The family of young neuroscientists from different backgrounds unveils their scientific roots at the "Laboratory of Fear" in Puerto Rico, which has been supporting national health institutes for two decades. For the study of fear of destruction, the laboratory has so far published 80 papers – sometimes the first one from Puerto Rico for certain magazines – that generate more than 2,000 quotes a year. Of 130 young people are trained in the lab, 90 percent of Puerto Rico and Latin America and half of women.
"Like most labs, the key fosters intellectual growth through magazines, workshops, weekly disposable and philosophy of science education," said Gregory Quirk, Ph.D., Ph.D. "It is these four activities that develop the logic, communication, and intellectual curiosity skills of trainees while creating group cohesion."
After completing the postdoctoral scholarship at the New York University in New York under the leadership of a well-known fear researcher, Joseph LeDoux, Ph.D., the Quirk Laboratory started in 1997, at Ponce Health Science University, Ponce, Puerto Rico. Ten years later, she moved to her current position at the University of Puerto Rico's Medical School in San Juan and added several studies of human and nonhuman primates.
Quirk provides tips on his approach to discovery and mentoring "out of the beaten track" in a paper published on January 30, 2018 in the Journal of Neuroscience. The mark is known for almost two decades since the first laboratory publication in this magazine, which showed that ventral media prefrontal cortex was necessary to consolidate the extinction (loss of fear) in rodents.
Shortly thereafter, the group made reports when they said they discovered a brain equivalent as the "all-clear" signal in the infralimbic cortex, suppressing conditional fear in rats when implanted by electrical stimulation. Since then, the laboratory has become a leading part of translation studies that has expanded the knowledge of experiments on the cessation of learning about mental disorders.
For example, in 2015, in Nature, they discovered a possible meaning for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – that the old anxiety memory is revoked by a separate brain path that was originally used to remember it when it was fresh.
"Recently, my lab has explored active avoidance, obsessive-compulsive disorder and frustration by stimulating deep brain, optogenetics and CRISPR-Cas9 methods," Quirk added.
Provides support from the NIH National Mental Health Institute (NIMH) as the key to the laboratory's success. For example, the FIRST price from NIMH has been recovered four times. The lab was also the first in Puerto Rico to receive the Presidential Morning Care Award and the MERIT Award.
"Other grants to Puerto Rico have been postgraduate for my students, funded by NIMH, the P50 Award, the Independence Award (K99-R00) for my postgraduate and Dissertation Completion Awards (R36)," Quirk said.
The Quirk report contains comments from former participants who gathered during a recent meeting celebrating the 20th anniversary of the founding of the lab. For example, "After years of JClubs you have never been satisfied with the average effort," the former doctoral study program commented on mandatory journal clubs in the lab.
Weekly workshops began to govern meditation and "recognition" gave a tone that promotes culture of cooperation, Quirk said. Rotating presentations of practitioners ensure that everyone knows what each person does / thinks in the lab and can help them drive.
"It was impressive when I found a member of Quirk Lab, who introduced the poster of another member without being part of the study: the laboratory meeting transformed each member into the advocate of the other projects," said a former student.
The lab members are encouraged to overcome any inclination to be socially polite and bent on each other, Quirk said. The same high standard is expected in written communication. The "Six-Eyes" rule dictates that the manuscripts are criticized by three external readers prior to filing the magazine.
"You write for a brain that is not yours," he said.
The idea, as Quirk kindly calls "Face Time" – an individual "one-on-one" meeting – comes from students. "It was a solid deadline for presenting my data and reminding Greg of the importance of my project," said one current post-doc.
Within three days every winter, the laboratory uses the financial resources of the university to lead the mountains to teach the philosophy of science. "Rather than discussing data, the idea of retreats is to explore the philosophical issues that define us as scientists and reflect our approach to scientific issues," explains Quirk.
"The retreat gave me confidence to rely on other people in the lab," said the current college student. Every university or post-doctoral teacher has two to four undergraduates.
In a recent NIMH NIMH director's report focusing on laborers fear at last year's Neuroscience meeting, NIMH Director Joshua A Gordon, Ph.D., wrote: "Dr. Quirk has long been the recipient of NIMH, a supportive and effective mentor who trained many university and postgraduate students who have gone through stellar neuroscience. "