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  • August 25, 2015
  • 03:13 PM
  • 105 views

Microbes and the mind: Who's pulling the strings?

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged

There are many examples throughout nature of microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and parasites influencing the neurobiology and behavior of their hosts. For example, the rabies virus enters the nervous system almost immediately after a bite or scratch and travels to the brain, where it influences neural activity to make aggressive behavior more likely. This, of course, is beneficial for the virus as it increases the probability its infected host will make contact with another susceptible host........ Read more »

  • July 7, 2015
  • 03:50 PM
  • 190 views

The powerful influence of placebos on the brain

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged

The term placebo effect describes an improvement in the condition of a patient after being given a placebo--an inert substance (e.g. sugar pill) the patient expects may hold some benefit for him. The placebo effect has long been recognized as an unavoidable aspect of medical treatment. Physicians before the 1950s often took advantage of this knowledge by giving patients treatments like bread pills or injections of water with the understanding that patients had a tendency to feel better when they........ Read more »

  • June 16, 2015
  • 10:23 PM
  • 202 views

Know your brain: Default mode network

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged

Where is the default mode network?The default mode network (sometimes called simply the default network) refers to an interconnected group of brain structures that are hypothesized to be part of a functional system. The default network is a relatively recent concept, and because of this there is not yet a complete consensus on which brain regions should be included in a definition of it. Regardless, some structures that are generally included are the medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate........ Read more »

Buckner RL, Andrews-Hanna JR, & Schacter DL. (2008) The brain's default network: anatomy, function, and relevance to disease. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1-38. PMID: 18400922  

  • June 3, 2015
  • 10:03 PM
  • 219 views

Deep brain stimulation in Parkinson's disease: Uncovering the mechanism

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged

Parkinson's disease (PD) belongs to a group of diseases that are referred to as neurodegenerative because they involve the degeneration and death of neurons. In PD a group of structures called the basal ganglia, which play a role in facilitating movement, are predominantly affected. The substantia nigra, one of the basal ganglia nuclei as well as one of the most dopamine-rich areas in the brain, is severely impacted; by the end stages of the disease patients have often lost 50-70% of the dopamin........ Read more »

de Hemptinne, C., Swann, N., Ostrem, J., Ryapolova-Webb, E., San Luciano, M., Galifianakis, N., & Starr, P. (2015) Therapeutic deep brain stimulation reduces cortical phase-amplitude coupling in Parkinson's disease. Nature Neuroscience, 18(5), 779-786. DOI: 10.1038/nn.3997  

  • May 13, 2015
  • 12:38 PM
  • 227 views

Know your brain: Orbitofrontal cortex

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged







Orbitofrontal cortex (in green)






Where is the orbitofrontal cortex?The orbitofrontal cortex is the area of the prefrontal cortex that sits just above the orbits (also known as the eye sockets). It is thus found at the very front of the brain, and has extensive connections with sensory areas as well as limbic system structures involved in emotion and memory.What is the orbitofrontal cortex and what does it do?The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is a poorly underst........ Read more »

Stalnaker, T., Cooch, N., & Schoenbaum, G. (2015) What the orbitofrontal cortex does not do. Nature Neuroscience, 18(5), 620-627. DOI: 10.1038/nn.3982  

  • May 6, 2015
  • 10:06 PM
  • 285 views

Limitations of the consensus: How widely-accepted hypotheses can sometimes hinder understanding

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged

To those who believe strongly in the scientific method, it really is the only approach to understanding the relationship between two events or variables that allows us to make assertions about such relationships with any confidence. Due to the inherent flaws in human reasoning, our non-scientific conclusions are frequently riddled with bias, misunderstanding, and misattribution. Thus, it seems there is little that can be trusted if it hasn't been scientifically verified.The scientific method, ho........ Read more »

  • April 20, 2015
  • 09:49 PM
  • 254 views

Know your brain: Cochlea

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged

Where is the cochlea?











cochlea and cochlea in cross-section. image courtesy of openstax college.






