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Posts Tagged "Neuroscience"

Anthropology in Practice

Editor’s Selections: Myths, Shoulders, Risks, Resolutions, And Math

Part of my online life includes editorial duties at ResearchBlogging.org, where I serve as the Social Sciences Editor. Each Thursday, I pick notable posts on research in anthropology, philosophy, social science, and research to share on the ResearchBlogging.org News site. To help highlight this writing, I also share my selections here on AiP. Happy New Year! Bloggers [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Scientific American MIND Launches a New Home Page and Blog Network

I am thrilled to announce two big developments for Scientific American MIND today. We are launching a new home page, mind.scientificamerican.com, so that fans of the magazine can find our print and online articles, as well as multimedia, in one convenient location. Starting today, you’ll start to see several new contributors in the mix, which [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

No Silly Love Songs? Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Our Latest E-Book: Love, Sex and Science

eBook - Disarming Cupid: Love, Sex and Science

Will “Love Will Keep Us Together” or is it true that “Love Is a Battlefield”? Whereas the topic of romance has provided limitless inspiration for artists, writers and musicians, scientists are just as fascinated by affairs of the heart, though they seldom sing about it. Cupid’s unpredictable arrow explains little, so it can be more [...]

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Beautiful Minds

The Neuroscience of Mathematical Beauty

mathBIG

Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty” — Bertrand Russell The latest neuroscience of aesthetics suggests that the experience of visual, musical, and moral beauty all recruit the same part of the “emotional brain”: field A1 of the medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC). But what about mathematics? Plato believed that mathematical beauty was [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Creativity in the Brain

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What’s going on in the brain when we reason, create, and imagine? A group of thoughtful cognitive neuroscientists have been unraveling some of creativity’s mysterious origins (see “The Real Neuroscience of Creativity” or the recent edited volume “Neuroscience of Creativity”). What has become clear is that the left brain/right brain distinction is an oversimplification, and [...]

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Beautiful Minds

The Real Neuroscience of Creativity

ku cover

So yea, you know how the left brain is really realistic, analytical, practical, organized, and logical, and the right brain is so darn creative, passionate, sensual, tasteful, colorful, vivid, and poetic? No. Just no. Stop it. Please. Thoughtful cognitive neuroscientists such as Anna Abraham, Mark Beeman, Adam Bristol, Kalina Christoff, Andreas Fink, Jeremy Gray, Adam Green, Rex Jung, John Kounios, Hikaru Takeuchi, Oshin Vartanian, Darya Zabelina [...]

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Beautiful Minds

The Neuroscience of Social Influence

Beautiful Minds

Q & A with Temple Grandin on The Autistic Brain

RW Temple headshot best_0

To many, Temple Grandin is the public face of autism. Grandin’s story has significantly increased autism awareness around the world, and has increased society’s appreciation of the unique and positive characteristics of the autistic mind. But Grandin is much more than just a label: in addition to being an activist, Grandin is also an author, professor, [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Review of The Autistic Brain

The-Autistic-Brain3-198x300

To many, Temple Grandin is the public face of autism. A professor of animal science at Colorado State University, Grandin’s story has significantly increased autism awareness around the world, and has increased society’s appreciation of the unique and positive characteristics of the autistic mind. Therefore, it is with immense respect, enthusiasm, and attention to detail [...]

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Bering in Mind

The neuropsychology of public speaking: tipsy, scared, and strangely aroused

The next time you snap the waistband on your panties or enjoy a Speedos moment at the beach, have a moment of silence for the man who made it all possible—Wallace Carothers. The famous DuPont chemist and inventor of nylon (among other ubiquitous synthetic materials) was a very practical person, so much so that he [...]

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Brainwaves

Searching For The Elephant’s Genius Inside the Largest Brain on Land

African elephant

  Many years ago, while wandering through Amboseli National Park in Kenya, an elephant matriarch named Echo came upon the bones of her former companion Emily. Echo and her family slowed down and began to inspect the remains. They stroked Emily’s skull with their trunks, investigating every crevice; they touched her skeleton gingerly with their [...]

