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

Let There Be Light!

When I was an undergraduate student, I was an expert at pulling “all-nighter” study sessions prior to exams and project deadlines.  Once everything was said and done the next day, many of my classmates moved on to celebratory happy hours, while the only thing that could make me happy at the time was heading to bed!  Even after some rest, however, I was slow, lethargic, and felt misplaced.Continue reading

Mending a broken heart with alcohol

Getting over a breakup is not easy; rejection is even more awful.  Many people turn to alcohol to drown out their sorrow.  In an attempt to study this seemingly unreasonable human behavior, scientists found that, surprisingly, humans are not the only ones who seek consolation from alcohol.  In a recent article published in Science, Shohat-Ophir et al. revealed a case of alcohol dependence behavior in Drosophila Melanogaster, commonly known as fruit flies.  They found that when fruit flies get unlucky in love, they are more likely to go for booze and become “drunken” flies.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