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NIMBioS Tuesday Seminar Series

In conjunction with the interdisciplinary activities of the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), a seminar series will be hosted at NIMBioS every other Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. in the NIMBioS Lecture Hall on the 4th floor of 1534 White Ave., Suite 400 Seminar speakers will focus on their research initiatives at the interface of mathematics and many areas of the life sciences. Light refreshments will be served starting at 3 p.m.

Tobacco photo.

Time/Date: Tuesday, March 1, 2011. 3:30 p.m.*
Location: Room 403, Blount Hall, 1534 White Ave., Suite 400
Speaker: *Peter Hammerstein, Institute for Theoretical Biology, Humboldt University, Berlin
Topic: Manipulative strategies and their evolution
Abstract: In social psychology, the term manipulation refers to a process by which one affects the decisions of others to one's own advantage. Advertisers, for example, act to their own advantage when they induce an interest in the products of companies from which they receive their income. The advertisers' success depends on how well they understand the mechanisms of our mental machinery and whether they are able to make strategic use of this knowledge. At an appropriate level of abstraction there are interesting parallels in biology. Microorganisms often manipulate regulatory networks of their hosts in ways that deserve to be called "strategic" and are based on subtle interference with these networks. Intracellular bacteria of the genus Wolbachia are a good case in point, since they modulate basic processes of their hosts, such as cell division and differentiation, in most impressive ways. These modulations follow a strategic logic that can be revealed through an analysis inspired by evolutionary game theory. It turns out that some of the 'tricks' used by Wolbachia (e.g., to establish a poison-antidote system) are not unheard of in the human world. The second part of the talk deals with the ways in which plants manipulate brains. It is important to understand these manipulations in order to develop preventive measures against drug addiction. Again inspired by game theory one would ask, in particular, whether there is any strategic logic to the effect nicotine has on our mesolimbic reward pathways? This question leads into the "paradox of drug reward."   Dr. Hammerstein will present this paradox and an attempt to resolve it.

*Join us for refreshments in the NIMBioS Lobby on the 4th floor at 3 p.m.

If you are interested in meeting with Dr. Hammerstein during his visit, please email NIMBioS Postdoctoral Fellow Erol Akçay at

Seminar Flyer (pdf)

Peter Hammerstein photo.

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NIMBioS is supported by the National Science Foundation through NSF Award #DBI-1300426, with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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