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

The Sum of All Fears Knowing Neurons

The Sum of All Fears… Includes Safety?

Identifying safe or dangerous situations are essential for survival.  A child may be fearful of crossing a road alone, but he will be completely relaxed while crossing the same road with his mom.  The inability to discriminate between dangerous and safe situations produces responses that may lead to anxiety disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder (Pitman et al., 2012).  The fear circuitry in the brain has been extensively mapped out with many studies focusing on the amygdala as the primary player in fear regulation (LeDoux, 2000).  In fact, many undergraduate students in psychology and physiology are taught that the amygdala is the “fear center” of the brain.  However, recent experiments demonstrate that the amygdala is responsible for regulating safety, too!Continue reading

Repaving Old Roads After Spinal Cord Injury by Knowing Neurons

Repaving Old Roads After Spinal Cord Injury

The World Health Organization estimates that as many as 500,000 people will experience spinal cord injuries (SCI) every year.  Researchers at the Center for Neuroprosthetics and Brain Mind Institute in Switzerland reported that approximately half of human spinal cord injuries lead to paralysis severe enough to keep the person in a wheelchair for the rest of his or her life.  An incomplete spinal cord injury is sufficient to cause severe motor impairments.  However, in most of these patients, a few nerve fiber bridges remain at the site of injury.  Can researchers figure out a way to repair these paths and help the patient regain functional movement after spinal cord injury?Continue reading

Can Looking at Food Photos Ruin Your Dinner? by Knowing Neurons

Can Looking at Food Photos Ruin Your Dinner?

How many advertisements do you see each day?  If you could count them all (billboards, television commercials, sidebar advertisements on your Facebook feed), it would add up to almost 5,000!  An increasing proportion of these ads are for food, where companies try to increase brand awareness (who doesn’t know the McDonald’s jingle?) and purchase intentions (a full meal for three bucks is quite the deal!).  Some of the most successfully food ads invite us to imagine the sensory experience for ourselves (Mmm, Mmm, Good!).  This “yum response” may increase our desire to purchase and eat the food being shown, but it may also have an important and unintended consequence.  As a matter of fact, a new study suggests that repeated stimuli like these food advertisements make the subsequent consumption of that food a lot less enjoyable.Continue reading

Sleep ‘til you’re Hungry. Eat ‘til you’re Sleepy. via Knowing Neurons

Sleep ‘til you’re Hungry. Eat ‘til you’re Sleepy.

Have you ever tried to go to sleep hungry?  Believe me, it doesn’t work.  You just end up lying in bed, listening to your stomach growl, and dreaming about your favorite foods.  Have you ever experienced a “food coma?”  Think back to last Thanksgiving when you ate so much that all you wanted to do afterwards was take a long nap.  Clearly, hunger and sleep are closely related.  But how?Continue reading

Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting 2013 by Knowing Neurons

The Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting 2013

This is BIG week for neuroscience!

Each year more than 30,000 neuroscientists from more than 80 countries come together in the largest scientific meeting in the world!  At the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) annual meeting, neuroscientists present their newest scientific discoveries about the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system.  More than 15,500 presentations are given, ranging in topic from molecules to human behavior.  Over 500 exhibitors share new tools and cutting edge technologies at this largest neuroscience marketplace in the world.  In this exciting environment, you can learn from experts, collaborate with peers, and explore all things neuroscience!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

Facebook Depression Knowing Neurons

Unhappy with your life? Try spending less time on Facebook!

I’m going to ask you a question, and you have to be honest.  Promise?  OK.  Here’s the question: how much time do you spend on Facebook each day?  Take a minute to add it up: scrolling through your newsfeed in the elevator, liking photos while at the gym, commenting on a friend’s post while shopping, posting a photo of your food…  Believe it or not, the average smartphone user spends 32 minutes on Facebook every day (Facebook IDC study, 2013).Continue reading