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By Neuroskeptic Do you want to be more successful? Happier? More intelligent? Don’t despair. The answer, we’re told, is right in front of your nose—or rather, right behind it. It’s your own brain. Thanks to neuroscience, you can hack your gray matter. According to the sales pitch, almost anything is possible, if you can master your brain—and if you can afford to buy the products that promise to help you do that. But how many of these neuroproducts are neurobullshit? And what makes neuroscience so attractive to people with something to sell? I’m a neuroscientist who has been blogging about the brain for the past eight years. Over this time I’ve noticed a steady increase in the number of neuroscience-themed commercial products. There are brain pills to optimize your mental focus. There are futuristic-looking headbands that promise to measure or stimulate your neural activity in order to make you smarter, or help you sleep better, or even meditate better. There is no end of “brain training” apps and neuroscience-themed self-help books. These products tend to have names based around “Neuro” or “Brain.” And they will come advertised as being “created by neuroscientists,” “based on the latest brain research,” or at least endorsed by some leading brain expert. Once you look beyond the “neuro” gloss, however, you’ll see that many of these products aren’t new at all, but just old products in new packaging. A recent, and notorious, example of this was “Fifth Quarter Fresh,” a brand of chocolate milk.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 22090 - Posted: 04.11.2016

Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent When I picked up the human brain in my hands, several things ran through my mind. My immediate concern was I might drop it or that it would fall apart in my hands - fortunately neither happened. Second, I was struck by how light the human brain is. I should say this was half a brain - the right hemisphere - the left had already been sent for dissection. The intact human brain weighs only around 3lbs (1.5kg) - just 2% of body-weight, and yet it consumes 20% of its energy. The brain I was holding had been steeped in formalin, a preserving fluid, for about three weeks and is one of several hundred brains donated every year for medical research. It was only after I'd got used to the feel of the brain in my hands that I could then start to wonder about how such a simple-looking structure could be capable of so much. This brain had experienced, processed, interpreted an entire human life - the thoughts, emotions, language, memory, emotion, cognition, awareness, and consciousness - all the things that make us human and each of us unique. You may think yuck, but I'm with the scientists and surgeon who declare: "Brains are beautiful". The pathology team at the Bristol Brain Bank had kindly allowed us to film as part of the BBC "In the Mind" season, looking at many aspects of mental health. My brief was to examine some of the latest advances in neuroscience. There is a genuine sense of excitement among researchers about the direction and progress being made in our knowledge of the brain. © 2016 BBC.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior; Chapter 15: Brain Asymmetry, Spatial Cognition, and Language
Link ID: 21904 - Posted: 02.17.2016

By Brian Owens Guy Rouleau, the director of McGill University’s Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) and Hospital in Canada, is frustrated with how slowly neuroscience research translates into treatments. “We’re doing a really shitty job,” he says. “It’s not because we’re not trying; it has to do with the complexity of the problem.” So he and his colleagues at the renowned institute decided to try a radical solution. Starting this year, any work done there will conform to the principles of the “open-
science” movement—all results and data will be made freely available at the time of publication, for example, and the institute will not pursue patents on any of its discoveries. Although some large-scale initiatives like the government-funded Human Genome Project have made all data completely open, MNI will be the first scientific institute to follow that path, Rouleau says. “It’s an experiment; no one has ever done this before,” he says. The intent is that neuroscience research will become more efficient if duplication is reduced and data are shared more widely and earlier. Opening access to the tissue samples in MNI’s biobank and to its extensive databank of brain scans and other data will have a major impact, Rouleau hopes. “We think that it is a way to accelerate discovery and the application of neuroscience.” After a year of consultations among the institute’s staff, pretty much everyone—about 70 principal investigators and 600 other scientific faculty and staff—has agreed to take part, Rouleau says. Over the next 6 months, individual units will hash out the details of how each will ensure that its work lives up to guiding principles for openness that the institute has developed. They include freely providing all results, data, software, and algorithms; and requiring collaborators from other institutions to also follow the open principles. © 2016 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 21813 - Posted: 01.23.2016

