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  • February 16, 2011
  • 03:38 PM

Are cows magnetic sensors? Re-examining northern alignment

by Zen Faulkes in NeuroDojo

A couple of years ago, a paper by Begall and colleagues made a big splash by claiming that cows could detect, and align to, earth’s magnetic field. This report took on a life of its own. I heard it within the last week on one of the science podcasts I listen (though I can’t remember which one).

This paper got attention not only because this was an unusual claim, but for the way that they determined this. Instead of generating their own data, they looked at pictures of cows in Google Earth.
........ Read more »

Begall S, Cerveny J, Neef J, Vojtech O, & Burda H. (2008) Magnetic alignment in grazing and resting cattle and deer. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(36), 13451-13455. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0803650105  

Hert J, Jelinek L, Pekarek L, & Pavlicek A. (2011) No alignment of cattle along geomagnetic field lines found. Journal of Comparative Physiology A. DOI: 10.1007/s00359-011-0628-7  

  • February 16, 2011
  • 01:00 PM

An ode to Mike, the headless chicken

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

(This post amuses me. This is the strangest juxtaposition of research papers and topics I've written about. You'll see.)An ode to Mike, by Bradley VoytekThere once was a farmer from FruitaWhose chicken caused quite a hoopla.     For what happened next,     Made farmer Olsen quite perplexed!And as for the chicken, no "clucks", just some "ooh-aahs".For that farmer had wanted a snack.So he went and grabbed his old axe.     H........ Read more »

  • February 16, 2011
  • 11:37 AM

The most powerful substance known to rat.

by B.F. Hebb in ionpsych

For rats, the most alluring substance isn’t alcohol, heroin, or cocaine: it’s not a drug at all, in fact, it’s an artificial sweetener called saccharin. What’s saccharin? Saccharin is a non-caloric sugar substitute that has been used in many low-calorie … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • February 16, 2011
  • 11:31 AM

How does the brain pick which neurons to use?

by Jason Snyder in Functional Neurogenesis

Wiring. That’s one answer to this question. We know this from topographic maps in the thalamus and neocortex, where the basic units of sensory information are neatly represented in spatially-arranged populations of neurons – the various body parts are represented in specific locations, as are the different frequencies of sound, the different parts of the retina, and [...]... Read more »

  • February 16, 2011
  • 08:00 AM

Are magicians master mimes?

by Zen Faulkes in NeuroDojo

Research on magic has been getting a lot of attention recently, but most of the focus has been on the psychology of the audience.

But what can we learn by studying the performer?

One of the things you need to be a magician, particularly a close-up magician who works with cards or coins, is dexterity. I tried to learn some basic card tricks once, and failed. It requires some very fine motor control, and I didn’t put in enough work to master it.

Many illusions rely on the magician imitating ........ Read more »

Cavina-Pratesi C., Kuhn G., Ietswaart M., & Milner A. (2011) The magic grasp: motor expertise in deception. PLoS ONE, 6(2). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016568  

  • February 16, 2011
  • 01:50 AM

The power of learning a second language: look to the caudate

by Scicurious in Neurotic Physiology

Sci’s terrible at languages. TERRIBLE. In my time, I’ve successfully mastered English, and attempted to master four other languages (five if you count a brief foray into Elvish when I was 15, but that doesn’t really count) in my time. I have failed at ALL of them. Every once in a while I would achieve [...]... Read more »

Tan LH, Chen L, Yip V, Chan AH, Yang J, Gao JH, & Siok WT. (2011) Activity levels in the left hemisphere caudate-fusiform circuit predict how well a second language will be learned. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(6), 2540-4. PMID: 21262807  

  • February 15, 2011
  • 09:45 PM

Revival of the cell phone vs. the brain?

