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  • November 7, 2011
  • 05:30 AM

Evaluating dry eyes

by Pablo Artal in Optics confidential

Dry eye is a condition affecting millions of people. Surprisingly there is a lack of objective methods to evaluate tear film quality. A new optical method is described here, discussing implications and more...... Read more »

  • November 5, 2011
  • 12:15 PM

Hippocampus (or should I say, elephant-campus)

by Jordan Gaines in Gaines, on Brains

Anybody with a pet wonders whether their animals can feel emotion. Scientific studies have reported signs of joy in rats, empathy in mice, and anger in baboons. We've all heard about pets who stand vigil over sick or dying owners, dogs who adopt extreme levels of responsibility for the blind or disabled, and my friend has a cat who is particularly affectionate when she isn't feeling well, physically or emotionally. Elephants, in particular, demonstrate particularly high levels of grief........ Read more »

Hakeem, A., Hof, P., Sherwood, C., Switzer, R., Rasmussen, L., & Allman, J. (2005) Brain of the African elephant (Loxodonta africana): Neuroanatomy from magnetic resonance images. The Anatomical Record Part A: Discoveries in Molecular, Cellular, and Evolutionary Biology, 287A(1), 1117-1127. DOI: 10.1002/ar.a.20255  

  • November 4, 2011
  • 09:30 AM

The adaptability of smell

by Maria Delaney in Science Calling

As a child in school, I remember learning about the five senses. As part of our lesson, we were asked to pick a sense that we thought we could live without. This question has resurfaced numerous times since then and without thinking I always say smell. This week I spotted some new research in the Journal of Neuroscience which tested the role that newborn neurons play in long-term memory. It has made me realise smell should be higher in my estimation.... Read more »

  • November 4, 2011
  • 05:28 AM

Is FoxP a coin with autism on one side and schizophrenia on the other?

by Björn Brembs in

The FOXP2 gene is well-known for its involvement in language disorders. We are just getting ready to publish our discovery that a relative of this gene in the fruit fly Drosophila, dFoxP, is necessary for a learning mechanism that resembles language learning in a lot of ways, operant self-learning. This discovery traces one of the evolutionary roots of language back to the 'Urbilaterian', the last common ancestor of invertebrates and vertebrates, more than half a billion years before the first w........ Read more »

Crespi, B., Stead, P., & Elliot, M. (2009) Comparative genomics of autism and schizophrenia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(suppl_1), 1736-1741. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0906080106  

  • November 4, 2011
  • 05:18 AM

Dream Action, Real Brain Activation

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

A neat little study has brought Inception one step closer to reality. The authors used fMRI to show that dreaming about doing something causes similar brain activation to actually doing it.The authors took four guys who were all experienced lucid dreamers - able to become aware that they're dreaming, in the middle of a dream. They got them to go to sleep in an fMRI scanner. Their mission was to enter a lucid dream and move their hands in it - first their left, then their right, and so on. They a........ Read more »

Dresler M, Koch SP, Wehrle R, Spoormaker VI, Holsboer F, Steiger A, Sämann PG, Obrig H, & Czisch M. (2011) Dreamed Movement Elicits Activation in the Sensorimotor Cortex. Current biology : CB. PMID: 22036177  

  • November 3, 2011
  • 11:29 PM

Goodbye, sun. Hello, confused suprachiasmatic nucleus!

by Jordan Gaines in Gaines, on Brains

The end of Daylight Savings Time occurs at 2 a.m. this Sunday. For most of us, changing our clocks back an hour is no big deal—in fact, it has its perks over "spring forward" in that we get an extra hour of sleep. But for others, changing the time can have a big impact on our circadian rhythm.... Read more »

  • November 3, 2011
  • 09:07 AM

Nicotine primes the brain to embrace cocaine

by United Academics in United Academics

In a study published this week in Science Translational Medicine, Kandel and her team now show that, in mice at least, nicotine causes epigenetic changes — long-lasting changes in the control of gene expression — that subsequently boost the response to cocaine. The reverse didn’t hold, however. Cocaine had no effect on nicotine-induced behaviour. ... Read more »

