Research opportunities lie in using epigenetics to study learning and development.... Read more »
Plomin R, & Daniels D. (2011) Why are children in the same family so different from one another?. International journal of epidemiology, 40(3), 563-82. PMID: 21807642
“You made a circle”, exclaimed Ethan proudly as he looked up from his drawing. “You did make a circle”, his mum acknowledged, ignoring the fact that, not for the first time, Ethan had reversed the pronoun, saying “you” when he should have said “I”. Ethan was one of six children from Providence, Rhode Island taking part in a study of child language development. Every couple of weeks, a researcher from Brown University would visit him and his mum at home, record, and then transcrib........ Read more »
Evans KE, & Demuth K. (2011) Individual differences in pronoun reversal: Evidence from two longitudinal case studies. Journal of Child Language, 1-30. PMID: 21669013
Drugs that could modify or erase memories could soon be possible. We shouldn't rush to judge them unethical, says a Nature opinion piece by Adam Kolber, of the Neuroethics & Law Blog.
The idea of a pill that could make you forget something, or that could modify the emotional charge of a past experience, does seem rather disturbing.
Yet experiments on animals have gone a long to revealing the molecular mechanisms behind the formation and maintanence of memory traces. Much of the early work ........ Read more »
Live imaging of synapse firing.... Read more »
Chen, X., Leischner, U., Rochefort, N., Nelken, I., & Konnerth, A. (2011) Functional mapping of single spines in cortical neurons in vivo. Nature, 475(7357), 501-505. DOI: 10.1038/nature10193
A recent paper from Brents et al. (PubMed) presents the data that we've been hearing about for the past several months. I think leigh of the Neurodynamics blog (see posts on THC and cannabimimetic/JWH-018 pharmacology), may have been the first to report seeing these data at a meeting and then I ran across them at CPDD this past June.
As many of you are fully aware by now, the past couple years has witnessed the emergence of broad popular use of "synthetic marijuana" or cannabimimetic products........ Read more »
Brents LK, Reichard EE, Zimmerman SM, Moran JH, Fantegrossi WE, & Prather PL. (2011) Phase I Hydroxylated Metabolites of the K2 Synthetic Cannabinoid JWH-018 Retain In Vitro and In Vivo Cannabinoid 1 Receptor Affinity and Activity. PloS one, 6(7). PMID: 21755008
In my answer to Question 1 I suggested that mirror neurons can be viewed analogously to canonical neurons, that is, as a sensory-motor association system involved in action selection, not action understanding. Here is Gallese's response to this suggestion:
According to GH, both classes of neurons instantiate the action-oriented coding typical of the dorsal stream, whereas object and action semantics would be exclusively provided by the ventral stream. However, an exclu- sive action-oriented ch........ Read more »
Lots of networks have been compared to urban systems. Remember when the internet was referred to as the information superhighway? And high school biology teachers have been comparing the workings of cells to city operations for decades. To what extent, though, might a brain be like a city?... Read more »
Changizi, M., & Destefano, M. (2009) Common scaling laws for city highway systems and the mammalian neocortex. Complexity. DOI: 10.1002/cplx.20288
In a defining image of the recent English riots, a man helped an injured youngster to his feet while an accomplice stole from the same victim's bag. This sheer lack of empathy on the part of the perpetrators has shaken observers to their core. How could humans display such a lack of altruism toward their fellow man?
A possible clue comes from a new brain imaging study that has examined links between the neural correlates of empathy, an act of altruism, and participants' subjective sense of thei........ Read more »
Ma, Y., Wang, C., & Han, S. (2011) Neural responses to perceived pain in others predict real-life monetary donations in different socioeconomic contexts. NeuroImage, 57(3), 1273-1280. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.05.003
Identification of neuro-physiological causes of working memory decline in old age... Read more »
Wang, M., Gamo, N., Yang, Y., Jin, L., Wang, X., Laubach, M., Mazer, J., Lee, D., & Arnsten, A. (2011) Neuronal basis of age-related working memory decline. Nature, 476(7359), 210-213. DOI: 10.1038/nature10243
Imagine a patient goes to see his general practitioner, complaining of exhaustion. He can't sleep, and he'd like a referral to a sleep clinic so he can get some answers. First, his doctor wants to administer a quick test. She holds a device like a felt-tipped pen just under her patient's nose and has him sniff. "Sure, I can smell that," he says. She gives him three pens and asks which one smells different from the other two. "They all smell like peppermint to me," the patient says. "Okay," the d........ Read more »
Maurage, P., Callot, C., Chang, B., Philippot, P., Rombaux, P., & de Timary, P. (2011) Olfactory Impairment Is Correlated with Confabulation in Alcoholism: Towards a Multimodal Testing of Orbitofrontal Cortex. PLoS ONE, 6(8). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023190
Now that people have had a chance to digest the recently published "Mirror Neuron Forum" (Perspectives on Psychological Science 6(4) 369–407) I think it would be useful to revisit some of the claims and counter-claims. I will start working through some of the points in a series of posts. Of course, my focus will be on the parts of the forum that I participated in, but if you have some comments and thoughts on any part of it, feel free to email me and I'll post it as "guest post".
I would li........ Read more »
Gallese V, & Goldman A. (1998) Mirror neurons and the simulation theory of mind-reading. Trends in cognitive sciences, 2(12), 493-501. PMID: 21227300
Polar explorers and the Inuit often experience photokeratitis, a painful eye condition commonly referred to as snow blindness. It is caused by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun reflecting off a landscape of white snow. The Inuit of the Arctic solved this problem by fashioning snow goggles from caribou antlers (Rangifer tarandus); similar goggles were later adopted by many polar explorers.