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Brainwaves

No One Is Abandoning the DSM, but It Is Almost Time to Transform It

This month the American Psychiatric Association will publish the latest edition of its standard guidebook for clinicians, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5). In somewhat the same way that a field guide to birds helps people distinguish different species with illustrations and descriptions of physical features—a beak’s hooked tip, a blush [...]

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Brainwaves

To Combat Alzheimer’s, Scientists Genetically Reprogram 1 Kind of Brain Cell into Another

We all lose brain cells as we get older. In people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s, neurons shrivel and die at alarming rates—perhaps three to four times faster than usual in Alzheimer’s, for example. Currently, no known drugs reliably halt or reverse such staggering cell death in people, although some drugs [...]

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Brainwaves

Why We Need to Study the Brain’s Evolution in Order to Understand the Modern Mind

In the September 17th issue of The New Yorker, Anthony Gottlieb analyzes Homo Mysterious: Evolutionary Puzzles of Human Nature, a new book by David Barash, a psychology professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. Gottlieb’s article is more than just a book review—it’s also the latest in a long line of critiques of evolutionary [...]

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Brainwaves

The Neuroscience of 20-Somethings

In the opening scene of Lena Dunham’s HBO series Girls, the Horvaths tell their 24-year-old daughter Hannah that they will no longer support her—or, as her mother puts it: “No. More. Money.” A recent college graduate, Hannah has been living in Brooklyn, completing an unpaid internship and working on a series of personal essays. The [...]

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Brainwaves

Does Self-Awareness Require a Complex Brain?

The computer, smartphone or other electronic device on which you are reading this article has a rudimentary brain—kind of.* It has highly organized electrical circuits that store information and behave in specific, predictable ways, just like the interconnected cells in your brain. On the most fundamental level, electrical circuits and neurons are made of the [...]

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Brainwaves

The Mysterious Brain of the Fat-Tailed Dwarf Lemur, the World’s Only Hibernating Primate

fat-tailed dwarf lemur

In the 18th century Carl Linnaeus named them lemurs, after the Latin lemures—spirits of the dead, wandering ghosts. He knew the primates roamed Madagascar’s forests at night, their large eyes brimming with moonlight, their shrill cries crashing through the treetops. One of the smallest lemurs on the island, the fat-tailed dwarf lemur, resembled a phantom [...]

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Brainwaves

Know Your Neurons: Meet the Glia

glia drawing

Previously, on Know Your Neurons: Chapter 1: The Discovery and Naming of the Neuron Chapter 2: How to Classify Different Types of Neurons, or The Dendrology of the Neuron Forest Chapter 3: Know Your Neurons: Meet the Glia *By Daisy Yuhas Trillions of cells in your brain communicate with one another, respond to infections, guide [...]

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Brainwaves

Know Your Neurons: How to Classify Different Types of Neurons in the Brain’s Forest

illustrations-of-neurons

Previously, on Know Your Neurons: Chapter 1: The Discovery and Naming of the Neuron Chapter 2: How to Classify Different Types of Neurons, or The Dendrology of the Neuron Forest Scientists have organized the cells that make up the nervous system into two broad groups: neurons, which are the primary signaling cells, and glia, which [...]

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Brainwaves

Know Your Neurons: The Discovery and Naming of the Neuron

selection-of-neuron-types

Over the years, I have taught my copy of Microsoft Word a lot of neuroscience terminology: amygdala, corpus callosum, dendritic spines, voxel. But it always knew what neuron meant. I thought I did too. Neurons—the electrically excitable cells that make up the brain and nervous system—first fascinated me in high school. In college, like so [...]

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Cross-Check

Artificial brains are imminent…not!

Scientists are on the verge of building an artificial brain! How do I know? Terry Sejnowski of the Salk Institute said so right here on ScientificAmerican.com. He wrote that the goal of reverse-engineering the brain—which the National Academy of Engineering recently posed as one of its "grand challenges"—is "becoming increasingly plausible." Scientists are learning more [...]

