Copy Number Variants: A Window into Psychiatric Illness

The human genome consists of nearly 25,000 protein-coding genes – and a mutation in just one of these can have dramatic effects on our brains.  Remarkably, one tiny change in our genes (which can be as small as 0.000000025 cm!) can lead to visible changes in our behavior.  Schizophrenia, autism, bipolar disorder, and ADHD have all been linked to variations in our DNA.  But how do changes in our genetic code result in these complex psychiatric disorders?Continue reading

The Fugue of Life: Why Complexity Matters in Physiology and Neuroscience

People like simplicity. Each decade, corporate logos grow progressively minimalistic, pop songs use ever simpler melodies, and visual art embraces simpler compositions, as Monet gives way to Picasso and Picasso gives way Rothko.  This zeitgeist, summarized as “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” shapes our perceptions of physiology in interesting ways.  The thumping of a beating heart is often celebrated as nature’s beautifully simple rhythm.  Listening through a doctor’s stethoscope, one expects any deviation from perfect rhythmicity to be an omen of disease.Continue reading

Working Memory DLPFC Knowing Neurons Don Davies

Uncovering the Brain Circuitry of Short Term Memory

Have you ever asked for a phone number only to forget it moments later?  The only way to remember it is to rehearse the digits over and over in your head.  This is an example of working memory, which is a type of short-term memory for storage and manipulation of information necessary for higher order cognition.  Working memory is impaired in some diseases such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s.  Since working memory is used for daily tasks, memory impairment often is associated with a reduced quality of life.  If scientists can understand how the brain circuitry creates working memory, scientists may be able to treat the cognitive symptoms of diseases that impair working memory.Continue reading

Genetic Tricks To Reverse Schizophrenic Symptoms

The human brain continues to develop and form new connections from birth until as late as the mid-20s. During this time, billions of connections are made and broken as the brain develops the architecture required for learning, memory, language, emotion and many other brain functions. Disruptions in how the brain forms connections during infancy and early childhood can severely impair growth and negatively affect brain functions. Continue reading