The Smell of the Good Ol Days Knowing Neurons Cover

The Smell of the Good Ol’ Days

The innumerable ways in which our parents contribute to our physical and mental identities are as complex as they are fascinating.  From the genetic information they share with us to their efforts to mold our values and social lives, it is clear that we owe much of “who we are” to our parents.  But a new study in Nature Neuroscience reveals that our grandparents may also influence us – even before we are born!  Researchers Brian Dias and Kerry Ressler of Emory University showed that an animal’s experience could have substantial impacts on the neuroanatomy and behavioral sensitivity of its offspring in at least two subsequent generations.Continue reading

The Brain: A Social Construction Site

Have you ever wondered how the social experiences you had early in life affected the way your brain developed?  How was your cerebral architecture influenced by the games of ‘peek-a-boo’ your parents played with you as a toddler or the exciting games of hide-and-seek you played with the neighborhood kids?  How would we be different if we were deprived of these experiences due to parental neglect or social isolation?  Is it possible that early life experiences shaped the way we perceive the world in adulthood, as well as determined our capacity to learn and remember?  And if so, what are the physical substrates for these processes?Continue reading

My, oh myelin!

How many neural processes are going on within your body as you read this sentence?  The answer to this question is hard to fathom, I know, but give it a shot.   Try to imagine all the physiological events that are being controlled by your nervous system at this very moment.  Our nervous systems control a dizzying array of sensory, motor, and cognitive processes simultaneously, without us granting them “permission” to do so.  In fact, most of our neural functions require no mental energy on our part whatsoever!  For this reason, it is extremely easy to take these basic processes for granted.  However, if we were to witness the suffering of an individual with multiple sclerosis, we might begin to appreciate these things a little more.Continue reading