June is LGBTQ Pride Month, and today LSC is celebrating neuroscientist Simón(e) D. Sun.
Simón(e) D. Sun is a postdoctoral fellow in the Tollkuhn Lab at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and senior fellow at the Center for Transgender Studies. Dr. Sun is a neuroscientist and musician who studies the role that hormones such as estrogen play in the development and function of the brain. Sun also studies neuroplasticity, which is how brain cells—called neurons—regulate their communication between each other.
As a non-binary transwoman, Sun is acutely aware of some of the limitations to the way biology, and in particular neuroscience, is often studied. For example, most studies are conducted in male animals which Sun notes does not “account for the wide diversity of life that’s present in biology.” However, Sun’s own identity also gives them “a unique perspective on the kinds of scientific questions that [they] ask” because, as they put it “being queer is a direct example of such diversity. It reminds me to consider how the genetics and development of sex differences can affect neuroplasticity and how all of those different aspects can be influenced by the environment and by hormones.” Sun’s work seeks to refine some of our current understandings by being more inclusive with their own research.
Sun’s approach to studying how neurons regulate their signaling activity is remarkable: They turn the signals into music! In our brains, neurons communicate with each other to send all of the signals that our bodies need to function. They do this using tiny electrical signals that can be recorded. Recording the electrical activity between neurons in cell culture is not a new research technique. However, to better understand how these signals might change under various conditions, Sun wrote a computer program to turn those recorded electrical signals into music notes. The range of notes relays information about what is happening between the cells and gives Sun insights into how our brains regulate their signaling, how different hormones might play a role in brain function, and the development of connections between neurons.
As an added bonus, the music made from these signals is often quite lovely. In fact, the music is so interesting that Sun also considers themself a musician because they use their recordings to compose interesting, and unique, songs.
“[The] great thing about the scientific enterprise is that it is a light that dissolves the illusions of pretenders and illuminates the truth,” says Sun. “That nature is beautiful in its creativity and diversity and that all forms of life are worth understanding for what and who they are.”
Learn more about Simón(e) D. Sun on their website.