Category Archives: Neuroscience

The neurological impact of losing social status

Science reports: When two male mice meet in a confined space, the rules of engagement are clear: The lower ranking mouse must yield. But when these norms go out the window—say, when researchers rig such an encounter to favor the weakling—it sends the higher ranking male into a depressionlike spiral. That’s the conclusion of a… Read More »

How gut bacteria are controlling your brain

Miriam Frankel and Matt Warren write: Your gut is a bustling and thriving alien colony. They number in their trillions and include thousands of different species. Many of these microorganisms, including bacteria, archaea and eukarya, were here long before humans, have evolved alongside us and now outnumber our own cells many times over. Indeed, as… Read More »

How the brain distinguishes memories from perceptions

Yasemin Saplakoglu writes: Memory and perception seem like entirely distinct experiences, and neuroscientists used to be confident that the brain produced them differently, too. But in the 1990s neuroimaging studies revealed that parts of the brain that were thought to be active only during sensory perception are also active during the recall of memories. “It… Read More »

The brain uses calculus to control fast movements

Kevin Hartnett writes: A mouse is running on a treadmill embedded in a virtual reality corridor. In its mind’s eye, it sees itself scurrying down a tunnel with a distinctive pattern of lights ahead. Through training, the mouse has learned that if it stops at the lights and holds that position for 1.5 seconds, it… Read More »

Finding language in the brain

Giosuè Baggio writes: What exactly is language? At first thought, it’s a continuous flow of sounds we hear, sounds we make, scribbles on paper or on a screen, movements of our hands, and expressions on our faces. But if we pause for a moment, we find that behind this rich experiential display is something different:… Read More »

The science of color perception

Nicola Jones writes: What color is a tree, or the sky, or a sunset? At first glance, the answers seem obvious. But it turns out there is plenty of variation in how people see the world — both between individuals and between different cultural groups. A lot of factors feed into how people perceive and… Read More »

Machine learning highlights a hidden order in scents

Allison Parshall writes: Alex Wiltschko began collecting perfumes as a teenager. His first bottle was Azzaro Pour Homme, a timeless cologne he spotted on the shelf at a T.J. Maxx department store. He recognized the name from Perfumes: The Guide, a book whose poetic descriptions of aroma had kick-started his obsession. Enchanted, he saved up… Read More »

A good memory or a bad one? One brain molecule decides

Yasemin Saplakoglu writes: You’re on the vacation of a lifetime in Kenya, traversing the savanna on safari, with the tour guide pointing out elephants to your right and lions to your left. Years later, you walk into a florist’s shop in your hometown and smell something like the flowers on the jackalberry trees that dotted… Read More »

‘Life hates surprises’: Can an ambitious theory unify biology, neuroscience and psychology?

Shutterstock By Ross Pain, Australian National University; Michael David Kirchhoff, University of Wollongong, and Stephen Francis Mann, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology In the early 1990s, British neuroscientist Karl Friston was poring over brain scans. The scans produced terabytes of digital output, and Friston had to find new techniques to sort and classify the… Read More »

This animal’s behavior is mechanically programmed

Jordana Cepelewicz writes: The biophysicist Manu Prakash vividly remembers the moment, late one night in a colleague’s laboratory a dozen years ago, when he peered into a microscope and met his new obsession. The animal beneath the lenses wasn’t much to look at, resembling an amoeba more than anything else: a flattened multicellular blob, only… Read More »

Perineuronal nets play unexpected role in chronic pain

R. Douglas Fields writes: Neuroscientists, being interested in how brains work, naturally focus on neurons, the cells that can convey elements of sense and thought to each other via electrical impulses. But equally worthy of study is a substance that’s between them — a viscous coating on the outside of these neurons. Roughly equivalent to… Read More »

Who dreams?

Antonio Zadra writes: My fascination with dream characters began while I was in college. That’s when, in the midst of a dream in which I knew I was dreaming (a ‘lucid dream’), I had my first encounter with an older gentleman, who tried to convince me that, actually, my experience wasn’t a dream. Over the… Read More »

Ant colonies resemble neural networks when making decisions

ZME Science reports: New research from the Rockefeller University suggests that colonies of ants make decisions collectively, with outcomes dependent both on the magnitude of the stressor requiring a decision as well as the size of the ant group. The findings suggest that ants combine sensory information about their environment with parameters of their colony… Read More »