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Cross-Check

Can brain scans help us understand Homer?

In recent posts, I’ve knocked neuroframing, neuroweapons and neurobics. Next up: neuro-lit-crit. New York Times culture reporter Patricia Cohen reports that for insights and inspiration literary scholars are turning, inevitably, to neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. Philosophers are doing the same, as are art theorists, religious scholars, you name it. Edward Wilson must be thrilled. In [...]

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Expeditions

Journey Through the Brain: Multiphoton Microscopy

Two-photon microscopy image of a neuron published in PNAS by Holbro N et al. (2009)

It’s a Saturday and you’re on vacation, looking out over the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean from the windy cliffs of Big Sur. You breathe in cool, fresh salty air. A thunderous pummel of great waves stirs neural networks in your brain and suddenly you find yourself wondering what lies submerged beneath the foaming sea. Seals [...]

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Expeditions

Journey Through the Brain: MIT Neurotech

Neurotech_MRI_Community

Editor’s note: This is the first installment in a series about emerging neurotechnologies. Join a pilot class of 12 PhD students at MIT as we explore how neuroscience is revolutionizing our understanding of the brain. Each post coincides with a lecture and lab tour at MIT created by the Center for Neurobiological Engineering. This experiment [...]

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Guest Blog

Confirmation Bias and Art

By now, our overwhelming tendency to look for what confirms our beliefs and ignore what contradicts our beliefs is well documented. Psychologists refer to this as confirmation bias, and its ubiquity is observed in both academia and in our everyday lives: Republicans watch Fox while Democrats watch MSNB; creationists see fossils as evidence of God, [...]

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Guest Blog

What Bats, Bombs and Sharks Taught Us about Hearing [Video]

The most surprising part of this story was that they managed to record brainwave activity from the sharks. This tale is about one of the most fascinating figures in the history of neuroscience: Dr. Robert Galambos. This is his story. Right: Robert Galambos, MD, PhD  Source: The New York Times Decades ago, Dr. Galambos discovered [...]

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Guest Blog

Looking for Empathy in a Conflict-Ridden World

I witnessed a breakup yesterday in the middle of MIT’s vast Infinite Corridor—a hallway known for its heavy traffic and long stretch of straightness. Finals are upon the undergraduates, so perhaps tensions were a bit high for the young, failing couple. Something, however, had clearly pushed the girl overboard. Her boyfriend had fallen dramatically to [...]

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Guest Blog

Serotonin and sexual preference: Is it really that simple?

Last week, Nature issued a new paper. The paper used two different strains of mice, one lacking all serotonin neurons (called Lmx1b knockouts), and one lacking the rate limiting enzyme for the production of serotonin (called TPH2 knockouts). The authors demonstrated that these mice, lacking serotonin, did not distinguish between sexual partners, mounting male and [...]

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Guest Blog

Pleasure, reward…and rabbits! Why do animals behave as they do?

My wife and I keep pet rabbits. Observe their cuteness: We feed Jackson (he’s the black one) and Dutchess (she’s the big one) once each morning and once each night, and usually give them a few treats in between. A month or so ago, we noticed that when we open the refrigerator door they hop [...]

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Guest Blog

Rockin’ scientists: N.Y.U. brain researchers put down their data sets, then get down with their rock band

The Countdowns

You might be surprised if you knew just how many scientists out there play in rock bands. When the sun goes down, garages, basements and living rooms throughout the land are filled with guys and gals who have shed their lab coats and strapped on their guitars. Take me, for instance—a mild mannered, middle-aged neuroscientist [...]

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Illusion Chasers

Multitasking, pickpockets and hubris

Watch for Pickpockets! (Ypsilon via Wikimedia Commons)

One consequence of my laboratory’s collaboration with stage pickpocket Apollo Robbins is that I am often asked for strategies to thwart pickpockets in the real world. My usual advice is to avoid multitasking while you’re out and about, especially in the midst of a crowd. I speak not only from my experience as a cognitive researcher, but also as a former victim of pickpocketing.

