Schizophrenia in a Vial? The Story of Ketamine

Note: Ketamine is a controlled substance in the US and many other countries. Do not use ketamine illicitly.

Imagine an injection that briefly gives you schizophrenia. Now imagine that this injection is all at once the same drug once abused by Steve-O of MTV’s Jackass, the same drug popped in karaoke bars in East Asia, the same drug given as anesthesia to animals and children, and the same drug that holds promise as an emergency antidote to suicidal thoughts.

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The Quest for a Successful TBI Treatment

A military veteran who survived a gunshot wound to the head suffers from frequent seizures and memory problems. A motorcycle crash survivor experiences chronic depression and is unable to hold a job. A 7-year-old boy who fell down the stairs as a toddler now has behavioral problems and difficulty focusing at school.

What do these people have in common? All these individuals are all afflicted with the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries, or TBI.

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Risky Business, or Is It?

Biologist Marston Bates once described research as “the process of going up alleys to see if they are blind.” Bates was referring to the inherent uncertainty in predicting and managing the scientific process. Research funding, particularly for fundamental science, can be a seemingly risky investment because of the uncertainty of a study’s impact. However, it is imperative that fundamental science is not viewed as a luxury, but as a necessary investment that has the potential to yield significant returns.

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How Humans Speak and Mice Learn: The Widespread Effects of FOXP2

From bird songs to frog ribbits, animals engage in countless forms of vocalization. However, no other species in the animal kingdom matches humans in complexity of language. The versatility of human speech allows us to discuss anything from what we ate for breakfast to the nature of the universe, and our ability to communicate is essential in all aspects of our lives. Because of this, it is natural for neuroscientists to search for an evolutionary explanation showing us how our unique language capabilities came about. One potential answer to this complicated question lies in the gene FOXP2.Continue reading

Mind the Gap: New Evidence on How Neurons Connect Left and Right Brain Halves

Our brains are split into two halves, a left hemisphere and a right hemisphere. While the left brain specializes in languages, the right brain specializes in faces. But the two halves don’t exist as two separate entities. Instead, both halves or hemispheres are connected at several points. These connections are important to transfer and coordinate information between hemispheres. But how do the correct neurons “know” if and where they should cross? The textbook model so far has described a positive chemical signal called Netrin that diffuses in the developing brain and guides crossing neurons. But new approaches to this question recently suggested a very different answer.

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You’re Not as Rational as You Think: Political Philosophy and the Science of Irrationality

Cognitive scientists have known for decades that humans are inherently irrational when it comes to making economic decisions. This may seem obvious to a good poker player, who will likely utilize mathematical probability to make economic decisions during a poker game, but to most people the fact that they have systematic economic biases might come as a surprise.Continue reading