Amir Levine1,, YanYou Huang1,, Bettina Drisaldi1,, Edmund A. Griffin Jr., Daniela D. Pollak, Shiqin Xu1, Deqi Yin1, Christine Schaffran, & Eric R. Kandel. (2011) Molecular Mechanism for a Gateway Drug: Epigenetic Changes Initiated by Nicotine Prime Gene Expression by Cocaine. Science Translational Medicine, 3(107), 107-109. info:/10.1126/scitranslmed.3003062

  • November 2, 2011
  • 06:33 PM

Marijuana: The New Generation

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox

  What’s in that “Spice” packet?
They first turned up in Europe and the U.K.; those neon-colored foil packets labeled “Spice,” sold in small stores and novelty shops, next to the 2 oz. power drinks and the caffeine pills. Unlike the stimulants known as mephedrone or M-Cat, or the several variations on the formula for MDMA—both of which have also been marketed as Spice and “bath salts”—the bulk of the new products in the Spice line were synthetic versions of cannabis. ........ Read more »

  • November 2, 2011
  • 11:23 AM

Is beat induction species-specific?

by Henkjan Honing in Music Matters

Most animal studies have used behavioral methods to probe the presence (or absence) of beat induction, such as tapping tasks or measuring head bobs. It might well be that if more direct electrophysiological measures are used, nonhuman primates might indeed also show beat induction.

Its this hypothesis that that is the topic of a new and exiting collaboration of the University of Amsterdam with that of Hugo Merchant at the Institute of Neurobiology in Querétaro, Mexico. ... Read more »

  • November 2, 2011
  • 10:43 AM

What is peer-review for?

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

(This is re-posted from the Scientific American Guest Blog)There is a lot of back and forth right now amongst the academic technorati about the "future of peer review". The more I read about this, the more I've begun to step back and ask, in all seriousness:What is scientific peer-review for?This is, I believe, a damn important question to have answered. To put my money where my mouth is I'm going to answer my own question, in my own words:The scientific peer-review process increases the probabi........ Read more »

  • November 1, 2011
  • 04:49 AM

Trip or Treat?

by Neurobonkers in Neurobonkers

Experience a hallucination without psychedelics... Read more »

Caputo GB. (2010) Strange-face-in-the-mirror illusion. Perception, 39(7), 1007-8. PMID: 20842976  

  • November 1, 2011
  • 02:18 AM

hypnosis may be real but rare

by Janet Kwasniak in Thoughts on thoughts

A recent paper (citation below) has investigated a particular person who is very easy to hypnotize. The authors make an argument for single case studies at the beginning of an investigation. I found this interesting because I usually feel disappointment in single case studies. This defense seemed to make sense.
We propose that the research field [...]... Read more »

Kallio, S., Hyönä, J., Revonsuo, A., Sikka, P., & Nummenmaa, L. (2011) The Existence of a Hypnotic State Revealed by Eye Movements. PLoS ONE, 6(10). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026374  

  • October 31, 2011
  • 04:13 PM

The Google of Negative Results

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

A new online resource has been launched which offers us the chance to find out what isn't happening in science.BioNOT is a free searchable database of negative findings in biology and medicine.Text mining approaches to the scientific literature have become increasingly popular as a way of helping researchers to make sense of a growing number of papers. But they've tended to focus on positive findings and skim over negative ones. In this sense they're following in the tradition of scientists them........ Read more »

  • October 31, 2011
  • 11:50 AM

The "jumping genes" of the brain

by EE Giorgi in CHIMERAS

Have you ever wondered how a single cob of Indian corn can display so many beautiful colors? The answer came in 1948 thanks to scientist Barbara McClintock: she discovered that 50% of the maize genome is made of transposons, DNA sequences that can "jump" around in the DNA of a single cell. As they move around, these "jumping genes" can "stretch" the DNA by adding repeated copies, but they can also cause new mutations to appear. In the case of corn, the new mutations are responsible for the diffe........ Read more »

Cordaux R, & Batzer MA. (2009) The impact of retrotransposons on human genome evolution. Nature reviews. Genetics, 10(10), 691-703. PMID: 19763152  

Baillie, J., Barnett, M., Upton, K., Gerhardt, D., Richmond, T., De Sapio, F., Brennan, P., Rizzu, P., Smith, S., Fell, M.... (2011) Somatic retrotransposition alters the genetic landscape of the human brain. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature10531  

  • October 31, 2011
  • 08:29 AM

'The neurobiology of self-learning' - the birth of a new field in neuroscience?

