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The Cellular Scale
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  • August 15, 2012
  • 09:15 PM

LMAYQ: Can Odor be recorded?

by TheCellularScale in The Cellular Scale

Let Me Answer Your Questions: part 2, in which I answer your very important questions via google search terms. Part 1 and all subsequent LMAYQ posts will be archived in the LMAYQ LikariousSo let's get to it, what fascinating questions are you asking google? 1. "Can odor be recorded?"  This likely brought someone to my post "You can't trust your receptors:smell" in which I discuss the EOG (electrolfactogram) where you can record the electrical activity of a smell receptor while........ Read more »

  • February 2, 2012
  • 09:17 AM

You can't trust your receptors: Smell

by TheCellularScale in The Cellular Scale

Food smells better when you're hungry, right? This is a common phenomenon that everyone I've ever talked to on the subject has experienced. For a long time, I assumed that the entire process underlying this phenomenon is in the brain proper, and not in the olfactory epithelium (that is, the smell receptors themselves).  However, a study on the adorable (and totally weird) salamander known as the 'Axolotl' suggests that the brain proper can actually modulate how sensitive thos........ Read more »

  • July 1, 2012
  • 04:14 PM

A little stress goes a long way

by TheCellularScale in The Cellular Scale

.... toward preventing PTSD symptoms.Post Traumatic Stress DisorderThis may surprise you as the S in PTSD stands for STRESS.  How on earth could stress prevent it? But you heard correctly. A new paper by Rao et al., (2012) from Biological Psychiatry shows that a little stress in the form of glucocorticoids, prior to an acute stress event actually prevents PTSD-like symptoms in rats.First of all how do you tell if a rat has PTSD?This study uses two measures: one behavioral and one cellular.T........ Read more »

  • March 14, 2012
  • 10:58 AM

Plant Neurons? Sensation and action in the Venus Flytrap

by TheCellularScale in The Cellular Scale

Plants are more electric than you might think.  (Venus Fly Trap by Nick Ford at nickpix2012)While they don't have neurons in the proper sense, they have sensory receptors, ion channels,  action potentials, and can process information. One of the most remarkable feats of plant information processing occurs in the venus flytrap.  The venus fly trap is remarkable among plants because it has very fast and very specific information processing capabilities.  It can ........ Read more »

Benolken RM, & Jacobson SL. (1970) Response properties of a sensory hair excised from Venus's flytrap. The Journal of general physiology, 56(1), 64-82. PMID: 5514161  

Forterre Y, Skotheim JM, Dumais J, & Mahadevan L. (2005) How the Venus flytrap snaps. Nature, 433(7024), 421-5. PMID: 15674293  

  • July 15, 2012
  • 02:40 PM

A Pain in the Hippocampus

by TheCellularScale in The Cellular Scale

Neuropathic Pain (source)Pain is usually a helpful sign that something is wrong with a part of your body. Heat-pain will cause you to pull your hand back from something hot before it burns you. The pain of a cut will draw your attention to it, so you can clean it. However damage to the central or peripheral nervous system can result in chronic neuropathic pain, which is not helpful form of pain. Neuropathic pain is basically some mis-firing or mis-connected pain neurons sendi........ Read more »

Mutso AA, Radzicki D, Baliki MN, Huang L, Banisadr G, Centeno MV, Radulovic J, Martina M, Miller RJ, & Apkarian AV. (2012) Abnormalities in hippocampal functioning with persistent pain. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 32(17), 5747-56. PMID: 22539837  

  • July 22, 2012
  • 08:48 PM

Do small men think like big women?

by TheCellularScale in The Cellular Scale

Endless research has been conducted on the neurological differences between women and men. However, a study out of the University of Florida explains that almost all of the anatomical differences previously reported can be accounted for simply by adjusting for total brain size.(Lady Gaga is an excellent source of exaggerated imagery)Leonard et al., (2008) recruited 100 men and 100 women and imaged their brains. They showed that men generally have larger brains that women (not surprisin........ Read more »

DeLacoste-Utamsing C, & Holloway RL. (1982) Sexual dimorphism in the human corpus callosum. Science (New York, N.Y.), 216(4553), 1431-2. PMID: 7089533  

Leonard CM, Towler S, Welcome S, Halderman LK, Otto R, Eckert MA, & Chiarello C. (2008) Size matters: cerebral volume influences sex differences in neuroanatomy. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991), 18(12), 2920-31. PMID: 18440950  

