HAPS Discussion group (also known as HAPS-L and before that as “the listserv”) is the place where the most interesting conversations in A&P are happening.  This discussion group has hundreds of members, is very active, and has often features amazingly high level conversations among leaders in the field.  This group was started in 1998 as an email listserv, and some still call it that, but it is a modern discussion group with email preferences and a web archive.  The HAPS discussion group is open to all current HAPS members and is one of the most valuable perks of membership.

This week, one discussion revolved around the most accurate classification of bone types. In this discussion, Mark Nielsen (University of Utah Anatomy Professor and winner of the 2017 HAPS-Theime Excellence in Teaching Award) shared multiple illuminating contributions to the conversation. Check out the excerpt below…and then imagine having content like THIS delivered to your email box on a regular basis.

WOW, there is a lot of interesting discussion going on here, this is one of the nice things about the HAPS listserve. It is always great to share and discuss. While I agree with many of the sage comments about classification and “does it really matter because the bones do not care or know where they fit in the scheme of things”, it is still important to recognize that there is correct and incorrect within a classification scheme. Following is the bases of the classification scheme:

Long bone = what is the one characteristic shared by long bones that none of the other bone types have, one thing and one thing only, a medullary cavity, and yes all the phalanges, even the small distal phalanges have a medullary cavity, as does the clavicle. The following bones have a medullary cavity:

  • clavicle
  • humerus
  • radius
  • ulna
  • metacarpals
  • proximal phalanges of hand
  • middle phalanges of hand
  • distal phalanges of hand
  • femur
  • tibia
  • fibula
  • metatarsals
  • proximal phalanges of foot
  • middle phalanges of foot
  • distal phalanges of foot

I believe someone stated that long bones are characterized because they have a diaphysis with proximal and distal epiphyses. This is not true. Many long bones only have epiphyses at one end and not the other. This is the case for many of the phalanges. Again, the characteristic that defines a long bone is the presence of a medullary cavity. Besides, many bones have epiphyses – for example, short bones and irregular bones have epiphyses.

Short bones = are characterized by a core of spongy bone with an outer covering of compact bone. They typically have a length, width, and depth that are approximately of equal dimensions. The carpal and tarsal bones are placed in this category.

Flat bones = the true flat bones of the body all reside in the skull, but the ribs are also often considered to fall in this category because their bone structure is similar to the flat bones of the skull. These are bones that are characterized by external and internal tables (laminae) of compact bone sandwiching dense trabecular diploe, the diploic spaces of the trabecular bone being filled with hemopoetic red marrow in the living subject. This would include the parietal bones, frontal bone, squamous portion of the occipital bone and temporal bone, sutural or wormian bones that are ossification centers that never fused with the fore mentioned bones.

Most of the remaining bones did not fit into one of these three categories. Like the short bones and flat bones all the remaining bones had an outer covering of compact bone and an internal core of spongy bone and no medullary cavity, but they were not short and they were not flat. This led to the next category that became the catch all:

Irregular bones = a variety of bone shapes consisting of an outer covering of compact bone and a central core of spongy bone, with some bone surfaces that are so flat and thin that they lack spongey bone completely e.g., the scapula, ethmoid. Most of the other bones fall in this category – vertebrae, the bones of the facial skeleton and inferior cranial vault bones, hyoid, malleus, incus, stapes, and the scapula and os coxae.

The final category is the sesamoid bones = these are bones that form within tendons. In human anatomy they are similar in bony structure to short bones but have a unique classification as sesamoid bones because of their location within tendons. In some other vertebrates they are very long slender bones within tendons.

One other recognized category is a pneumatized bone. These are bones that contain air spaces within their cores and can overlap with other categories. For example, the frontal bone is both a flat bone and a pneumatized bone. The ethmoid bone, sphenoid bone, and petromastoid part of the temporal bone are both irregular bones and pneumatized bones.

So there is a logic to classification and it is not a random thing that we can bend to our whims. We now have the choice to ignore it or teach it correctly.

So if you’re a HAPS member, by all means, join this discussion group. And if you’re not a member, JOIN HAPS so you can join the discussion group. (Then adjust your email settings, because most HAPSters have experienced the infamous “blown up email box” that results from some of the more rigorous conversations! Thankfully, executive director Peter English wrote a blog post with instructions for doing just that.)

Gene Targeting into the 21st Century: Mouse Models of Human Disease from Cancer to Neuropsychiatric Disorders

This post describes an update seminar delivered by Dr. Mario R Capecchi at the 2017 HAPS Annual Conference in Salt Lake City.


Update seminar VI was a special one, given by Nobel laureate, Mario Capecchi. Having survived World War II in Italy, in part as a homeless orphan, Mario’s life story is a fascinating one.  He went on to become a graduate student at Harvard in the lab of the Nobel Prize winner and co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, James Watson.  In 2007, Mario Capecchi, now at the University of Utah, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly with Oliver Smithies and Martin Evans for their work on gene targeting. The ability to create knock-out mice is widely used to this day and has been a valuable means of mapping gene function.  Mario’s research talk at this year’s HAPS conference focussed on his current work which involves characterizing the different roles that the HOX gene family of transcription factors play during mouse development.  While most HOX (homeobox) gene members are involved in controlling embryonic body plan development in a cranio-caudal manner, Greer and Capecchi (2002) found that Hoxb8 plays a unique role in the mouse’s grooming behavior.

