Eric Kandel is a titan of modern neuroscience. He won the Nobel Prize in 2000 not simply for discovering a new set of scientific facts (although he has discovered plenty of those), but for pioneering a new scientific approach. As he recounts in his memoir In Search of Memory, Kandel demonstrated that reductionist techniques could be applied to the brain, so that even something as mysterious as memory might be studied in sea slugs, as a function of kinase enzymes and synaptic proteins. (The memories in question involved the “habituation” of the slugs to a poke; they basically got bored of being prodded.) Because natural selection is a deeply conservative process – evolution doesn’t mess with success – it turns out that humans rely on almost all of the same neural ingredients as those inveterbrates. Memory has a nearly universal chemistry. LEHRER: The Age of Insight is, in part, a remarkable history of fin-de-siècle Vienna, which strikes me as an astonishingly rich creative period.
Brain 'entanglement' could explain memories - life - 12 January 2010Subatomic particles do it. Now the observation that groups of brain cells seem to have their own version of quantum entanglement, or "spooky action at a distance", could help explain how our minds combine experiences from many different senses into one memory. Previous experiments have shown that the electrical activity of neurons in separate parts of the brain can oscillate simultaneously at the same frequency – a process known as phase locking . Dietmar Plenz and Tara Thiagarajan at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, wondered whether more complicated signatures also link groups of neurons. In both cases, the researchers noticed that the voltage of the electrical signal in groups of neurons separated by up to 10 millimetres sometimes rose and fell with exactly the same rhythm. Perfect clones "The precision with which these new sites pick up on the activity of the initiating group is quite astounding – they are perfect clones," says Plenz. Promoted Stories
Personality Traits Correlate With Brain ActivityYour personality says a lot about you. To categorize people by their disposition, psychologists have long relied on questionnaires. Now, however, researchers may be closing in on a tangible view of character in the brain. According to a recent study in PLoS One, resting brain activity varies with a person’s scores on a well-established personality test. Even at rest, the brain hums with neural activity. Using functional MRI, the researchers monitored the resting state of 39 healthy participants and looked for regions that tended to activate together. Because the brain activity only correlated with the traits, Milham says it is too soon to tell whether the patterns reflect the neural embodiment of personality.
Holmes Institute School of Consciousness Studies.Brain scans support findings that IQ can rise or fall significantly during adolescenceIQ, the standard measure of intelligence, can increase or fall significantly during our teenage years, according to research funded by the Wellcome Trust, and these changes are associated with changes to the structure of our brains. The findings may have implications for testing and streaming of children during their school years. Across our lifetime, our intellectual ability is considered to be stable, with intelligence quotient (IQ) scores taken at one point in time used to predict educational achievement and employment prospects later in life. However, in a study published October 20 in the journal Nature, researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL (University College London) and the Centre for Educational Neuroscience show for the first time that, in fact, our IQ is not constant. The researchers, led by Professor Cathy Price, tested 33 healthy adolescents in 2004 when they were between the ages of 12 and 16 years.
The Brain: The Connections May Be the Key | Mind & BrainThere was just one problem: Nobody knew what the connectome looked like. MRI scans can capture the entire brain, but they can get down to a resolution of only a few cubic millimeters, not nearly fine enough. Other methods, such as staining, allow scientists to look at one neuron at a time but not to track the broader links between them. Seung needed a way to see every neuron in a given piece of brain tissue. He found the way by teaming up with scientists who know how to slice brains very, very thinly. Each image is a few hundredths of an inch across, but it’s packed with neural cross sections. Such images contain details far beyond what had ever been seen before. If memories really are encoded in cell assemblies the way Hebb claimed, Seung should be able to observe those assemblies (pdf). The collaboration between humans and computers has sped the process along. It would be simple enough, he suggests, for neurosurgeons to set aside a smidgen of tissue removed during human surgery.
Plot GeneratorTalking about neurocognitionAn On/Off Switch for Sex and ViolenceRECENTLY DEVELOPED powerful, yet also delicate and refined, genetic tools can invasively probe nervous systems of animals, far surpassing the safer but much cruder techniques that psychologists and cognitive neuroscientists use to observe the human brain. Now in a remarkable series of experiments, researchers have located a trigger for aggression in mice—providing us with fresh insights into the workings of our human consciousness. You might object that mice and men are not the same and that studying the murine mind is different from studying the human mind. This fact is obviously true. Yet both Mus musculus and Homo sapiens are nature’s children, sharing much perceptual, cognitive and affective processing. The same process of relentless evolutionary selection has shaped both species—our last common ancestor was a mere 75 million years ago. Aggression Center Our story starts in the hypothalamus, an ancient region of the brain, conserved throughout mammalian evolution.
Name Nerds!Were you one of 10 Jennifers or Mikes or Bobs or Lindas in your class at school? Or perhaps you were the only Moonbeam or Daejuwon in school and loved it, and wish to continue the tradition. In any case, here is a site that, hopefully, will break you out of the bonds of conventional naming trends and start you down the path to creativity. Unlike in past eras, when Johns and Marys reigned supreme, the21st century is marked by parents looking to different sources than the traditional naming pools when naming their children. ***NEW!!!10% of the Brain MythLet me state this very clearly: There is no scientific evidence to suggest that we use only 10% of our brains. Let's look at the possible origins of this "10% brain use" statement and the evidence that we use all of our brain. Where Did the 10% Myth Begin? The 10% statement may have been started with a misquote of Albert Einstein or the misinterpretation of the work of Pierre Flourens in the 1800s. Perhaps it was the work of Karl Lashley in the 1920s and 1930s that started it. The Evidence (or lack of it) Perhaps when people use the 10% brain statement, they mean that only one out of every ten nerve cells is essential or used at any one time? Furthermore, from an evolutionary point of view, it is unlikely that larger brains would have developed if there was not an advantage. Finally, the saying "Use it or Lose It" seems to apply to the nervous system. So next time you hear someone say that they only use 10% of their brain, you can set them straight. "We use 100% of our brains."
Consciousness Does Not Reside HereWHAT IS THE RELATION between selective attention and consciousness? When you strain to listen to the distant baying of coyotes over the sound of a campsite conversation, you do so by attending to the sound and becoming conscious of their howls. When you attend to your sparring opponent out of the corner of your eye, you become hyperaware of his smallest gestures. Because of the seemingly intimate relation between attention and consciousness, most scholars conflate the two processes. Indeed, when I came out of the closet to give public talks on the mind-body problem in the early 1990s (at that time, it wouldn’t do for a young professor in biology or engineering who had not even yet attained the holy state of tenure to talk about consciousness: it was considered too fringy), some of my colleagues insisted that I replace the incendiary “consciousness” with the more neutral “attention” because the two concepts could not be distinguished and were probably the same thing anyway.