  • April 17, 2012
  • 11:23 PM

Why I type in Dvorak and you should too

by TheCellularScale in The Cellular Scale

The Dvorak keyboard is an alternative to the traditional Qwerty layout. Proponents (like me) claim that it is faster and easier to use.  Dvorak himself claimed in a 1943 National Business Education Quarterly paper "There is a better typewriter keyboard" that experts could type 35% faster in the Dvorak layout than in the Qwerty layout.  (value cited in this paper, I could not locate original)I started using Dvorak during my freshman year of college because some guy told me it was cool. ........ Read more »

Anderson AM, Mirka GA, Joines SM, & Kaber DB. (2009) Analysis of alternative keyboards using learning curves. Human factors, 51(1), 35-45. PMID: 19634307  

  • August 19, 2012
  • 12:29 PM

How to Build a Neuron: Step 1

by TheCellularScale in The Cellular Scale

There are many reasons to try to build a neuron, but fully building a model neuron is an extensive process with many steps.  Today we will discuss the very first step in the neuron-building process: determining the activity and  shape of the neuron. Biocytin filled cortical neurons (source)To determine the shape of neuron, you have to stain it somehow.  There are several ways to do this, but we will focus on the biocytin filling method. To determine the activity of a neuron, ........ Read more »

Marx M, Günter RH, Hucko W, Radnikow G, & Feldmeyer D. (2012) Improved biocytin labeling and neuronal 3D reconstruction. Nature protocols, 7(2), 394-407. PMID: 22301777  

  • February 19, 2012
  • 07:39 PM

Neurosexism and Delusions of Gender

by TheCellularScale in The Cellular Scale

On the cellular scale, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to tell the brains of men and women apart.  That is, if you zoom in on a part of the brain (like the hippocampus, cortex or striatum) and look at the morphology of a single neuron or the electrical characteristics of that neuron, you would be hard pressed to tell if the neuron you are looking at belongs to a male or a female. This is not very surprising since it is also difficult to tell if the neuron you are looking ........ Read more »

  • March 4, 2012
  • 02:28 PM

4 reasons why all women should play Mass Effect

by TheCellularScale in The Cellular Scale

Another adventure outside of the 'cellular neuroscience' walls for The Cellular Scale.  Today we are traveling to the land of video games, video games and women.  Commander Shepard, the most badass woman in the galaxyMass Effect 3 is being released in a few days and I thought I would use this time (while my xbox is downloading the free demo) to write about why the world would be a better (or at least slightly more gender-neutral) place if all women played Mass Effec........ Read more »

Galinsky AD, Wang CS, & Ku G. (2008) Perspective-takers behave more stereotypically. Journal of personality and social psychology, 95(2), 404-19. PMID: 18665710  

  • February 6, 2012
  • 08:44 AM

the synapse: where the magic happens

by TheCellularScale in The Cellular Scale

What is a synapse?The synapse is the junction between two neurons, usually between an axon, which gives the signal, and a dendrite, which receives the signal.    This meeting of neurons is absolutely essential to how the brain works.  It is where the information gets passed on from one neuron to the next.  The 'magic' at the synapseWhen someone talks about neuronal pathways being strengthened, they usually mean a strengthening of this synaptic connection. ........ Read more »

  • June 24, 2012
  • 06:01 PM

In defense of pink microscopes

by TheCellularScale in The Cellular Scale

I know I am late to the party here, as the "Science is a girl thing" video (embedded below) came out Friday and has already been ripped to shreds by many a blog. But I just couldn't stop thinking about it, so here's my opinion on that video and pinkifying science in general.Hello Kitty Microscope I am reminded of a quote from Pres. Obama's initial campaign.  He said (something like) "We need to shatter the blasphemy that says a black child with a book is acting white."  It is equally t........ Read more »

  • March 27, 2012
  • 10:29 PM

Seeing Cells: Nissl and Golgi together at last

by TheCellularScale in The Cellular Scale

Seeing through a glass darkly (source)The quest to visualize cells is a long and continuously evolving one.  We have previously discussed how neuroscientists use calcium to watch cells in action, but a surprising amount of information can be gleaned from simply staining fixed (inactive) cells. There are so many ways to stain fixed cells that I have to write this in parts.  First we'll discuss two of the oldest techniques still commonly used, the Nissl stain and........ Read more »

Pilati N, Barker M, Panteleimonitis S, Donga R, & Hamann M. (2008) A rapid method combining Golgi and Nissl staining to study neuronal morphology and cytoarchitecture. The journal of histochemistry and cytochemistry : official journal of the Histochemistry Society, 56(6), 539-50. PMID: 18285350  