Most animals, including humans, perform some type of auto-grooming and in mice, a cephalocaudal pattern occurs, where the head is groomed first and the tail is groomed last.  Many regions of the brain including the brainstem appear to be involved.  Greer and Capecchi (2002) found that mice with a homozygous Hoxb8 complete loss-of-function knock-out, exhibited over-grooming to the point of hair loss and formation of deep lesions. The deep lesions suggest that the mice also may have reduced sensitivity to painful stimuli.  These mice spent twice as long grooming as wild type mice and also over-groomed their control littermates to the point of inducing hair loss.  Interestingly, in humans, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) often manifests as excessive cleanliness and grooming (e.g. trichotillomania).  Greer and Capecchi mapped the murine expression of Hoxb8 and found that expression began at E7.5 in the primitive streak and yolk sac, spreading through the developing spinal ganglia, spinal cord, and then throughout grooming regions of the CNS in the adult mouse.  In many animals, the basal ganglia has been shown to be involved in modulating grooming behaviour (Aldridge et al., 1993; Berridge, 1989; Berridge and Fentress, 1987; Cromwell and Berridge, 1996; MacLean, 1985a, 1985b; Stein et al., 1992; Wise and Rapoport 1989;).  

In 2008, Capecchi’s lab (Chen et. al., 2008) found that the Hoxb8 gene was normally expressed in microglia cells, and that this expression appears to be required for regulating normal grooming time.  Chen et al. (2008) found that grooming dysfunction in Hoxb8 knockout mice, could be rescued with wild-type bone marrow transplantation. This makes sense as microglia descend from hemocytoblasts.  In addition, Chen et. al. also found that the Hoxb8 gene was normally expressed in the spinal cord where it seems to be responsible for appropriate responses to nociceptive and thermal stimuli.  In fact, Holstege et al. (2008) proposed that the nociceptive recipient interneurons in the dorsal spinal cord laminae I and II are deficient and disorganized in Hoxb8 knockout mice leading to reduced sensation.  Furthermore, Chen et. al. (2008), found that bone marrow transplantation did not rescue sensory defects, indicating that these 2 pathways of dysfunction were due to separate deficiencies (i.e. microglia cell and sensory neurons). Chen et al. (2008) found that deletion of Hoxb8 only in the hematopoietic cells resulted in mice with excessive grooming, but normal sensory responsiveness.

It is unclear how microglia cells are involved in grooming behaviour, however “immunological dysfunction is linked to many psychiatric disorders including OCD, major depression, bipolar disorder, autism, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease” Ashwood et al., 2006; da Rocha et al., 2008; Kronfol and Remick, 2000; Leonard and Myit, 2009; Strous and Shoenfeld, 2006 (Chen et al., 2008).   In this study, Hoxb8 mutant mice were found to have a deficiency of microglia (i.e. fewer microglia in the adult brain).  In terms of how microglia may control behaviour, it is speculated that microglia may be involved in modulating synaptic transmission as they surround synapses, perhaps playing a role in adjusting levels of neurotransmitters (e.g. serotonin).  In addition, microglia cells can secrete cytokines that affect both neuronal activity and longevity.  

At first glance it may seem strange that immune system cells, such as microglia, are involved in grooming.  However, upon further reflection, it does make sense that grooming behaviours may be controlled by the immune system, as the purpose of grooming in animals is to reduce the number of harmful pathogens.

Finally, it was noted that the Hoxb8 mutant mice did exhibit high levels of anxiety.   Anti-anxiety drugs were found to reduce the anxiety-induced grooming behaviour in Hoxb8 mutant mice and also improved their ability to perform the open maze test (which is a frequent measure of anxiety).   

As you can see, a lot of really interesting data was relayed to us in this update seminar and I’d really like to thank Mario Capecchi for such a thought-provoking talk!


Post from Dr. Zoë Soon, School of Health and Exercise Sciences, University of British Columbia Okanagan, BC, Canada


Aldridge, J.W., Berridge, K.C., Herman, M., and Zimmer, L. (1993). Neuronal coding of serial order: Syntax of grooming in the neostratum. Psychol. Sci. 4, 391-395.

Ashwood, P., Wills, S., and Vand Water, J. (2006). The immune response in autism: a new frontier for autism research. J. Leukoc. Biol. 80, 1-15.

Berridge, K.C. (1989). Substantia nigra 6-OHDA lesions mimic striatopallidal disruption of syntactic grooming chains: a neural systems analysis of sequence control. Psychobiol. 17, 377-385.

Berridge and Fentress (1987). Disruption of natural grooming chains after stritopallidal lesions. Psychobiol. 15, 336-342.

Chen, S.-K., Tvrdki, P., Peden, E., Cho, S., Wu, S., Spangrude, G., and Capecchi, M.R. (2010) Hematopoietic origin of pathological grooming in Hoxb8 mutant mice. Cell 141, 775-785.

