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What's So Special about Mirror Neurons?

In the early 1990s, a team of neuroscientists at the University of Parma made a surprising discovery: Certain groups of neurons in the brains of macaque monkeys fired not only when a monkey performed an action – grabbing an apple out of a box, for instance – but also when the monkey watched someone else performing that action; and even when the monkey heard someone performing the action in another room.In short, even though these “mirror neurons” were part of the brain's motor system, they seemed to be correlated not with specific movements, but with specific goals.Over the next few decades, this “action understanding” theory of mirror neurons blossomed into a wide range of promising speculations...

November 6, 2012 — Ben Thomas

No rats in Ryder Alley

Last week, in the wake of superstorm Sandy, I saw a number of people asking questions on social media (and some traditional media picking up on it) about a potential for ratpocalypse, i.e,...

November 5, 2012 — Bora Zivkovic

Newer Docs Might Be Driving Up Health Care Costs

Health care spending increases have slowed over the past couple years. Still, we are spending some $2.6 trillion—that's trillion with a "T"—a year on health costs, which is a higher percentage of our GDP than any other developed country...

November 5, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

Chimps in Uganda: Lessons from Washoe

October 30th marked the five-year anniversary of the death of my friend Washoe. Washoe was a wonderful friend. She was confident and self-assured. She was a matriarch, a mother figure not only to her adopted son but to others as well...

November 4, 2012 — Maureen McCarthy

Taking Einstein's Advice

Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. Yet as scientists, we are taught to fundamentally question this assumption...

November 4, 2012 — Christie Wilcox

How Computational Models Are Improving Medicine [Video]

The more we learn about cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's, the more vexingly complex they seem—and the more elusive their cures. Even with cutting-edge imaging technology, biomarker tests and genetic data, we are still far from understanding the multifaceted causes and varied developmental stages of these illnesses.With the advent of powerful computing, better modeling programs and a flood of raw biomedical data, researchers have been anticipating a leap forward in their abilities to decipher the intricate dynamics involved human disease...

November 3, 2012 — Katherine Harmon

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