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Talking back

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    Gary Stix Gary Stix, a senior editor, commissions, writes, and edits features, news articles and Web blogs for SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. His area of coverage is neuroscience. He also has frequently been the issue or section editor for special issues or reports on topics ranging from nanotechnology to obesity. He has worked for more than 20 years at SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, following three years as a science journalist at IEEE Spectrum, the flagship publication for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He has an undergraduate degree in journalism from New York University. With his wife, Miriam Lacob, he wrote a general primer on technology called Who Gives a Gigabyte? Follow on Twitter @@gstix1.
  • Could a Nonprescription Antifungal Become a Major Advance for Multiple Sclerosis?

    In 2011, Paul Tesar, a professor at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, worked with collaborators to come up with a method of producing massive numbers of mouse stem cells that are capable of turning into oligodendrocytes, the cells that produce myelin, the protective coating on nerve cells. One thing you can do with such [...]

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    Learning to Make a Stone Age Axe Gives Clues to How the Brain Evolved

    For many decades, scientists have tried to understand the past by doing as our forebears did. One important endeavor in what is called experimental archaeology involves moderns crafting Stone Age tools by chipping away at rocks. Why toil at whittling rocks by hand using other rocks when machine tools are readily available? One reason is [...]

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    Should We Take Steps to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Contagion?

    One of the most intriguing new areas of research in neuroscience has to do with the discovery that proteins involved with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative illnesses can contort into the wrong shape. The misshapen molecules can spread throughout the brain in a manner akin to prion diseases—the most notorious of which is variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob [...]

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    Does drinking alcohol—even heavily—protect against ALS?

    Everyone knows that ALS is a very bad disease, an awareness underscored by the recent Ice Bucket Challenge. The death of neurons that results in paralysis can be caused by specific genetic mutations.  But in most cases, single genes are not the culprit. So researchers have looked for other risk factors that might play a [...]

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    Kids Sustain 240 Head Hits on Average During Football Season

    Credit: Amherst Patriots/Flickr

    Coinciding with Super Bowl week, the journal Neurology just came out with a study by Boston University researchers that looked at retired professional football players, comparing the cognitive functioning of players who had started tackle football before age 12 with others who hadn’t. Here is a summary of the findings, encapsulated in an accompanying editorial [...]

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    Site Survey Shows 60 Percent Think Free Will Exists. Read Why.

    We are responsible for our own actions. Of course we are. Sure about that? “I think I can?” “I think I can’t?” All philosophizing aside, the assumption that we have free will has been called into question by research that suggests our brains are deciding for us before we become conscious of the decisions streamed [...]

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    Bio Bigwigs Go after Drugs for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and ALS


    Lists of the biggest challenges in brain science often start—or end—with consciousness. “End” because consciousness is considered so overwhelming a hack that it merits coming last on the list—the ultimate challenge. Consciousness probably deserves its first-or-last place of preference. But there is another entry that should be on the list that is frequently  left out. [...]

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    Brain Training Doesn’t Give You Smarts…Except When It Does

    Our site recently ran a great story about how brain training really doesn’t endow you instantly with genius IQ. The games you play just make you better at playing those same games. They aren’t a direct route to a Mensa membership. Just a few days before that story came out—Proceedings of the National Academy of [...]

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    Bhopal at 30: Lessons Still Being Learned

    In 1989, I was working as an at editor at IEEE Spectrum when I was assigned to write a feature on Bhopal. The thirtieth anniversary of that industrial disaster that killed thousands is tonight. My article back then began: On arriving at work on Dec. 3, 1984, Rick Horner, a chemical safety engineer with the [...]

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    A Mouse Experiment Suggests How We Might One Day Sleep Off Toxic Memories

    One area of brain science that has drawn intense interest in recent years is the study of what psychologists call reconsolidation—a ponderous technical term that, once translated, means giving yourself a second chance. Memories of our daily experience are  formed, often during sleep, by inscribing—or “consolidating”—a record of what happened into neural tissue. Joy at [...]

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