The cochlea is a coiled structure that resembles a snail shell (cochlea comes from the Greek kochlos, which means "snail"); it is found within the inner ear. It is a small--yet complex--structure (about the size of a pea) that consists of three canals that run parallel to one another: the scala vestibuli, scala media, and scala tympani.What i........ Read more »

Møller, A. (1994) Auditory Neurophysiology. Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology, 11(3), 284-308. DOI: 10.1097/00004691-199405000-00002  

  • April 13, 2015
  • 06:43 AM
  • 270 views

Let there be light: how light can affect our mood

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged

If you're looking for an indication of how intricately human physiology is tied to the environment our species evolved in, you need look no further than our circadian clock. For, the internal environment of our body is regulated by 24-hour cycles that closely mirror the time it takes for the earth to rotate once on its axis. Moreover, these cycles are shaped by changes in the external environment (e.g. fluctuating levels of daylight) associated with that rotation. Indeed, this 24-hour cycle regu........ Read more »

LeGates, T., Fernandez, D., & Hattar, S. (2014) Light as a central modulator of circadian rhythms, sleep and affect. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 15(7), 443-454. DOI: 10.1038/nrn3743  

  • March 28, 2015
  • 08:20 PM
  • 243 views

The neurobiological underpinnings of suicidal behavior

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged

When you consider that so much of our energy and such a large portion of our behavioral repertoire is devoted to ways of ensuring our survival, suicide appears to be perhaps the most inexplicable human behavior. What would make this human machine--which most of the time seems to be resolutely programmed to scratch, claw, and fight to endure through even the most dire situations--so easily decide to give it all up, even when the circumstances may not objectively seem all that desperate? Suicide i........ Read more »

Turecki, G. (2014) The molecular bases of the suicidal brain. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 15(12), 802-816. DOI: 10.1038/nrn3839  

  • March 14, 2015
  • 11:54 PM
  • 364 views

New approaches to epilepsy treatment: optogenetics and DREADDs

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged

Epilepsy refers to a group of disorders that are characterized by recurrent seizures. It is a relatively common neurological condition, and is considered the most common serious (implying that there is a risk of mortality) brain disorder, affecting around 2.2 million Americans.The seizures associated with epilepsy are not homogenous; they can have a drastically different presentation depending on the patient, the part of the brain the seizure originates in, and how much of the brain the seizure ........ Read more »

  • March 3, 2015
  • 10:36 PM
  • 222 views

Know your brain: Pineal gland

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged

Where is the pineal gland?











Pineal gland (in red). Image courtesy of life science databases.






The pineal gland is considered part of the epithalamus, which is one the main structures that makes up the diencephalon. The pineal gland was so named because it has a pine-cone like appearance. Unlike many structures in the brain, the pineal gland is unpaired; in other words, many brain structures like the hippocampus or amygdala are symmetrical........ Read more »

Dora Sapède,, & Elise Cau. (2013) The Pineal Gland from Development to Function. Current Topics in Developmental Biology. DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-12-416021-7.00005-5  

  • February 22, 2015
  • 09:57 AM
  • 239 views

Associating brain structure with function and the bias of more = better

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged

It seems that, of all of the behavioral neuroscience findings that make their way into popular press coverage, those that involve structural changes to the brain are most likely to pique the interest of the public. Perhaps this is because we have a tendency to think of brain function as something that is flexible and constantly changing, and thus alterations in function do not seem as dramatic as alterations in structure, which give the impression of being more permanent.After all, until relativ........ Read more »

Lazar, S., Kerr, C., Wasserman, R., Gray, J., Greve, D., Treadway, M., McGarvey, M., Quinn, B., Dusek, J., Benson, H.... (2005) Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. NeuroReport, 16(17), 1893-1897. DOI: 10.1097/01.wnr.0000186598.66243.19  

  • February 9, 2015
  • 02:28 PM
  • 342 views

Is tanning addictive?

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged

In Walden, his masterpiece about noncomformity and simple living, Henry David Thoreau wrote, "Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new." And while Thoreau was specifically talking about society's capriciousness in embracing new styles of clothing, his quote applies just as well to our preference for one shade of skin color over another. For, while many now consider a medium-dark tan to be both healthier-looking and more attractive than pale skin, only 100 year........ Read more »

Petit, A., Karila, L., Chalmin, F., & Lejoyeux, M. (2014) Phenomenology and psychopathology of excessive indoor tanning. International Journal of Dermatology, 53(6), 664-672. DOI: 10.1111/ijd.12336  