  • June 3, 2012
  • 12:01 PM

A Tale of Two Huxleys

by TheCellularScale in The Cellular Scale

Andrew Huxley is one of the founders of both modern electrophysiology and  computational neuroscience, and is consequently a personal hero of mine. His recent (May 30, 2012) death inspired me to learn more about his life.Andrew Huxley (1917-2012)Andrew Huxley along with Alan Hodgkin discovered the mechanisms which governed the action potential in nerve cells. They inserted micro-electrodes into the squid giant axon and recorded the sodium and potassium currents which generated ........ Read more »

  • May 1, 2012
  • 12:50 PM

Virtual Reality for Worms

by TheCellularScale in The Cellular Scale

How do you build a virtual environment for a worm? The Nematode C. Elegans with glowing neurons (source)Using a little optogenetic trickery, you can directly activate specific worm neurons with light.  If you know your worm neurons, you can stimulate ones that make it think it has suddenly touched something with its nose or that the environment is suddenly very salty.  Before we dive into worm VR, let's back up and discuss this specific worm.The Magnificent C......... Read more »

  • June 17, 2012
  • 12:45 PM

Remote-controlled cyborg insects

by TheCellularScale in The Cellular Scale

Cyborgs capture the imagination. Whether human-machine prosthetics or machine-insect spybots, the possibilities for medical advances and for exciting sci-fi novels are virtually endless. Remote controlled beetle from 1909 from Insect Lab A paper in 2009 by Sato et al. made some significant advances in the frontier of remote-controlled cyborg beetles. Specifically they were able to stimulate relatively specific neurons in these beetles to get them to initiate flight........ Read more »

Sato H, Berry CW, Peeri Y, Baghoomian E, Casey BE, Lavella G, Vandenbrooks JM, Harrison JF, & Maharbiz MM. (2009) Remote radio control of insect flight. Frontiers in integrative neuroscience, 24. PMID: 20161808  

  • March 10, 2012
  • 03:10 PM

Calcium: for more than just your bones

by TheCellularScale in The Cellular Scale

You have probably heard that calcium is good for your bones, but what you might not know is that your brain can't function without it.  Broccoli is rich in calcium (source)We have previously discussed the electrical properties of neurons.  Much like the sodium ion (Na+) and the potassium ion (K+), the calcium ion (Ca2+) can flow into and out of the cell to modulate its electrical activity. Grienberger and Konnerth 2012, Figure1Calcium has an even bigger role, however.&nb........ Read more »

Grienberger, C., & Konnerth, A. (2012) Imaging Calcium in Neurons. Neuron, 73(5), 862-885. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.02.011  

  • August 22, 2012
  • 09:34 PM

Twists and turns on smell's evolutionary road

by TheCellularScale in The Cellular Scale

Smell is a complicated sense and its evolutionary path is a convoluted one. Olfactory receptor cells developed different shapes and different chemical receptors and were sometimes divided into separate organs and sometimes not.Rainbow Goldfish: experimental animal (source)A research group from the Rocky Mountain Taste and Smell Center (not affiliated with Coors) decided to research the olfactory cells of the noble goldfish. Goldfish are an interesting vertebrate because they, like huma........ Read more »

  • January 23, 2012
  • 09:52 AM

The cells that make us eat: Part 2

by TheCellularScale in The Cellular Scale

In the last post, we discussed the finding that stimulating the AgRP neurons in the hypothalamus directly causes mice to eat.  You can see the video of the mouse eating with the light stimulation here.Today we will look at a follow up paper by the same group.  This paper looks at the mechanisms that might naturally stimulate these neurons.  As the authors mention in the discussion, the origin of the pathways that naturally cause these neurons to fire is not known. (........ Read more »

  • March 21, 2012
  • 10:00 AM

How animals, Shrek, and Yoda stimulate your neurons.

by TheCellularScale in The Cellular Scale

Is CellularDog thinking 'yum'? or 'aww'? (I took this picture)(and, yes, sometimes I wear ugly Christmas pants)Recent studies have found that specific cells in the human brain respond to specific things.  And I don't just mean those vision neurons that respond to lines or circles that you learned about in psychology 101.  There are neurons in your brain that selectively respond to concepts (like celebrities, faces, and animals).  Let's talk about animal cells...(that is ........ Read more »

Mormann F, Dubois J, Kornblith S, Milosavljevic M, Cerf M, Ison M, Tsuchiya N, Kraskov A, Quiroga RQ, Adolphs R.... (2011) A category-specific response to animals in the right human amygdala. Nature neuroscience, 14(10), 1247-9. PMID: 21874014  

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