Sometimes it’s hard to understand why scientists do what they do. Why spend a career studying cells, fungus, or flies? Other than being nerdy and wanting to learn about our world, what’s the point?Continue reading
From that evil itch on your arm to torturous diseases such as malaria, Zika, dengue, and yellow fever, mosquito bites can have unpleasant consequences. But have you ever wondered why those skin-diving insects are so good at detecting humans? Not so surprisingly, the answer lies in neuroscience — in a special field called chemosensation, the sensing of chemical stimuli.Continue reading
The octopus almost reaches alien status when it comes to its brain and nervous system. And yet, the differences can help us understand more about the human brain as well as unique solutions nature has come up with for difficult problems like camouflage. Octopuses can see polarized light, but cannot see color. However, their skin changes both color and texture to camouflage with the surroundings.Continue reading
When babies are born, they cannot see very well, but their vision vastly improves as they continue to develop. Sometimes, the eyes don’t communicate well with the brain, and vision disorders like amblyopia result. What are the neural mechanisms that allow normal visual development? What happens when things go amiss? And how can these disorders be prevented and treated? These are the questions that get Professor Lynne Kiorpes up in the morning! Listen to her passion as she explains her research and life as a neuroscientist:Continue reading
What does eye-witness identification have to do with neuroscience? A lot, actually.Continue reading
Everyone knows sharks are fierce predators. How exactly they hunt so well is in part due to their extra sixth sense: electroreception!Continue reading
It is no surprise that a child prefers its mother’s voice to those of strangers. Beginning in the womb, a fetus’s developing auditory pathways sense the sounds and vibrations of its mother. Soon after birth, a child can identify its mother’s voice and will work to hear her voice better over unfamiliar female voices. A 2014 study of preterm infants showed that playing a recording of the mother’s voice when babies sucked on a pacifier was enough to improve development of oral feeding skills and shorten their hospital stay. A mother’s voice can soothe a child in stressful situations, reducing levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and increasing levels of oxytocin, the social bonding hormone. Scientists have even traced the power of a mother’s voice to infants’ brains: a mother’s voice activates the anterior prefrontal cortex and the left posterior temporal region more strongly than an unfamiliar voice, priming the infant for the specialized task of speech processing.
While it makes intuitive sense that a mother’s voice has special power over infants and toddlers, what happens as children grow up? Continue reading
My father often jokes that hundreds of years from now, future anthropologists will speak of the cult of the Seattle goddess, her shrine adorning every airport, shopping mall, and train station in America. The worshippers partake in a holy communion of coffee, tea, and espresso. In fact, anthropologists today tell us that in some indigenous American cultures, drinking psychoactive peyote tea is an important part of religious ceremony. And yet, the very phrase psychoactive tea is somewhat redundant. All tea and coffee, unless decaffeinated, is psychoactive, albeit usually not to the same extent as peyote, a cactus native to the American Southwest that contains a hallucinogenic alkaloid called mescaline.Continue reading
Our sense of sight is arguably our most important sense. Imagine how different your life would be if soon after birth, you lost the ability to see. For over 1.4 million children worldwide, that is their life. Being blind in developing countries like India has a costly impact: over 90% of blind children do not go to school, less than 50% make it to adulthood, and for those that do, only 20% are employed. But the real tragedy is that many of these cases of childhood blindness are completely avoidable and even treatable.
Why do they go untreated?
The minds of individuals are like parallel universes, forever inaccessible to one another. Never do we truly see through the eyes of another person. It is common for us to wonder if other people experience the world in the same way we do. Is your green my red? Is my yellow your blue?Continue reading
Have you ever wondered if you experience the world like everyone else? We assume that our senses tell us what’s going on in the world, but they’re far from perfect. Synesthesia is a cool example of when our senses have a mind of their own.Continue reading
We have someone new joining our team! She is a neuroscience PhD student at the University of Iowa, and she studies speech perception – but let’s let the animation she created explain exactly what that means:Continue reading