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Illusion Chasers

New Science Channel show HACK MY BRAIN—Featuring Scientific American MIND’s Illusion Chasers!

scichan

Todd Sampson is an advertising exec in Australia. An average Joe, who, like the rest of us, wants to be super human. So he’s enlisting scientists all over the world to hack his brain and make him, smarter, faster, and more creative. In our labs we show him a little bit of neuromagic. Come check it out this Friday!

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Illusion Chasers

The Art of the Brick

artofbrick

There is an intersection of art, science and engineering in the works of Lego artist Nathan Sawaya, whose “Art of the Brick” traveling show I visited last weekend at the Discovery Times Square Museum in New York (the exhibition closed Sunday).

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Illusion Chasers

Neuroscience in fiction: “Of a Sweet Slow Dance in the Wake of Temporary Dogs”, by Adam-Troy Castro

Image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Eclipse#mediaviewer/File:Eclipse667.jpg

The people of Enysbourg lead merry, fulfilled, blissful lives – nine days out of every ten. On each Tenth Day, the country is ablaze with destruction. Cities are razed, children massacred, every single citizen and visitor to the country experiences unimaginable pain and suffering. But the Day After, peace is restored. All wounds, physical and psychological, are healed. Buildings and roads show no fractures. Families become whole again. Lovers reunite. Memories of the devastation remain, but they do not have the power to do harm.

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Illusion Chasers

Do Dogs Fall for Magic Tricks?

dog_magic

Animals can be deceived, but do animals feel wonderment, awe, or sense that they have experienced the impossible?

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Illusion Chasers

Illusion of the Week: OK Go’s New Illusion Video

pink paint

Music videos by the alternative rock band OK Go are nothing if not creative. Their previous video “Here It Goes Again” featuring treadmill dancing was mesmerizing, and their newest video, “The Writing’s on the Wall”, is even more compelling, especially for those of us interested in matters of perception.

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Illusion Chasers

Dali masterpieces were inspired by Scientific American

gala

Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali was a reader of Scientific American, and created one of his most iconic pieces based on a Scientific American article on face perception.

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Illusion Chasers

Youngest kids are bigger than their parents think

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kewpie_doll.jpg

Recent research published in Current Biology indicates that human parents are subject to a previously unknown “baby illusion” that makes them misperceive their youngest child as smaller than he or she is, regardless of age.

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Illusion Chasers

The Winners of the 2014 Best Illusion of the Year Contest

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Expanding and contracting circles, mutating colors, and false image matches dominated the 2014 Best Illusion of the Year Contest, held on May 18th in the TradeWinds Island Grand in St. Petersburg, FL. One thousand perceptual scientists joined artists and the general public to determine the TOP THREE illusion masters from a pre-selected group of TOP TEN finalists, chosen by an international committee of judges. Each winner took home a trophy designed by the acclaimed Italian sculptor Guido Moretti: the trophies are visual illusions themselves.

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Illusion Chasers

Parallels Between Mantis Shrimp and Human Color Vision

Mantis shrimp. Photo credit: Roy Caldwell

Despite tremendous differences in human versus shrimp eye structure and brain circuitry, the striking similarity between the color sensitivities of primate brain color-selective neurons and shrimp photoreceptors provides evidence of a common computational strategy across extremely divergent species.

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MIND Guest Blog

The Search for a Nobel Prize-Winning Synapse Machine

In the cellular machinery that Rothman, Schekman and Südhof all helped reconstruct, a SNARE complex - made of synaptobrevin, syntaxin and SNAP-25 - zips together to bind a synaptic vesicle to the surface of a receiving neuron. Courtesy of Danko Dimchev Georgiev, M.D. via Wikimedia Commons.

2013’s Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine honors three researchers in particular – but what it really honors is thirty-plus years of work not only from them, but also from their labs, their graduate students and their collaborators. Winners James Rothman, Randy Schekman and Thomas Südhof all helped assemble our current picture of the cellular [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

How to Erase Bad Memories

Courtesy of R. Douglas Fields.

