Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sleep 2008

It was the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, (APSS) at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland. The SLEEP meeting attracts the largest audience of sleep specialists in the nation. It is the only five and a half day meeting with scientific sessions and an exhibition hall focused solely on sleep medicine and sleep research. Yes, is is a a conference on sleep!

(Last Day)
This was my first real talk at the annual conference for sleep and it was scheduled early morning on the last day at 8:00 am. I entered the convention center at 7:15 am and could hardly spot anyone unlike the 500-1000 people yesterday morning.

Walked to the SRS Hospitality Suite only to be disappointed since they didn't have any free breakfast. Finally, had my shot of caffeine and satiated my craving for something sweet with a marble pound cake from Starbucks.

At about 7:45 am a lot of people actually started showing up. And by 8:00 am I was shocked to see about 100 people for an early morning talk on the last day. Well, either the science of sleep was compelling enough for them to be here or they knew me :)

Here comes the chair of the session: He introduced the title of my talk and the speaker "Dr.Gujar". Well thanks for the honorary degree ...

Here I go...
I was petrified and a little bit nervous too though it was more than comforting to see familiar faces in the audience. My talk earlier a couple of days back at the discussion lunch session helped me a lot to improve on my presentation skills and remember the missing pieces instead of delivering the abridged version.

Yet while stepping down from the podium collective thoughts ran thought my mind. Damn! Forgot to talk about receiver operator characteristics! And what about functional connectivity? Nonetheless, the overarching theme for the talk was given and justified besides the fact, I was happy with my performance! Not ecstatic but contented.

It's 9 am. I had heard 4 talks loaded with science and hence decided to take a break. I tried to peek in and have a look at the next speaker. It was the chair of the session! I thought it doesn't bode well if I walk out during his talk hence I made a reentry through the rear door. I made a sincere effort to keep up the sustained cognitive engagement while listening to another sleep restriction study when I soon realized that I definitely need to 'catch up on some sleep to understand sleep'. I simply could not comprehend anything past basic sleep terms, smaller words and simple tasks.

I finally left the conference room and headed for the exit sign. Outside the convention center was a sunny day. I wish I could fly... since it felt like a free bird (with extended wings).

I liked the overall experience and looking forward to my next talk.

Finally, I regained composure and scientific sanity and my receptive brain drove me back to soak in all the information. I started hearing familiar terms - PVT, placebo, lapses of attention, etc. Heard some other interesting talks on how sleep can be replaced by a piece of bread from an energy expenditure perspective. And here I was again taking notes from these wonderful scientific sessions.

On a separate note, a lot of people actually thought/think I have done a PhD and more. Generally, if they don't know me they start off with the misconception that I am a post-doc and if they know something about me they still have the misconception that I am a post-doc while some have gone a step further and mistaken me for a professor. (a rarity) It is quite embarrassing and gratifying at the same instance. I assure them about my designation and then starts the whole process of what I can do and why ain't I doing that? Well I have never understood the fascination for designations and abbreviations at all these scientific conferences.

Well, after the introduction accorded to me it dissipates my desire to actually get a 'PhD'.

The introduction part actually reminds me of another incident during the conference. I went to introduce myself to a particular 'scientist' since she did similar work in the field of sleep and before I could say anything she mentioned 'We have met'. I took a step back and thought for a moment.

(inside the brain - when, where, definitely not, what if, perhaps, well forget about it, if she says so...) Finally, nodded my head in appreciation and the conversation progressed.

Finally, I took a walk outside, breathed some fresh air, had a look at the world beyond sleep deprivation and returned to the convention center to hear about the consequences of sleep loss. Talk about how science works!

Well enough of science actually... Did you know Baltimore was called Crab town? Well, The most prominent example of Baltimore's distinctive flavor is the city's close association with blue crabs. (Baltimore is on the Chesapeake Bay) This is a trait which Baltimore shares with the rest of the state of Maryland.

You can see some pictures of Baltimore here or View slideshow

Sleep 2009 will be in the coastal port city of Seattle!

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