Self Reflected: The Best of Neuroscience and Art

The phrase, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” seems especially true for scientists. What we study becomes not only intellectually beautiful, but also literally beautiful: the form is pleasing to the eyes. Appreciation and endearment develops over time as scientists gaze on their subject for hours, days, years. In fact, research by the psychologist Robert Zajonc shows that the more familiar you are with something, the more likely you are to enjoy it.

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Bite-size Science: Immune Cells use Neurotransmitter to Communicate

Researchers have suspected for a few years that neurotransmitters like dopamine play a role in how the immune system functions. But they didn’t know how cells in the immune system would actually used dopamine. A paper published on July 12 of this year shows for the first time that cells in the immune system send dopamine to other cells to trigger them into action. This is just like how neurons use dopamine in the brain! Check out the infographic for a summary of the discovery!

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Bite-size Science: Epigenetics help protect the aging brain

Epigenetics change which genes are active and which are inactive. Research over the past few years has shown that these changes are important for protecting the brain from neurodegeneration and injury. A review paper came out on May 18th in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience that summarizes this research. Check out the infographic for a description of the review paper.

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Weird Animal Brain: Octopus

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

Learning from Disorder: The Paradox of Information in the Brain

In Dante’s Inferno, the fifth circle of Hell is a place where the wrathful fight each other for eternity.  Similarly, I often consider YouTube comments to be an extracanonical circle of Hell where the trolls fight each other for eternity.  You might, then, imagine my surprise when I found many thoughtful comments expressing wonder and intrigue on a YouTube video of brain activity in a zebrafish.  Continue reading

WIDE AWAKE at #SfN14

There’s always one person snoring through the talk you’re trying to listen to at SfN.  That person might even be you at some point during this meeting!  Whether you are sleepy because of the time change, or because you finished your poster at 3AM, or because you were up late catching up with friends and colleagues, sleep is an essential behavior that is regulated by two independent processes: (1) a circadian clock that regulates the timing of sleep, and (2) a homeostatic mechanism that influences the amount and depth of sleep.  Surprisingly, despite significant progress in our understanding of the molecular clock, the mechanisms by which the circadian clock regulates the timing of sleep is poorly understood.Continue reading

Science with a Touch of Art: A Conversation with David Ginty

David GintyIf you think about it, the surface of the human body, the skin, is actually one huge sheet of tactile receptors. The dozens of types of receptors that innervate the skin help us connect with our surroundings. But the properties of these neurons – how they are organized in the skin, where the project into the spinal cord and brainstem, and how this organization gives rise to the sense of touch – are actually poorly understood! I spoke with David Ginty, Ph.D., who is Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, to find out about the newest ways his lab is studying sensory biology.Continue reading