What Songbirds Tell Us About Human Nature

Every once in a while, we hear of amazing scientific feats about how some new drug successfully reduces weight without dieting or exercise in monkeys, or how scientists slowed aging in worms and doubled their lifespans. These studies are often a cause for ridicule in the media, which reduces their significance and validity by implying that mice, flies, birds—any animal really—is not a true representation of the human condition.Continue reading

A New Year. A New You.

Yesterday, millions of people across the world made New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, quit smoking, or follow their dreams.  Chances are that this isn’t the first time they made these resolutions!  We start off the year with much fervor, but inevitably this enthusiasm fades out.  Why are we unable to sustain our New Year’s resolutions?Continue reading

24-Hour Service: The Circadian Clock

Have you ever woken up minutes before your alarm sounded?  This strange phenomenon isn’t just a bizarre coincidence!  Like most living things, we have an extremely accurate and powerful internal biological clock.  As its name implies, this circadian clock operates over “about a day” and is responsible for controlling our sleep-wake cycles, digestive activities, mood, and many other physiological processes.  In order to achieve such global results, the circadian rhythm operates over a hierarchy of oscillators that function at the cellular, tissue, and systems levels.Continue reading

Quick buzz. Slow learning.

Beer and wine are quite possibly the oldest known man-made beverages.  Anthropologists have discovered beer jugs that date back to the Neolithic period (10,000 B.C.), and Egyptian pictographs clearly show that wine was a common beverage as early as 4,000 B.C.  Throughout history, alcohol has been used for both celebratory and practical reasons.  Today, consuming alcohol is a way to mark special occasions, socialize with friends, relax after a long week, and (sadly) ease the pain of rejection.Continue reading

A Close Look into the Alzheimer’s Brain

Your brain is able to store massive amounts of memories throughout your lifetime.  There are cases, however, in which this ability progressively degrades and eventually disappears, giving way to problems with thinking, reasoning, and remembering.  When these symptoms occurs faster than normal aging, it is termed dementia.  Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of brain function loss, and its neuropathology are summarized here.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

The Reward Pathway Reinforces Behavior

If you think about it, most of our daily lives revolve around food: when our next meal will be, what it will be, and how yummy it will be!  Evolutionarily, these have been essential thoughts for our survival, so that when we find food, we are compelled to eat as much as we can.  Not only does this ensure that we get all our necessary nutrients, but it also keeps competitors from stealing our meals.Continue reading