Mind the Gap: New Evidence on How Neurons Connect Left and Right Brain Halves

Our brains are split into two halves, a left hemisphere and a right hemisphere. While the left brain specializes in languages, the right brain specializes in faces. But the two halves don’t exist as two separate entities. Instead, both halves or hemispheres are connected at several points. These connections are important to transfer and coordinate information between hemispheres. But how do the correct neurons “know” if and where they should cross? The textbook model so far has described a positive chemical signal called Netrin that diffuses in the developing brain and guides crossing neurons. But new approaches to this question recently suggested a very different answer.

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Reading: The Brain’s Best Hijacker

What are you doing right now? I’m no psychic, but I can say for certain one thing that you’re doing: reading. You’re reading this sentence, word by word, and extracting meaning from little black lines of orthography, a fancy term for the rules of written language. If you really think about it, what you’re doing right now is quite difficult. What are the neural processes that enable us to read?

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A Grand Vision: A Conversation with Lynne Kiorpes

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

When the blind can see again: A critical question of perception

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?

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Sarah-Jayne Blakemore Discusses the Mysterious Workings of the Adolescent Brain

What brain regions are employed when we interact with other people?  Cognitive neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore explains the “social brain” in her TED talk and sheds light on the complex networks that enable us to evaluate the mental states of other people.  Her research focuses on the development of the social brain during adolescence.  Watch Dr. Blakemore’s TED talk for more information on how the brain matures during the transition from adolescence to adulthood.Continue reading

Smells Like Teen Synapses: A Look Inside Adolescent Brains and Behaviors

Smells Like Teen Synapses: A Look Inside Adolescent Brains and Behaviors

“I would there were no age between sixteen and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting…”

The old shepherd’s thoughts from Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale resonate centuries later when we consider examples of stereotypical teenage behavior – emotional outbursts, angst, and recklessness just to name a few.  But if we dismiss teenagers as lacking emotional discipline, we fail to understand the complex neural underpinnings that drive much of this behavior and allow a concerned adult to guide teens through this critical stage of brain development.Continue reading