  • February 1, 2015
  • 10:06 AM
  • 305 views

Know your brain: Ventricles

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged







Ventricles, image courtesy of bruce blaus via wikimedia commons






Where are the ventricles?The ventricles are four interconnected cavities distributed throughout the brain that produce and contain cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The two lateral ventricles are C-shaped chambers found in the cerebral hemispheres (one in each hemisphere). They are connected to the third ventricle by an opening called the interventricular foramen. The third ventricle is a very narrow ........ Read more »

  • January 25, 2015
  • 03:41 PM
  • 468 views

The unsolved mysteries of protein misfolding in common neurodegenerative diseases

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged

Throughout the 1970s, biochemist Stanley Prusiner was obsessed with trying to find the causative agent for a mysterious group of diseases. The diseases, which included kuru and Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease in humans and scrapie in sheep, were characterized by slowly-developing symptoms and neurodegeneration so severe it eventually caused the brain to take on the appearance of a sponge (due to myriad little holes that developed where grey matter was lost). By the time Prusiner began studying these........ Read more »

Brettschneider, J., Tredici, K., Lee, V., & Trojanowski, J. (2015) Spreading of pathology in neurodegenerative diseases: a focus on human studies. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 16(2), 109-120. DOI: 10.1038/nrn3887  

  • January 16, 2015
  • 11:08 AM
  • 443 views

Know your brain: Reward system

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged

Where is the reward system?The term reward system refers to a group of structures that are activated by rewarding or reinforcing stimuli (e.g. addictive drugs). When exposed to a rewarding stimulus, the brain responds by increasing release of the neurotransmitter dopamine and thus the structures associated with the reward system are found along the major dopamine pathways in the brain. The mesolimbic dopamine pathway is thought to play a primary role in the reward system. It connects the ventral........ Read more »

Wise RA. (1998) Drug-activation of brain reward pathways. Drug and alcohol dependence, 51(1-2), 13-22. PMID: 9716927  

  • January 10, 2015
  • 10:31 AM
  • 373 views

Neuromyths and the disconnect between science and the public

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged

When the movie Lucy was released in the summer of 2014, it was quickly followed by a flurry of attention surrounding the idea that we only use 10% of our brains. According to this perspective, around 90% of our neurons lie dormant, all the while teasing us by reminding us that we have only achieved a small fraction of our human potential. In the movie, Scarlet Johansson plays a woman who takes an experimental new drug that makes her capable of using upwards of 90% of her brain. Due to this sudde........ Read more »

Howard-Jones, P. (2014) Neuroscience and education: myths and messages. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 15(12), 817-824. DOI: 10.1038/nrn3817  

  • December 23, 2014
  • 01:10 PM
  • 620 views

Know your brain: Ventral tegmental area

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged

Where is the ventral tegmental area?











Ventral tegmental area along with other structures in the brain connected by dopamine pathways.






The ventral tegmental area, or VTA, is in the midbrain, situated adjacent to the substantia nigra. Although it contains several different types of neurons, it is primarily characterized by its dopaminergic neurons, which project from the VTA throughout the brain. The VTA is considered an integral part of a........ Read more »

  • December 19, 2014
  • 10:40 PM
  • 351 views

Know your brain: Pituitary gland

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged







The pituitary gland (in red). Image courtesy of Life Science Databases (LSDB).






Where is the pituitary gland?The pituitary gland is a small (about the size of a pea) endocrine gland that extends from the bottom of the hypothalamus. It is divided into two lobes in humans, the anterior pituitary and posterior pituitary. The anterior pituitary does not have direct neural connections to the hypothalamus, but is able to communicate with it through a system of blo........ Read more »

Amar, A., & Weiss, M. (2003) Pituitary anatomy and physiology. Neurosurgery Clinics of North America, 14(1), 11-23. DOI: 10.1016/S1042-3680(02)00017-7  

  • December 12, 2014
  • 10:37 AM
  • 404 views

Detecting lies with fMRI

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged

In 2006, a company called No Lie MRI began advertising their ability to detect "deception and other information stored in the brain" using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). They were not the first to make this claim. Two years prior, a company called Cephos had been founded on the same principle. Both companies were launched by entrepreneurs who hoped to one day replace the polygraph machine and its recognized shortcomings with a foolproof approach to lie detection.Within several yea........ Read more »

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