Neuroscience Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system. Traditionally, neuroscience has been seen as a branch of biology. However, it is currently an interdisciplinary science that collaborates with other fields such as chemistry, computer science, engineering, linguistics, mathematics, medicine and allied disciplines, philosophy, physics, and psychology. It also exerts influence on other fields, such as neuroeducation and neurolaw. The term neurobiology is usually used interchangeably with the term neuroscience, although the former refers specifically to the biology of the nervous system, whereas the latter refers to the entire science of the nervous system. Because of the increasing number of scientists who study the nervous system, several prominent neuroscience organizations have been formed to provide a forum to all neuroscientists and educators. History The study of the nervous system dates back to ancient Egypt. Modern neuroscience Human nervous system
Eight weeks to a better brain Participating in an eight-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress. In a study that will appear in the Jan. 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a team led by Harvard-affiliated researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) reported the results of their study, the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain’s gray matter. “Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology. Subscribe to the Daily Gazette Sign up for daily emails with the latest Harvard news.
Can You Think Yourself Into A Different Person? Rubin Museum of Art:Brainwave 2010 If you are only now catching up with Brainwave, or you want to revisit some of the best of the last seven years, this ten-episode DVD is available at the museum’s Shop or online at What happens in our brains when we attempt to overcome adversity, survive tests of endurance and stay focused under pressure? This is the subject of the seventh annual Brainwave, a series of on-stage conversations, films and experiences. Tickets Brainwave programs tend to sell out, so advance purchase is strongly recommended. To receive updates, join the Brainwave mailing list: sign up here. Leading Sponsor Featured Events Buy Tickets TALK | Friday, April 11, 7:00 p.m.The Yoga TeacherElena Brower + Kenneth Perrine$20 | Learn More Buy Tickets TALK | Friday, April 25, 7:00 p.m. Buy Tickets TALK | Friday, May 2, 7:00 p.m. Recent Events TALK | Monday, January 6, 7:00 p.m. TALK | Saturday, January 11, 6:00 p.m. TALK | Friday, January 31, 7:00 p.m. Film Past Conversations
Meditation found to increase brain size Kris Snibbe/Harvard News Office Sara Lazar (center) talks to research assistant Michael Treadway and technologist Shruthi Chakrapami about the results of experiments showing that meditation can increase brain size. People who meditate grow bigger brains than those who don’t. Researchers at Harvard, Yale, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found the first evidence that meditation can alter the physical structure of our brains. Brain scans they conducted reveal that experienced meditators boasted increased thickness in parts of the brain that deal with attention and processing sensory input. In one area of gray matter, the thickening turns out to be more pronounced in older than in younger people. “Our data suggest that meditation practice can promote cortical plasticity in adults in areas important for cognitive and emotional processing and well-being,” says Sara Lazar, leader of the study and a psychologist at Harvard Medical School. Controlling random thoughts
New Clues to Just How Much the Adult Brain Can Change A boy with ambylopia exercises his weaker eye Popular neuroscience books have made much in recent years of the possibility that the adult brain is capable of restoring lost function or even enhancing cognition through sustained mental or physical activities. One piece of evidence often cited is a 14-year-old study that that shows that London taxi drivers have enlarged hippocampi, brain areas that store a mental map of one’s surroundings. A mini-industry now peddles books with titles like The Brain that Changes Itself or Rewire Your Brain: Think Your Way to a Better Life. Beyond the controversy, however, scientists have taken a number of steps in recent years to start to answer the basic biological questions that may ultimately lead to a deeper understanding of neuroplasticity. The researchers probed further and earlier this year published on a particular circuit that acts as a sort of neural volume control in the visual cortex. Image Source: National Eye Institute Gary Stix
AtGoogleTalks AtGoogleTalks (or @Google Talks or Talks@Google) is a series of presentations by invited speakers sponsored by Google given at various Google offices throughout the world. The series has feature categories such as Authors@Google, Candidates@Google, Women@Google, Musicians@Google and others. For technical topics, there is Google Tech Talks (also known as EngEDU) which is dedicated to exploring areas of technology and science. In March 2006, Google announced that videos of the talks would be available on Google Videos. Most are now put on YouTube before they are put on Google Videos. Speakers include Lady Gaga, musician List of speakers, by category and date Authors@Google Comedians@Google Eddie Izzard, British stand-up comic and actor, delivered August 15, 2011.Stephen Colbert, American comedian and television host, delivered December 7, 2012. Broadway@Google Candidates@Google Chefs@Google Education@Google Leading@Google Lady Gaga
Meditation’s positive residual effects A new study has found that participating in an eight-week meditation training program can have measurable effects on how the brain functions even when someone is not actively meditating. In their report in the November issue of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, investigators at Harvard Medical School-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Boston University (BU), and several other research centers also found differences in those effects based on the specific type of meditation practiced. “The two different types of meditation training our study participants completed yielded some differences in the response of the amygdala — a part of the brain known for decades to be important for emotion — to images with emotional content,” says Gaëlle Desbordes, a research fellow at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at MGH and at the BU Center for Computational Neuroscience and Neural Technology, corresponding author of the report.
Exercise and Learning: How Physical Activity Boosts the Brain Slide 2 of 4 How the Brain Learns and Creates Memories As fundamental as the neurotransmitters are, there’s another class of master molecules that, over the past 15 years, has dramatically changed our understanding of connections in the brain. I’m talking about a family of proteins referred to as "factors," the most prominent of which is the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Whereas neurotransmitters carry out signaling, neurotrophins, such as BDNF, build and maintain the infrastructure itself. Once it became clear to researchers that BDNF was present in the hippocampus, the area of the brain related to memory and learning, they set out to test whether it was a necessary ingredient in the process. Say you’re learning a French word. Early on, researchers found that if they sprinkled BDNF onto neurons in a petri dish, the cells automatically sprouted new branches, producing the same structural growth required for learning. So how does the brain amp up its supply of BDNF?