I’ll never forget it. They strapped electrodes to my wrist, cranked up a black dial on a frightening electronic device encrusted with switches and knobs, and shocked me repeatedly with jolts of electricity. No, this was not torture and the memory is not a traumatic one. I was inside the laboratory of Dr. Daniela Schiller, [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Brain Stimulation Can Control Compliance with Social Norms

ruff2HR

Human beings are utterly dependent on a complex social structure for their survival.  Since all behavior is controlled by the brain, human beings may have evolved specialized neural circuits that are responsible for compliance with society’s rules.  A new study has identified such a region in the human brain, and researchers can increase or decrease [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Introducing: The New MIND Guest Blog!

By Ingrid Wickelgren For years, Scientific American has featured an extremely popular Guest Blog on this website. That space offers a unique venue for scientists and other outside contributors to share news, insights and commentary in their fields of expertise. It also provides an opportunity for knowledgeable people to air controversies and clear up confusions [...]

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Observations

Brains in Boston: Weekend Recap of Cognitive Neuroscience Society’s Annual Meeting

poster at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society Annual Meeting

Greetings from Boston where the 21st annual meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society is underway.  Saturday and Sunday were packed with symposia, lectures and more than 400 posters.  Here are just a few of the highlights. The bilingual brain has been a hot topic at the meeting this year, particularly as researchers grapple with the [...]

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Observations

Neuroscientist Who Doggedly Pursued Genetic Hunch Wins Pearl Meister Greengard Prize

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A professor at Baylor College of Medicine (B.C.M.) has received the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize for her pioneering work as a neuroscientist. The prestigious $100,000 prize is awarded annually to a distinguished woman in biomedical research. Huda Zoghbi discovered the genes for spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs) type 1 in 1993, atonal homolog1 in 1996, and for [...]

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Observations

Why Do Antidepressants Take So Long to Work?

Kate wanted to die. She remembers the moment the psychiatrist said “the antidepressant isn’t going to work right away. Can you promise to be here next week and not kill yourself?” “I told her no,” Kate says. “I couldn’t promise my doctor I’d make it a week. That’s how bad my life had to be [...]

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Observations

Lasker Awards to Honor Neuroscience, Hearing and Philanthropy Work

Image: Lasker Foundation

  Let the Nobel Prize watch begin. Two areas of major medical discovery and two leading public health philanthropists were announced this morning as the winners of the prestigious Lasker Awards. The awards, currently in their 68th year, are typically looked to as a precursor for the Nobel Prize and are informally dubbed the “American [...]

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Observations

Integrating Left Brain and Right, on a Computer

ibm,cognitive,computer,processor,brain

As computers have matured over time, the human brain has no way of keeping up with silicon’s rapid-fire calculating abilities. But the human cognitive repertoire extends far beyond just fast calculations. For that reason, researchers are still trying to develop computers that can recognize, interpret and act upon information—like the kind pulled in by eyes, [...]

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Observations

NIH Begins Gene Therapy Trial for Parkinson’s Disease

Image credit: Flickr/Tom M

All eyes were on Perry Cohen when he froze at the microphone. His voice failed him. He couldn’t read his notes. Eventually, the once-powerful Parkinson’s disease speaker had to be helped off the stage halfway through his speech. That was in February 2012, but the memory of that day is emblazoned in his mind. “It [...]

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Observations

How to Fly a Model Helicopter Using Only Your Thoughts

For decades, scientists have been developing brain-computer linkages they hope will enable people to manipulate objects hands free. Duke neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis reported a few years ago that a monkey fitted with implanted electrodes could use its brainpower to control the walking patterns of a robot . Less invasive, more commercial efforts include electroencephalalography (EEG) [...]

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Observations

FDA Approves First Retinal Implant

retina,implant,artificial

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Thursday approved the first retinal implant for use in the United States. The FDA’s green light for Second Sight’s Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System gives hope to those blinded by a rare genetic eye condition called advanced retinitis pigmentosa, which damages the light-sensitive cells that line the retina. For [...]