by Björn Brembs in

It's been a while since I've last been so excited about a new finding by someone else And until today, this paper from last week even flew completely under my radar. I had seen the title and decided it's not relevant. A collaborator of mine sent it to me after she found it searching for a current affiliation of a former postdoc of hers - which was how she realized how pertinent this work was to our research and sent it to me (which says something about the way scientists are able to stay on to........ Read more »

Rochefort, C., Arabo, A., Andre, M., Poucet, B., Save, E., & Rondi-Reig, L. (2011) Cerebellum Shapes Hippocampal Spatial Code. Science, 334(6054), 385-389. DOI: 10.1126/science.1207403  

  • October 30, 2011
  • 12:00 PM

The Zombie Brain: Insatiable Hunger

by Bradley Voytek in Oscillatory Thoughts

This is the last symptom of the multi-day series on The Zombie Brain between Oscillatory Thoughts and The Cognitive Axon.Be sure to check out our last post tomorrow in which we wrap everything up.Symptom 9: Insatiable HungerWhat drives the zombie’s insatiable hunger for human flesh? In the last post we discussed the role of addiction in the zombie’s craving for your skin, but why are they never satisfied? Why, after having eating your entire family, will the zombie continue on to consume you........ Read more »

  • October 28, 2011
  • 04:20 PM

Why Don't Woodpeckers Get Concussions?

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

To help protect our big, fragile brains from trauma during sports, why not turn to another animal that voluntarily smashes its skull into solid objects? The woodpecker hammers its beak into tree trunks twelve thousand times a day at at fifteen miles an hour. In so doing, it drills out nests, finds tasty bugs, and does not (as far as one can tell) give itself brain damage. What's its secret?

Lizhen Wang at Beihang University in Beijing led a study to find out what makes the woodpecker so resilie........ Read more »

  • October 27, 2011
  • 05:23 PM

Your Homunculus Is A Liar

by Cris Campbell in Genealogy of Religion

The person who lives inside your head may seem rational and honest, but who is fooling who? If you are fortunate there is only one voice and if you are sober the voice should be sensible. Or so we would like to think. Two recent studies suggest otherwise. As it turns out, our homunculi are [...]... Read more »

von Hippel, W., & Trivers, R. (2011) The evolution and psychology of self-deception. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34(01), 1-16. DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X10001354  

Sharot, T., Korn, C., & Dolan, R. (2011) How unrealistic optimism is maintained in the face of reality. Nature Neuroscience, 14(11), 1475-1479. DOI: 10.1038/nn.2949  

  • October 27, 2011
  • 05:00 PM

Walk Along the Paper Trail: Rinberg Redoubt

by Michael Patterson in ...And You Will Know Me By The Trail of Papers

It's been too long since I wrote about, you know, actual science. Today I'm going to cover two recent papers from the Rinberg lab, which has been on fire lately.

"Precise" temporal coding in the olfactory bulb

While the core coding strategies used in the visual, auditory, and somatosensory systems are generally well defined, much less is known about coding in olfaction. Many people have imaged... Read more »

Shusterman R, Smear MC, Koulakov AA, & Rinberg D. (2011) Precise olfactory responses tile the sniff cycle. Nature neuroscience, 14(8), 1039-44. PMID: 21765422  

Smear M, Shusterman R, O'Connor R, Bozza T, & Rinberg D. (2011) Perception of sniff phase in mouse olfaction. Nature. PMID: 21993623  

  • October 27, 2011
  • 11:30 AM

Brain White Matter Changes Increase Dementia Risk

by William Yates, M.D. in Brain Posts

Diffuse White Matter Hyperintentsity in CADASILApproximately a year ago, I reviewed some of the growing evidence of the clinical significance of brain white matter intensities or lesions.  Magnetic resonance imaging identifies these types of lesions but their significance had been unknown.The review noted that white matter hyperintensities appear to increase future risk for several disorders including stroke and dementia.  Additionally, these lesions have increase mortality rates in so........ Read more »

Inaba M, White L, Bell C, Chen R, Petrovitch H, Launer L, Abbott RD, Ross GW, & Masaki K. (2011) White matter lesions on brain magnetic resonance imaging scan and 5-year cognitive decline: the Honolulu-Asia aging study. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 59(8), 1484-9. PMID: 21718274  

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