The emotional mechanics of the robot-human interaction

The emotional mechanics of the robot-human interaction

First impressions are pivotal.  While reading another person’s cues, an abridged version of them forms as we draw on complex social inferences in merely seconds of interaction.  That is, if they are human.  What if they only resemble a human, but are incapable of inner experience or independent thought?  Is it possible to truly form an emotional connection with a robot?Continue reading

CRISPR-Cas9 Knowing Neurons

CRISPR-Cas9: Targeted Genome Editing

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Infographic by Jooyeun Lee and Kate Fehlhaber.

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References:

Hsu P. & Feng Zhang (2014). Development and Applications of CRISPR-Cas9 for Genome Engineering, Cell, 157 (6) 1262-1278. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2014.05.010

Fineran P.C. (2014). Gene regulation by engineered CRISPR-Cas systems, Current Opinion in Microbiology, 18 83-89. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mib.2014.02.007

Doudna J.A. (2014). The new frontier of genome engineering with CRISPR-Cas9, Science, 346 (6213) 1258096-1258096. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1258096

Intracranial EEG and Mental Time Travel

A familiar progression of chords blares out of your speakers as the red lights of the surrounding traffic fade into the memory of a dark stage illuminated by pulsing neon lights.  You replace your current discomfort (horrendous traffic!) with the memory of the last concert you attended – reliving the percussive sensory experience and feeling the intensity of the vibrating sound waves.  As you bust out the occasional air guitar move and tap out the beat on your dashboard, you are successfully retrieving a memory and reinstating a specific pattern of neural activity.  This mental time travel enables you to escape the confinement of your surrounding environment and plunge into the memory of enjoyable past experiences.Continue reading

Surfing Brainwaves with EEG: A Classic Tool for Recording Temporal Brain Dynamics

Pictures are powerful tools for illustrating quantitative data and capturing public interest.  Each year, NASA releases many beautiful images of Martian dunes and distant nebulae which help win public funding.  Likewise, when it comes to grabbing headlines and commanding public attention, noninvasive studies of functional brain activity often do best when they beautifully illustrate said activity as colorful pixels dancing on the convoluted surface of the cerebral cortex.Continue reading

Mapping the Information Highway in the Brain Knowing Neurons

Mapping the Information Highway in the Brain

It’s hard to imagine life without Google Maps nowadays.  We use the interactive map daily to find out how to get from point A to point B.  Wouldn’t it be great if there were an online map to guide neuroscientists to study the brain?  In the newest issue of Cell, researchers from University of Southern California published a project mapping the neural networks of the mouse cortex, and they call it the Mouse Connectome Project (MCP).Continue reading

Taxi Photoswitch Knowing Neurons

Turning On A “Photoswitch” Helps Blind Mice See The Light

Our senses connect us to the world.  Your visual system lets you know that there is a yellow car ahead of you, and your auditory system lets you know that it is honking its horn.  As unique as each sensory system seems, they actually share basic characteristics and similarities of structure and function.  Beginning with a stimulus (the vision of the car or the sound of the horn), a cascade of complex interactions occurs that send signals through neural circuits so that we can respond to our surroundings.Continue reading

EyeWire via Knowing Neurons

EyeWire: A Game To Map The Brain

Solving the mysteries of the connectome may require something more powerful than a supercomputer.  The makers of EyeWire think that it’s you who can help map the brain!  This game was invented in Sebastian Seung’s Computational Neuroscience Lab at MIT and now has over 70,000 players from over 130 countries!  The best part is that the game doesn’t require a scientific background, so anyone can play!  Join the EyeWire community and be a part of neuroscience discovery!Continue reading

Connectomics by Knowing Neurons

Connectomics: Mapping the Brain

The human brain is filled with approximately 100 billion neurons, each of which makes a multitude of connections to neighboring neurons.  The diversity of these neurons and vast interconnections facilitate processes such as those involved in decision making, evoking a memory, riding a bike, or simply reading this sentence.  Incorrect wiring of these neurons may be the basis of some mental disorders and deficits.  To understand how the structure of neural networks mediates function, researchers have emphasized the development of techniques to identify how every neuron is intimately connected to its neighbor neurons.  And with this, the field of connectomics is born.Continue reading

Zinc finger nucleases: genomic scissors via Knowing Neurons

Zinc Finger Nucleases: Genomic Scissors

The potential to manipulate DNA sequences and insert genes with the use of zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) has huge implications for human genetic disease therapeutics.  One exciting example is a clinical trial that is using ZFN technology to disrupt the gene for the HIV co-receptor CCR5 and protect against the progression of HIV to AIDS.  As shown in the infographic below, ZFNs introduce DNA sequence changes into individual genes to create deletions, insertions, or base substitutions.  ZFN technology is a powerful tool that enables scientists to study the effects of these changes on gene function and may one day be used to treat human genetic disorders.Continue reading

Chromosome Silencing: Turning Off Genes in Down Syndrome

Close your eyes and try to imagine medical treatment in the future.  I envision sophisticated robots wielding lasers that precisely eliminate deadly tumors.  I predict that insight from genome wide association studies (GWAS) will explode allowing for personalized human genomics to move center stage.  Effectively identifying genetic abnormalities has the potential to take the guesswork out of choosing the most effective drug treatment for an individual.  In my wildest daydreams, I imagine a technology that would enable silencing of entire extra chromosomes associated with developmental disorders.Continue reading

C. elegans Knowing Neurons

Imaging the Brain with Sculpted Light

Perhaps the biggest goal in neuroscience is to understand how individual neurons interact with each other in both space and time.  The more detailed our understanding of complex neural networks is, the more we can understand how an organism’s nervous system processes information to generate behavior.  To achieve this goal, neuroscience research has focused on obtaining detailed anatomical wiring maps, such as those produced by the Human Connectome ProjectContinue reading