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Observations

Patients Reflect on Life with a Common Brain Malformation

MRI scan

At least 1 in 4000 infants is born without a corpus callosum. This powerful body of connective white matter serves as the primary bridge between the brain’s hemispheres, allowing us to rapidly integrate complex information. “It’s a hidden disability,” says University of California Institute of Technology psychologist Lynn Paul. Many born without this structure go [...]

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Observations

Which World Will We Face in 2030?

Last week, I and some 200 other attendees of the Global Trends 2030: U.S. Leadership in a Post-Western World conference got a thought-provoking look at the current “megatrends” leading to four possible futures for the world some 10 to 15 years from now. Cutting across all of them is the disruptive influence of emerging technologies—which [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Scientists Learn How to Put an Octopus to Sleep

octopus anesthesia sleep

We can’t really ask an octopus to count backward from 10. Which is just one of the tricky things about putting an octopus under. If knocking an octopus out (for science) sounds like an unusual procedure, well, it is. But it’s likely going to get a lot more common in labs around the world. Canada, [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Octopuses Reveal First RNA Editing in Response to Environment

common octopus

Without genetic change we’d be nowhere—well perhaps just unicellular blobs kicking around in ponds. Alterations in DNA, such as point mutations, duplications, rearrangements and insertions from microbial neighbors, have helped humans and our deep-time ancestors climb out of the swamps and, in our case at least, start swimming in backyard pools. But these basic tools [...]

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PsiVid

We’re Up All Night to Get Data-UCSD Graduate Program Parody Video!

Graduate school in biosciences is tough. We know that. Four, six, even (heaven forbid!) eight years of your life dedicated to diving deeply into a research project can leave one, well, a bit “loopy” sometimes and you just need to blow off steam. An option to add some levity to the seriousness of all that [...]

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Science with Moxie

Tonight is the premiere of PBS’ Brains on Trial

Brains on Trial

If you are interested in the intersection of neuroscience and the law, tune into your local PBS station tonight at 10 pm (Eastern time, check local listings) to see the first episode in a new two-part series, Brains on Trial. The first episode takes us to the real-life New York Southern District courtroom of Judge [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Teen Builds Gateway to the Brain for Girls

Girls run on a brain maze

The Synapse Project “encourages young women to enter the field of neuroscience through information and mentorship,” according to its website. This endeavor, an amalgam of outlets for kids, information for teens and career advice for young women, turns out to be the brainchild of … a child, one keenly interested in the brain. Sixteen-year-old Grace [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

How Do You Spot a Genius?

Drawing of Bobby Fischer and chess board

The November/December Scientific American Mind, which debuted online today, examines the origins of genius, a concept that inspires both awe and confusion. Some equate genius with IQ or creativity; others see it as extraordinary accomplishment. As this issue reveals, genius seems to arise from a mosaic of forces that coalesce into a perfect storm of [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Science Remains a Stranger to Psychiatry’s New Bible

By Ferris Jabr* Part 2 of a series In the offices of psychiatrists and psychologists across the country you can find a rather hefty tome called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM). The current edition of the DSM, the DSM-IV, is something like a field guide to mental disorders: the book pairs [...]

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Symbiartic

If Neurons Could Talk

hippneusml_mini

Immy Smith does it all – cartooning, fine art, neuroscience and taking part in the art+science “collaborative of polymathic artists”, Imagining Science.  Smith is even visiting artist at an herbarium. For the September SciArt Blitz, I had originally planned to share one of Smith’s fine art pieces – but these neurons are so weirdly charming. [...]

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Symbiartic

Like Nails on a Chalkboard

Michelle_Hunter_Cacophony-m

Paintings by some fine artists can be used to thought-provoking effect as illustrations on news or blog posts about scientific advancements. One fine artist who frequently comes to mind  for me when I am asked to recommend an illustrator is painter Michelle Hunter. Hunter focuses on the brain (see an earlier Symbiartic post here) and [...]

