Category Archives: Neuroscience

Your livewired brain makes you a different person every day

Steve Paulson writes: Brain “plasticity” is one of the great discoveries in modern science, but neuroscientist David Eagleman thinks the word is misleading. Unlike plastic, which molds and then retains a particular shape, the brain’s physical structure is continually in flux. But Eagleman can’t avoid the word. “The whole literature uses that term plasticity, so… Read More »

The neurons that appeared from nowhere

Nayanah Siva writes: The scientists crowded around Yuanchao Xue’s petri dish. They couldn’t identify the cells that they were seeing. “We saw a lot of cells with spikes growing out of the cell surface,” said Xiang-Dong Fu, the research team’s leader at the University of California, San Diego. “None of us really knew that much… Read More »

Mitochondria may hold keys to anxiety and mental health

Elizabeth Landau writes: Carmen Sandi recalls the skepticism she faced at first. A behavioral neuroscientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, she had followed a hunch that something going on inside critical neural circuits could explain anxious behavior, something beyond brain cells and the synaptic connections between them. The experiments she began… Read More »

Love is medicine for fear

Arthur C. Brooks writes: We are living in a time of fear. The coronavirus pandemic has threatened our lives, health, and economy in ways most Americans have never experienced. We have no idea what the future will bring. According to the American Psychological Association’s annual “Stress in America” survey, the percentage of people in the… Read More »

How emotions connect your body and brain

Kevin Berger writes: Do you think you can read emotions like joy or anger in another person’s face and actions? Read them because joy and anger are universal emotions and we all know what they look and feel like? Well, if so, says neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett, you are winging it, guessing at best. Emotions… Read More »

There is no homunculus in our brain who guides us

M.R. O’Connor writes: In the early 1980s, the psychologist Harry Heft put a 16 mm camera in the back of a sports car and made a movie. It consisted of a continuous shot of a residential neighborhood in Granville, Ohio, where Heft was a professor at Denison University. It didn’t have a plot or actors,… Read More »

The biology of love

Ruth Feldman writes: After decades following thousands of mother-infant dyads, hundreds from birth to young adulthood, my lab has mapped the ‘neurobiology of affiliation’ – the emerging scientific field that describes the neural, endocrine and behavioural systems sustaining our capacity to love. The foci of our research – the oxytocin system (based on the neurohormone… Read More »

Can we describe the brain?

Grigori Guitchounts writes: A complete human connectome [charting the entirety of the connections among neurons in the brain] will be a monumental technical achievement. A complete wiring diagram for a mouse brain alone would take up two exabytes. That’s 2 billion gigabytes; by comparison, estimates of the data footprint of all books ever written come… Read More »

Neural dendrites reveal their computational power

Jordana Cepelewicz writes: The information-processing capabilities of the brain are often reported to reside in the trillions of connections that wire its neurons together. But over the past few decades, mounting research has quietly shifted some of the attention to individual neurons, which seem to shoulder much more computational responsibility than once seemed imaginable. The… Read More »

To decode the brain, scientists automate the study of behavior

Jordana Cepelewicz writes: The quest to understand what’s happening inside the minds and brains of animals has taken neuroscientists down many surprising paths: from peering directly into living brains, to controlling neurons with bursts of light, to building intricate contraptions and virtual reality environments. In 2013, it took the neurobiologist Bob Datta and his colleagues… Read More »

How microbiomes affect fear

Elena Renken writes: Our brains may seem physically far removed from our guts, but in recent years, research has strongly suggested that the vast communities of microbes concentrated in our digestive tract open lines of communication between the two. The intestinal microbiome has been shown to influence cognition and emotion, affecting moods and the state… Read More »

Is there actually science behind ‘dopamine fasting’?

Live Science reports: “Dopamine fasting” may be Silicon Valley’s latest wellness trend — but does this sciency-sounding fad actually have evidence to back it up? During a so-called dopamine fast, extreme practitioners abstain from any experience that brings them pleasure, including but not limited to sex, food, exercise, social media, video games and talking, according… Read More »