Resolving New Memories: Adult Neurogenesis by Knowing Neurons

Resolving New Memories: Adult Neurogenesis

When I was young, my family lived in an old farmhouse.  It was cozy and had a lot of character but, at over 150 years old, it showed its age.  My bedroom was unique since it had been updated with blue shag carpet sometime in the 1970’s.  It was also unique because there was a tiny nail that poked up through the floorboards a few inches past the doorway, hidden from view by the shag.  I knew exactly where that nail was though; I had stepped on it late one night and woke the house with my cries of pain!  Continue reading

What is Pain Cover Spinal Cord Knowing Neurons Neuropathic Dorsal Root Ganglia C-fiber

What is Pain?

For many, pain is an indescribably awful feeling that causes suffering and emotional distress.  It is a sensation that is so unpleasant – so unbearable – that most people will go to great lengths to avoid it.  For others, enduring pain has become a rite of passage (tattoo, anyone?) that signifies mental strength and discipline.  The ceremony, however, does not diminish the pain itself or one’s primal urge to avoid it.  Regardless, many people live a relatively pain-free life, and those that choose to endure pain do so on their own free will.  For those that suffer from neuropathic pain, however, pain has become an unavoidable specter that haunts every moment of their lives.Continue reading

What a Coincidence!

Coincidence is a peculiar thing. We typically think of a coincidence as the occurrence of two events that happen to occur at the same time, but that have no underlying connection. We all experience coincidences throughout our lives, but rarely attribute any meaning or purpose to them. If, for example, your phone rings at the exact moment that you’re reaching for it, you may be amazed at the coincidence, but you realize that reaching for your phone is not what caused it to ring. Likewise, it is unlikely that the phone will ring the next time you reach for it. These coincidences occur all the time, and we typically brush them off as being completely insignificant. For the brain, however, coincidence carries much more meaning and has far greater significance.Continue reading

Magnesium Supplement to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease

The human brain contains roughly eighty-six billion (~10^10) neurons, each of which forms approximately ten thousand (10^4) synaptic connections with other neurons. Therefore, on average, there are one hundred trillion (10^14) synapses in the brain! Maintaining the health of these synapses is essential for proper brain function and higher cognitive functions like learning, memory, and emotion. Dysfunction of synaptic function is thought to underlie many types of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and aging related dementia. Those affected with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have severe learning and memory impairments, impaired judgment, severe anxiety and other mood disruptions.Continue reading

CLARITY

We live in a three dimensional world.  X, Y and Z are the coordinates that define the space in which we occupy and are the boundaries that define the natural world.  Nature has learned to take full advantage of this space and has created beautiful three-dimensional structures that fill every dimension to the fullest.  Below is a photograph from one of my favorite photographers, Ansel Adams.  Continue reading

Forming Memories, One Neuron at a Time

On Monday, Knowing Neurons highlighted a recent research article that described a new miniature microscope that was small enough to sit on a mouse’s head and light enough to allow it to move freely!  This technology represents a great advancement for the field of neuroscience in general and place cell research, specifically!  For the first time, researchers at Stanford are able to literally watch neurons turn on and off in the hippocampus of a mouse, while it explores an open arena (video), all in real time. This technology adds a new twist on a classic way of studying how the brain maps out the world around us.Continue reading

You Are Here: Mapping The World With Neurons

“You are here.”  It’s the phrase that you’ll find on almost any map, punctuated with the ubiquitous oversized arrow.  It is the salient mark in a sea of confusing lines, shapes and labels that provides orientation and a sense of direction.  Since the release of Google Maps and smart phones, many of us have become accustomed to having a boundless map in the palms of our hands, one that constantly updates according to our position in the world, complete with a large arrow.  But in the absence of a map, directory, or an oversized arrow, how do you find your way?  Where is the internal map in your brain and how does it store information about the world in a sea of connected neurons?  Neuroscientists have been asking these questions for nearly thirty years now, and we only have a vague idea of how the brain forms internal representations of the outside world.Continue reading

What do single cell green algae have to do with the state of the art of neuroscience?

Well, a lot actually!  Green algae, or Chlamydomonas reinhardtii to be formal, are the unicellular organisms with a unique trait that has been helping make huge advances in modern neuroscience in only the past eight years.  In their natural environment, these little organisms use an “eye spot” located inside the cell to detect light and to swim toward it (phototaxis).  Researchers have been studying these little critters for years and discovered the algae use a unique photosensitive ion channel that converts a light signal into a voltage change that provides information to the algae.Continue reading

Epilepsy: The Brain’s Cacophony

Imagine sitting in the front row of the Walt Disney Concert Hall on opening night. The LA Philharmonic’s conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, has tirelessly prepared an amazing performance: Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor. The lights dim as Gustavo enters, and the orchestra stands as he steps on the podium. After a short pause, the musicians sit quietly and ready their instruments. Gustavo reaches for his baton, raises his arms slowly and stands silently for a brief moment. Then, with a slight nod, he leads the orchestra through the subtle first measures of the allegro. The symphony is absolutely wonderful! Every musician plays each individual note beautifully, and every measure of the symphony breathes with a steady rhythm and wonderful harmony.Continue reading

Brain Battery

“The human generates more bio-electricity than a 120-volt battery and over 25,000 BTVs of body heat.  There are fields…endless fields, were human beings are no longer born.  We are grown…  The Matrix is a computer-generated dream world, built to keep us under control in order to change a human being into this.”  – Morpheus, The Matrix (1999).

Continue reading