Hiker at Sunset

Heightened Senses: Cross-Modal Neuroplasticity

Envision this scenario.  It’s the end of a grueling hike and you’re racing back to civilization along a trail in the mountains as darkness falls.  You’ve become separated from your fellow hikers when all of a sudden the last beams of sunlight fade and the moonless night descends.  You reach into your backpack for your flashlight only to realize that the batteries are dead.  Accustomed to relying on your visual system, you panic upon being plunged into temporary blindness.  But wait!  All of a sudden the previously inaudible footsteps of your companions become heightened as you discriminate where they are and race off in the direction of their voices.Continue reading

Directed Greatness Knowing Neurons

Is Self-Awareness Humanity’s Greatest Trait?

The adult human brain is comprised of approximately 86 billion neurons on average, with at least as many nonneuronal cells, networked together to create the substance and memories of a human being.  Every skill that you’ve acquired, every memory that you’ve formed, and every experience you’ve ever had is contained and represented by these neural connections and networks.  Continue reading

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

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

NEURO.tv and Knowing Neurons

NEURO.tv – Discussion Among Neuroscientists and Philosophers

Attention all brain enthusiasts!  (Yes, zombies, I’m also talking to you.)  Announcing a brand new campaign for neuroscience education: NEURO.tv!  This non-profit initiative features prominent scientists and philosophers, who partake in fascinating discussions of the brain and mind.  In order to remove the barrier between academia and the general public, the creators of NEURO.tv decided to discuss the most recent discoveries in neuroscience and psychology with people who work every day to advance our neuroscientific knowledge.Continue reading

Working Memory DLPFC Knowing Neurons Don Davies

Uncovering the Brain Circuitry of Short Term Memory

Have you ever asked for a phone number only to forget it moments later?  The only way to remember it is to rehearse the digits over and over in your head.  This is an example of working memory, which is a type of short-term memory for storage and manipulation of information necessary for higher order cognition.  Working memory is impaired in some diseases such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s.  Since working memory is used for daily tasks, memory impairment often is associated with a reduced quality of life.  If scientists can understand how the brain circuitry creates working memory, scientists may be able to treat the cognitive symptoms of diseases that impair working memory.Continue reading

Songbird, Zebra Finch, Knowing Neurons, Michael Condro, Sing, Learn, Memory, Neuroscience, Brain,

What Can Songbirds Teach Us About Ourselves?

In my last post, “Vocal Practice is for the Birds” examined one similarity between human and songbird procedural learning: the necessity for practice before performance. Zebra finches sing a series of introductory notes to prepare before beginning their mating song, much like we warm up before playing an instrument or before an athletic competition. This is but one of the many similarities found between human and songbird behaviors. In fact, scientists have been using songbirds to study many common behaviors, like spatial memory and social interactions in addition to procedural learning. Songbirds are the ideal model system for studying the neurogenetic basis of vocal learning due to the similarity of the neural structures underlying this relatively rare behavior.Continue reading