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Symbiartic

The Brain Stem Behind Creation

Dividing_Light_mini

University and scientific research center programs are increasingly finding it useful to employ artists and illustrators to help them see things in a new way. Few works of art from the Renaissance have been studied and pored over as meticulously as Michelangelo’s frescos in the Sistine Chapel. Yet, the Master may still have some surprises [...]

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Talking back

MacArthur “Genius” Winner: Math Might Help Crack Mysteries of Schizophrenia

At 32, a year beyond a postdoctoral fellowship, Danielle Bassett could only express unreserved astonishment when she learned that she was one of 21 winners of a 2014 MacArthur Fellowship. Bassett was the youngest this year for one of the so-called “genius” prizes totaling $625,000. For 12 months, Bassett has held the position of the [...]

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Talking back

Get Smart by Using 10 Percent Less of Your Brain

The movie Lucy has become a teaching moment in the last month or so for scientists and journalists to  remind the world—time and again—that we don’t just use 10 percent of our brains. All of the three pounds of jelly underneath our hardened domes is there for a good reason. It’s not just a terabyte [...]

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Talking back

The Brainwave That Lets You Recognize What’s New in the World

A gamma wave is a rapid, electrical oscillation in the brain. A scan of the academic literature shows that gamma waves may be involved with learning memory and attention—and, when perturbed, may play a part in schizophrenia, epilepsy Alzheimer’s, autism and ADHD. Quite a list and one of the reasons that these brainwaves, cycling at [...]

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Talking back

DIY Brain Zapping Meets the World of Internet Marketing

Going back a couple of millenia, Scribonius Largus, Pliny the Elder and Galen of Pergamum were all avid proponents of using the electric currents produced by torpedo fish to treat headaches. Physician Ibn Sidah tried to apply electric catfish to the forehead for epilepsy in the eleventh century. If these esteemed historical figures were still [...]

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Talking back

Neuroplasticity: New Clues to Just How Much the Adult Brain Can Change

Popular neuroscience books have made much in recent years of the possibility that the adult brain is capable of restoring lost function or even enhancing cognition through sustained mental or physical activities. One piece of evidence often cited is a 14-year-old study that that shows that London taxi drivers have enlarged hippocampi, brain areas that [...]

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Talking back

Tuesday Update: Will Leading Scientists Boycott the Humonguous Human Brain Project?

Scientists don’t usually lodge a protest against projects funded to the tune of 1.2 billion euros. They usually try to make nice with the organizers to get in on the action. No one is taking to the streets this time, but more than 200 people (and climbing), among them prominent scientists, are using the megaphone [...]

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Talking back

How The Brain Tells a Volvo from a Maserati?

James DiCarlo is a professor of neuroscience in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT who researches visual object recognition in primates. I had a chance to interview him in late May at the 79th Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Symposium on Quantitative Biology that highlighted  research findings on the topic of cognition. In [...]

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Talking back

Why Language and Thought Resemble Russian Dolls

Michael Corballis is a professor emeritus at the University of Auckland, who has written extensively on the evolution of language and the origins of thought. In his 2011 book The Recursive Mind, he wrote about how the structure of human language allows for recursion—in which ideas are nested within each other: “He thinks that I [...]

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Talking back

What’s Special, or Not, about Human Brain Anatomy

As a teenager, Chet Sherwood, a biological anthropologist at George Washington University, did not know he was destined to become a scientist. “I wasn’t the kind of kid who collected National Geographic or watched Nova,” he says. During the mid-1990s, Sherwood was  a member of Speedking, a Brooklyn punk group described by AllMusic.com as “an [...]

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Talking back

Just 1 Rock Concert or Football Game May Cause Permanent Hearing Damage

A single exposure to loud but not deafening noise may be enough to precipitate irreparable harm to nerves in the auditory system. This is the take-home from a new line of research that may help explain why many people, particularly as they age, have difficulty in picking out a conversation from the wall of background [...]

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