Cromwell, H.C., and Berridge, K.C. (1996). Implementation of action sequences by a neostriatal site: a lesion mapping study of grooming syntax. J. Neurosci. 16, 3444-3458.

da Rocha, F.F., Correa, H., and Teixeira, S.L. (2008). Obsessive-compulsive disorder and immunology: a review. Prog. Neuropsychopharmacol. Biol. Psychiatry 32, 1139-1146.

Greer, J.M. and Capecchi, M.R. (2002). Hoxb8 is required for normal grooming behavior in mice. Neuron 33, 23-34.

Holstege, J.C., de Graaf, W., Hossani,M., Cano, S.C., Jaarsma, D., van den Akker, E., and Deschamps, J. (2008). Loss of Hoxb8 alters spinal dorsal laminae and sensory responses in mice.  Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 105, 6338-6343.

Kronfol, Z., and Remick, D.G. (200). Cytokines and the brain: implications for clinical psychiatry. Am. J. Psychiatry 157, 683-694.

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After the Annual – Utah Mountain Biking!

Bonneville Shore Trail
A message from HAPS Western Regional Director, Jon Jackson (left). Kerry Hull and Murray Jensen photobomb-ing.
A message from HAPS Western Regional Director, Jon Jackson (left). Photobomb by Kerry Hull and Murray Jensen.

Utah Mountain Biking is a bucket list option for interested HAPSters!

Although mountain biking is generally thought to have originated in the Marin County hills north of San Francisco, there is arguably no finer place to ride than Utah. If you have the time and inclination to hit the mountain trails and ride, there are lots of options awaiting you near the HAPS Conference this Spring.  Murray Jensen, Kerry Hull and I went out a day before the mid-year meeting to explore some biking options (and spend some time in Mark Nielsen’s lab). Here’s what we found.

Jon enforces a rest break...because rest breaks are cool.
Jon enforces a rest break…because rest breaks are cool.

Within a 10-15 minute walk up the hill from the Salt Palace (site of the HAPS Conference) you’ll find a number of shops that rent out mountain bikes.  For around $40, you will be able to rent a $2500 mountain bike for the afternoon!  Full suspensions, 29-inch wheels, and even more options can be had.  If you’re thinking or riding up in the foothills surrounding the city, you’ll have about a 20-minute uphill ride to hit the mountain trailheads that run along what was once the shore of glacial Lake Bonneville. The elevation gain from the hotel to the Bonneville Shelf is about 600-800 feet. The landscape is nothing short of spectacular, even on days with a smog layer.

Local Badger

The entire Great Basin opens up as you switch back up the foothills; it’s quiet enough that you can even surprise some locals along the way.  The uphill climbing ranges from mild to clutch-your-chest strenuous. [I suffered in particular because I was serving as the “untrained control subject,” trying to keep up with Kerry and Murray.] The altitude provided wondrous panoramic views and a kick-your-butt workout, but most importantly, it meant some SWEET downhill action.  On our segment of the Bonneville Shore Trail, the single-track path was 90-95% packed solid, and offered up a mostly smooth ride. But for those who have left their common sense behind, and seek a greater challenge, there are several advanced/expert routes down the hill that will rattle bones, loosen ligaments, and likely raise your health insurance deductibles more than Paul Ryan could.

5 Moose
Local Moose

But no fears, there are many moderate trails that can bring you back to town. Our ride lasted just under three hours, and left us euphoric, thirsty, and with a trace of sunburn (even in October).

 

6 Mid MountainIf the moderate to high euphoria levels of the HAPS meeting aren’t going to be enough — the next level up of mountain biking literally brings you up out of the Wasatch Valley to the mountains surrounding Park City, one of the nation’s premier mountain biking destinations. Lots of shops cater to people giving this level of biking a try, and so you’ll have no trouble finding a “29er” with full suspension. The uphill is even more strenuous, although some riding parks have ski-lifts 7 Elevationto take you up the mountainside. [I’m all for that, as it follows the law of conservation of energy.] This world famous Mid-Mountain Trail is definitely not for novices, but if you’re a reasonably solid mountain biker, this place is as good as it gets. Weather permitting, the miles of traversing trails running over these wooded ski hills will provide a relatively moderate-level (elevation-wise) riding experience. But the downhill can get tricky: you’re a mile and a half above sea-level, and “down” is long, long way away.

Olympic-level bikers who train in Park City power down the hills pedaling, and at high speed. Fortunately for those of us who don’t want to over-use our sympathetic nervous systems, we’re able to find more moderate slopes on which to descend.  Either way, though, it will be full-on fatigue at the finish. It was great that our intrepid riders had a “sag-wagon” to come and fetch them.

Tom Lehman joins post-ride
Tom Lehman joins post-ride

You too will probably may want to arrange for a ride, as you could be too tired and sore to drive back to SLC.  All in all, the beauty of the terrain and the challenge of the hills is a something for every mountain biker’s bucket list.  We’ll have some of the info from the bike places we used for our gear at this year’s annual conference.  We hope to see you there!

 

 


Author Jon Jackson is the HAPS Western Regional Director.

A full list of recommended post-conference activities is available on the HAPS website