by Casey Rentz in Natural Selections

I don't want to hear it again--cell phone waves are harmful to your brain...stick your face close enough for long enough and you'll turn to mush. But, there's a new paper out there that I'm afraid might catch on as fodder for the pseudoscience susceptible.[Just cool animation. Not part of the study.]Scientists at Caltech recently found that weak electrical fields in the brain might cause neurons to fire in sync. It's really kinda neat. Researchers dropped a cluster of minuscule electrodes into a........ Read more »

Anastassiou CA, Perin R, Markram H, & Koch C. (2011) Ephaptic coupling of cortical neurons. Nature neuroscience, 14(2), 217-23. PMID: 21240273  

  • February 15, 2011
  • 04:58 PM

Cannabis Use and Psychosis (Part 2)

by William Yates, M.D. in Brain Posts

I reviewed a research study last fall examining a Dutch study of cannabis use and psychotic symptoms.  That post is linked here.  In summary, the study suggested cannabis probably does not produce psychotic symptoms in the majority of users.  However, if you have a family member with a psychotic disorder (suggesting you may have a genetic risk for psychosis) you may be more likely to experience psychotic symptoms (i.e. hallucinations/delusions) with cannabis use.  This risk m........ Read more »

  • February 14, 2011
  • 07:09 PM

Posterior Hippocampus and Sexual Frequency

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Fig. 2D (Acevedo et al., 2011). Image and scatter plot illustrating greater response to the Partner (vs. a highly familiar acquaintance) in the region of the posterior hippocampus is associated with higher sexual frequency.Now there's an unexpected correlation suitable for Valentine's Day. How romantic! Actually, it is romantic because the neuroimaging study by Acevedo et al. (2011) is entitled "Neural correlates of long-term intense romantic love." How do you quantify long-term intense romantic........ Read more »

Acevedo BP, Aron A, Fisher HE, & Brown LL. (2011) Neural correlates of long-term intense romantic love. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience. PMID: 21208991  

  • February 14, 2011
  • 02:46 PM

‘You had me at hello’ – Love at First Sight

by Ben Good in B Good Science

Valentine’s day is upon us. With love hearts adorning every shop window, radio stations playing non-stop love songs and an army of loved up teddy bears invading homes there is never a better time to look at the science of love. A recent meta-analysis has indicated that falling in love can take a little as … Read more... Read more »

Ortigue S, Bianchi-Demicheli F, Patel N, Frum C, & Lewis JW. (2010) Neuroimaging of love: fMRI meta-analysis evidence toward new perspectives in sexual medicine. The journal of sexual medicine, 7(11), 3541-52. PMID: 20807326  

  • February 14, 2011
  • 12:52 PM

Phantom orgasms, masturbation, and the female "problem"

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

Happy Valentine's Day! So I know it's all the rage to take a popular culture topic and write science-y about it. So I'm doing it to. Whatever. I like to indulge once and a while.To celebrate the love and intimacy of this beautiful day, we're gonna talk about some nice, classic, sex studies from days gone by. There've been some... interesting hypotheses and theories about sex, sexuality, and orgasm over the years, which have produced some good, chuckle-worthy studies (and quite a few serious ones........ Read more »

Graber B, Rohrbaugh JW, Newlin DB, Varner JL, & Ellingson RJ. (1985) EEG during masturbation and ejaculation. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 14(6), 491-503. PMID: 4084049  

  • February 14, 2011
  • 01:24 AM

Eating, Stress, Reward, and Obesity

by Scicurious in Neurotic Physiology

Sci recently covered a mouse paper on dieting and subsequent high fat eating in mice (LINK), and then she found THIS paper, on stress reactions in overweight humans! And I like how the two link up. So let’s take a look at this one, and then go back to the OTHER one, and see how [...]... Read more »

  • February 13, 2011
  • 09:42 PM

Existential Neuroscience

by Psychothalamus in Psychothalamus

Is it reasonable to fear death? If you agree with Lucretius, you will say no. In what is known as the Symmetry Argument, Lucretius contends that that the time before our existence is similar to the time of our future non-existence. And since we do not fear the time before we existed, it is not reasonable to fear our future non-existence i.e. death. ... Read more »

