Stimulating Neural Circuits with Magnetism

Brain stimulation might sound like some Frankensteinian demonstration from a Victorian science fair. But in reality, it is a contemporary technique making a huge impact in neuroscience by addressing a… Read more

The Mighty and the Weak: How Science Explains Cuteness

Cute things are usually vulnerable, fragile and weak.  But cuteness itself is mighty indeed. Morten L. Kringelbach and his colleagues at the University of Oxford recently described cuteness as ‘one… Read more

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… Read more

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… Read more

Neuron See, Neuron Do: The Mirror Neuron System and Clinical Implications

If you grew up with siblings, it is likely that you have heard the phrase, ”Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”  However, it wasn’t until a groundbreaking finding in… Read more

Hacking your Brain with Smart Drugs

What if you could take a pill to enhance your cognitive abilities?  What if this pill could help you ace a test, get more work done efficiently, and truly multitask? … Read more

Is too much sugar a form of brain abuse?

We all know too much sugar is bad for us.  But did you know that having unfettered access to sugar might produce brain changes similar to highly stressful situations, such… Read more

Gliders, Blinkers, and Pulsars: Complexity and the Game of Life

Previously on Knowing Neurons, we considered self-organized criticality (SOC) and network science (AKA graph theory) as two possible sources of complex behavior in the brain and other physiological systems. As… Read more

How Do We Know? The Value of Scientific Models.

Last month, astronomers announced the prediction of a new giant planet in our solar system dubbed Planet IX, a genuine ninth planet with ten times the mass of Earth.  The… Read more

Digging Out the “Earworms:” Involuntary Musical Imagery Correlates with Cortical Structure

You don’t know you know this song, but you definitely know this song: “Hey Mickey you’re so fine, you’re so fine you…” Did the end of the lyric materialize in… Read more

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… Read more

A Tale of Monogamy and Dopamine

In a recent hack, private information from nearly 30 million users was leaked from Ashley Madison, a “dating” website intended to facilitate extramarital affairs.  The sheer number of Ashley Madison… Read more

The Neuroscience of Star Wars

For the first time in over a decade, a new Star Wars film is upon us, and if you’re like the staff of Knowing Neurons, your nucleus accumbens is firing… Read more

Melatonin: An Old Hormone with New Tricks

Melatonin: you’ve undoubtedly seen it in the supplement aisle at the drugstore…that natural sleep remedy your aunt recommended once, sounding vaguely like a portmanteau of mellow and serotonin.  But between… Read more

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… Read more

Mapping Brain Connectivity Using Graph Theory

Have you ever wondered why the same brain regions are often implicated again and again in many tasks and behaviors?  For instance, the prefrontal cortex is implicated in so many… Read more

Science Advocacy on Capitol Hill: Bridging the Legislative Gap to Medical Research Funding

Last Thursday, September 17th I had the privilege of joining over 300 organizations including patients, physicians and fellow researchers in the Rally for Medical Research on Capitol Hill. Now in… Read more

Messing with the ‘Flip-Flop’ Switch: Why Getting Sick Makes You Sleepy

We all know how it feels to be sick.  The fatigue, increased sleep, and general malaise that accompany a cold are the primary reasons people stay bedridden when ill.  Even… Read more

The Turing Test: Is that Human or Machine?

I propose to consider the following question, ‘Can machines think?’ Thus begins Alan Turing’s paper “Computing machinery and intelligence.”  It’s 1950 England, and the world’s first computer is being used… Read more

The emotional mechanics of the robot-human interaction

First impressions are pivotal.  While reading another person’s cues, an abridged version of them forms as we draw on complex social inferences in merely seconds of interaction.  That is, if… Read more

Scale Invariance: A Cautionary Tale Against Reductionism

How long is the coast of Britain?  It doesn’t matter how good your geography is — the answer depends on the size of your measuring stick.  The coast of Britain… Read more

Blondes or Brunettes: It’s All About Conditioning

Like it or not, we all have preferences in choosing romantic partners.  Piercings, freckles, hair color, eye color, body physique – through adolescence and into adulthood, we begin to develop… Read more

CRISPR-Cas9: Targeted Genome Editing

~ Infographic by Jooyeun Lee and Kate Fehlhaber. ~ References: Hsu P. & Feng Zhang (2014). Development and Applications of CRISPR-Cas9 for Genome Engineering, Cell, 157 (6) 1262-1278. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2014.05.010… Read more

Ghost in the Machine: The Neuroscience of Consciousness

Some questions cannot be addressed by science.  Like parallel universes, the consciousness of others is not something that can be directly observed, measured, or experienced.  Rene Descartes famously said, “I… Read more

Surfing Brainwaves with EEG: A Classic Tool for Recording Temporal Brain Dynamics

Pictures are powerful tools for illustrating quantitative data and capturing public interest.  Each year, NASA releases many beautiful images of Martian dunes and distant nebulae which help win public funding.  … Read more

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Neural Stem Cells

Stem cells have two characteristic and essential properties: Self-renewal. They can divide to give rise to another stem cell. Potency. They are capable of differentiating into specialized cells.… Read more

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

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/176184172″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /] If you think about it, the surface of the human body, the skin, is actually one huge sheet of tactile receptors. The dozens… Read more

Inhibitory Neurons: Keeping the Brain’s Traffic in Check

Imagine that you’re driving down a road undeterred, no red lights or stop signs to slow you down. While that may seem like a very exciting idea, it is obviously… Read more

Hubel and Wiesel & the Neural Basis of Visual Perception

Snap!  Crackle!  Pop! Those are the sounds that Professors David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel heard in the early 1950s when they recorded from neurons in the visual cortex of a… Read more

Understanding the Visual System: A Conversation with Botond Roska

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/174013562″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /] When we see the world, there is a huge amount of processing that occurs in the neural circuits of the retina, thalamus, and… Read more

From Stevens to Synapses: A Conversation with Kelsey Martin

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/173263228″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /] Take your wildest guess.  How many neurons make up the human brain?  You’re not guessing wild enough if you said anything less than… Read more

Getting Technical: Methods in Neuroscience

It is an exciting time for neuroscience. The BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) is in the spotlight as a part of the new Presidential focus and recently… Read more

(Transneuronal) Attack of the Mutant Huntingtin!

Huntington’s disease (HD) is an incredibly debilitating neurodegenerative disorder. Currently, there is no treatment that effectively reverses the progression of the disease or delays its onset. Huntington’s is a particularly… Read more
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