Scientist to share research on exercise, motivation at Chambana Science Cafe

By christina como

On Wednesday, the Chambana Science Cafe will host Michael Saul, postdoctoral research associate at the Institute for Genomic Biologyss, to discuss his research on motivation to exercise. “This is Your Brain on Exercise: How Your Brain’s Genes Influence Your Motivation to Work Out” will be held at Pizza-M at 5:30

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“This one will be especially easy for the audience,” said Ariel James, co-organizer of the Chambana Science Caféss. “It’s something that the audience is going to have personal experience with.”

The Café, which meets on the first Wednesday of each month of the semester, gives scientists an outlet to discuss their work with the public.

“Science cafes are actually a global phenomenon, started in Europe, that have since popped up informally in various locations,” James said. “The current chapter was started in 2012 by then-post doctoral fellows Joe Toscano and Jessica Love. Joe had attended science cafes at his graduate school and really enjoyed them, so he wanted to have something similar here at the U of I.”

The Science Café is currently sponsored by the Beckman Institute and the Institute for Genomic Biology. These sponsorships assist in advertising and provide free pizza to the audience. It transferred from Espresso Royale to Pizza-M last December to accommodate its growing audience, James said.

“I think on the one hand, people are very interested in scientific research and find it relevant to their lives, but on the other hand, lots of us feel intimidated by scientific fields that we don’t have lots of experience with, and it’s hard to dive right in to formal research reports outside of your field,” James wrote in an email.

She also explained that science cafes are a great way to introduce people to a very specialized topic, but in a fun, digestible way.

James said the cafe benefits the researchers, too.

“It gives them an opportunity to talk about their work in a different way than they might be used to, and sometimes the questions that come from people outside of our field are very inspiring,” she said.

Saul’s lecture focuses on his research findings on how exercise, like a lot of different behaviors, can be modeled in various animals in different ways.

“In mice…there’s a really easy way to measure the amount that they exercise,” he said. “And that’s just the really familiar pet store way of looking at things, how much do they run on the wheel?”

Findings from these experiments can be applied to humans, Saul explained, because we share some of the same genomes with mice. He said that this startling degree of similarity between motivation in humans and in mice can be used to come up with new ways of manipulating human motivation.

“I guess the goal is to come up with some sort of magical treatment that you can (give) to people that will make them really happy and want to exercise a lot,” Saul said. “It doesn’t have to be a drug, it could just be a more fundamental understanding of the brain system as well.”

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