  • February 13, 2011
  • 02:33 PM

The Mystery of Stiff Person Syndrome

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

"Stiff Person Syndrome" (SPS) is a rare neurological disease with a silly name but serious symptoms.Not in fact a disorder caused by an overdose of Viagra, the defining feature of SPS is uncontrollable muscle rigidity, which comes and goes in bouts, but generally gets worse over time. However, other symptoms are seen including depression, anxiety, and other neurological features such as cerebellar ataxia.What causes SPS? Well, it's been known for over 20 years that most SPS patients have antibod........ Read more »

Geis, C., Weishaupt, A., Grünewald, B., Wultsch, T., Reif, A., Gerlach, M., Dirkx, R., Solimena, M., Perani, D., Heckmann, M.... (2011) Human Stiff-Person Syndrome IgG Induces Anxious Behavior in Rats. PLoS ONE, 6(2). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016775  

  • February 12, 2011
  • 12:35 PM

Brains never rest

by davejhayes in neurosphere

Whilst part of what we perceive comes through our senses from the object before us, another part (and it may be the larger part) always comes out of our own head.... Read more »

  • February 10, 2011
  • 12:13 PM

On the nature of sensorimotor integration for speech processes

by Greg Hickok in Talking Brains

For the last few years I have been thinking a lot about a few different things: What specifically is our proposed dorsal stream doing? How does the motor system contribute to speech perception? What is the relation between sensorimotor processes used during speech production (e.g., feedback-based motor control models) and purported sensorimotor processes in speech perception? How do computational models of speech production (e.g., feedback control models, psycholinguistic models, neurolinguist........ Read more »

  • February 10, 2011
  • 11:59 AM

Functional Brain Imaging in the Mouse

by William Yates, M.D. in Brain Posts

Functional magnetic brain imaging (fMRI) provides a new tool for understanding the brain in humans. It is already been helpful in understanding connectivity and focal brain region functions across a variety of domains, i.e. vision, hearing, motor function, somatic sensation and emotional processing. However, functional brain imaging in the mouse model has trailed structural brain imaging development. So why would fMRI be a potentially useful research tool in mice? There are several reasons......... Read more »

White, B., Bauer, A., Snyder, A., Schlaggar, B., Lee, J., & Culver, J. (2011) Imaging of Functional Connectivity in the Mouse Brain. PLoS ONE, 6(1). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016322  

  • February 10, 2011
  • 08:54 AM

Phrenology, Then and Now

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

In the November 2010 issue of Perspectives in Psychological Sciences, a Special Section on "Neuroimaging: Voodoo, New Phrenology, or Scientific Breakthrough?" (Diener, 2010) looks back at the infamous paper by Vul et al. (2009) and forward into the future. In one of the articles, an extended analogy is made between modern neuroimaging and the phrenology of yore (Poldrack, 2010):Imagine that fMRI had been invented in the 1860s rather than the 1990s. Instead of being based on modern cognitive p........ Read more »

  • February 10, 2011
  • 07:30 AM

Just a heartbeat away from one’s body

by Lorimer Moseley in BodyInMind

Body image means different things to different people. To many it refers to how one feels about one’s body.  To us, it refers to how one’s body feels to oneself and how one perceives its shape, orientation, agency and ownership.  Hopefully you can see that body image is critical to pain, because pain is, we [...]... Read more »

  • February 9, 2011
  • 05:15 PM

Why is Broca's aphasia/area the focus of research on "syntactic comprehension"? Was it a historical accident?

by Greg Hickok in Talking Brains

Arguably it was the classic paper by Caramazza and Zurif, published in 1976, that kicked off what turned into decades of research on the role of Broca's area in syntactic computation. We all know from our grade school lessons that Caramazza and Zurif found that Broca's aphasics exhibit not only agrammatic production, but also a profound deficit in using syntactic knowledge in sentence comprehension. The critical bit of evidence was that Broca's aphasics seemed perfectly fine in using semantic ........ Read more »

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