Figure 1. Caribou feeding on lichens in the Arctic. (From Flickr/Billy Lin........ Read more »
Hogg, C., Neveu, M., Stokkan, K., Folkow, L., Cottrill, P., Douglas, R., Hunt, D., & Jeffery, G. (2011) Arctic reindeer extend their visual range into the ultraviolet. Journal of Experimental Biology, 214(12), 2014-2019. DOI: 10.1242/jeb.053553
PLoS ONE offers the confessions of a former medical ghostwriter: Being the Ghost in the Machine.
The article (which is open access and short, so well worth a read) explains how Linda Logdberg became a medical writer; what excited her about the job; what she actually did; and what made her eventually give it up.
Ghostwriting of course has a bad press at the moment and it's recently been banned by some leading research centres. Ghostwriting certainly is concerning, because of what it implies ab........ Read more »
Logdberg, L. (2011) Being the Ghost in the Machine: A Medical Ghostwriter's Personal View. PLoS Medicine, 8(8). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001071
The advent of neuroimaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has revolutionized autism research. We can now look into the brain and see the "neural correlates" of autism. But, as with any form of correlation, identifying a neural correlate doesn't necessarily mean that we have identified a neural cause.
A case in point. Earlier this week I stumbled across a press release doing the rounds of the internet, proclaiming that "Brain imaging research reveals why autistic indiv........ Read more »
Mizuno A, Liu Y, Williams DL, Keller TA, Minshew NJ, & Just MA. (2011) The neural basis of deictic shifting in linguistic perspective-taking in high-functioning autism. Brain : a journal of neurology. PMID: 21733887
One of the interesting things about the Madl, Baars, Franklin LIDA model is the number of memory stores that it envisages. I have thought of consciousness as the ‘leading edge of memory’, at least of episodic memory. Hence my interest in the model’s use of memory.
Let us walk through their cognitive cycle to see [...]... Read more »
Optogenetics has recently emerged in neuroscience and was named Method of the Year by Nature in 2010. This post uses the recent advances in Optogenetics as an example of how a new scientific method can rapidly change an area of science.... Read more »
Rolls A, Colas D, Adamantidis A, Carter M, Lanre-Amos T, Heller HC, & de Lecea L. (2011) Optogenetic disruption of sleep continuity impairs memory consolidation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(32), 13305-10. PMID: 21788501
Ye H, Daoud-El Baba M, Peng RW, & Fussenegger M. (2011) A synthetic optogenetic transcription device enhances blood-glucose homeostasis in mice. Science (New York, N.Y.), 332(6037), 1565-8. PMID: 21700876
Sci will be honest: I hate Brazil nuts. I have no idea why anyone eats them, they always taste all sour and gritty and WEIRD. The taste just kind of lingers in your teeth. But what if it didn’t just linger in your teeth? What if it lingered in your…semen? Ah, Sci, you say. You’re [...]... Read more »
Bansal AS, Chee R, Nagendran V, Warner A, & Hayman G. (2007) Dangerous liaison: sexually transmitted allergic reaction to Brazil nuts. Journal of investigational allergology , 17(3), 189-91. PMID: 17583107
It sounds like a post-apocalyptic scene from a B movie, but it’s not. Jonathan Kingdon, who mammalogists will know as the author of the The Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals and many other books on African mammals, and his colleagues discovered one of the most interesting and unusual behaviors in mammals.
The African crested rat (Lophiomys imhausi) looks like a cross between a guinea pig and a skunk (Figure 1). They have long, shaggy black and white fur, leading some mammalogi........ Read more »
Kingdon, J., Agwanda, B., Kinnaird, M., O'Brien, T., Holland, C., Gheysens, T., Boulet-Audet, M., & Vollrath, F. (2011) A poisonous surprise under the coat of the African crested rat. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1169
A new study suggests that a gene known to be causally linked to schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders is involved in the formation of connections between the two hemispheres of the brain. DISC1 is probably the most famous gene in psychiatric genetics, and rightly so. It was discovered in a large Scottish pedigree, where 18 members were affected by psychiatric disease.
The diagnoses ranged from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder to depression and a range of “minor” psychiatric con........ Read more »
Osbun N, Li J, O'Driscoll MC, Strominger Z, Wakahiro M, Rider E, Bukshpun P, Boland E, Spurrell CH, Schackwitz W.... (2011) Genetic and functional analyses identify DISC1 as a novel callosal agenesis candidate gene. American journal of medical genetics. Part A, 155(8), 1865-76. PMID: 21739582
Halgren C, Kjaergaard S, Bak M, Hansen C, El-Schich Z, Anderson CM, Henriksen KF, Hjalgrim H, Kirchhoff M, Bijlsma EK.... (2011) Corpus Callosum Abnormalities, Mental Retardation, Speech Impairment, and Autism in Patients with Haploinsufficiency of ARID1B. Clinical genetics. PMID: 21801163
A news feature in Nature asks whether placebo controls are always a good idea: Why Fake It?
The piece looks at experimental neurosurgical treatments for Parkinson's, such as "Spheramine". This consists of cultured human cells, which are implanted directly into the brain of the sufferer. The idea is that the cells will grow and help produce dopamine, which is deficient in Parkinson's.
Peggy Willocks, a 44 year old teacher, took part in a trial of the surgery in 2000. She says it helped stave of........ Read more »
Katsnelson, A. (2011) Experimental therapies for Parkinson's disease: Why fake it?. Nature, 476(7359), 142-144. DOI: 10.1038/476142a
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