Laura Sanders Faced with a shortage of the essential nutrient selenium, the brain and the testes duke it out. In selenium-depleted male mice, testes hog the trace element, leaving the brain in the lurch, scientists report in the Nov. 18 Journal of Neuroscience. The results are some of the first to show competition between two organs for trace nutrients, says analytical neurochemist Dominic Hare of the University of Technology Sydney and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Melbourne. In addition to uncovering this brain-testes scuffle, the study “highlights that selenium in the brain is something we can’t continue to ignore,” he says. About two dozen proteins in the body contain selenium, a nonmetallic chemical element. Some of these proteins are antioxidants that keep harmful molecules called free radicals from causing trouble. Male mice without enough selenium have brain abnormalities that lead to movement problems and seizures, neuroscientist Matthew Pitts of the University of Hawaii at Manoa and colleagues found. In some experiments, Pitts and his colleagues depleted selenium by interfering with genes. Male mice engineered to lack two genes that produce proteins required for the body to properly use selenium had trouble balancing on a rotating rod and moving in an open field. In their brains, a particular group of nerve cells called parvalbumin interneurons didn’t mature normally. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2015.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 21640 - Posted: 11.18.2015

Sarah Schwartz With outposts in nearly every organ and a direct line into the brain stem, the vagus nerve is the nervous system’s superhighway. About 80 percent of its nerve fibers — or four of its five “lanes” — drive information from the body to the brain. Its fifth lane runs in the opposite direction, shuttling signals from the brain throughout the body. Doctors have long exploited the nerve’s influence on the brain to combat epilepsy and depression. Electrical stimulation of the vagus through a surgically implanted device has already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a therapy for patients who don’t get relief from existing treatments. Now, researchers are taking a closer look at the nerve to see if stimulating its fibers can improve treatments for rheumatoid arthritis,heart failure, diabetes and even intractable hiccups. In one recent study, vagus stimulation made damaged hearts beat more regularly and pump blood more efficiently. Researchers are now testing new tools to replace implants with external zappers that stimulate the nerve through the skin. But there’s a lot left to learn. While studies continue to explore its broad potential, much about the vagus remains a mystery. In some cases, it’s not yet clear exactly how the nerve exerts its influence. And researchers are still figuring out where and how to best apply electricity. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2015.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Nervous System and Behavior; Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 2: Cells and Structures: The Anatomy of the Nervous System; Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 21633 - Posted: 11.14.2015

By James Gallagher Health editor, BBC News website A mass vaccination programme against meningitis A in Africa has been a "stunning success", say experts. More than 220 million people were immunised across 16 countries in the continent's meningitis belt. In 2013 there were just four cases across the entire region, which once faced thousands of deaths each year. However, there are fresh warnings from the World Health Organization that "huge epidemics" could return unless a new vaccination programme is started. The meningitis belt stretches across sub-Saharan Africa from Gambia in the west to Ethiopia in the east. In the worst epidemic recorded, in 1996-97, the disease swept across the belt infecting more than a quarter of a million people and led to 25,000 deaths. Unlike other vaccines, the MenAfriVac was designed specifically for Africa and in 2010 a mass vaccination campaign was started. "The disease has virtually disappeared from this part of the world," said Dr Marie-Pierre Preziosi from the World Health Organization. The mass immunisation programme was aimed at people under 30. However, routine vaccination will be needed to ensure that newborns are not vulnerable to the disease. Projections, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, showed the disease could easily return. Dr Preziosi told the BBC News website: "What could happen is a huge epidemic that could sweep the entire area, that could target hundreds of thousands of people with 5-10% deaths at least. © 2015 BBC

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 21624 - Posted: 11.11.2015

Jon Hamilton For a few days this week, a convention center in Chicago became the global epicenter of brain science. Nearly 30,000 scientists swarmed through the vast hallways of the McCormick Place convention center as part of the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting. Among them were Nobel Prize winners, the director of the National Institutes of Health, and scores of researchers regarded as the international rock stars of neuroscience. "It's amazing. I'm a bit overwhelmed," said Kara Furman, a graduate student from Yale who was attending her first Society for Neuroscience meeting. Furman was just one of several hundred neuroscientists I found standing in lines outside the center one afternoon, waiting for shuttle buses. She was pondering a presentation from a few hours earlier that she found "pretty mind-blowing." What was it about? "Using MRI techniques to access dopamine release at the molecular level," she told me, deadpan. Welcome to the five-day annual event that's become known simply as "The Neuro Meeting." It's where brain scientists from around the world come to present their own work and discover the "mind-blowing" research others are doing. And there are thousands of presentations to choose from. "I prepared an itinerary based on my interests and that ran into 20 pages," said Srinivas Bharath from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bangalore, India. © 2015 npr

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 21553 - Posted: 10.23.2015

By Melissa Dahl Next time you feel you are in danger of losing an argument, make some obscure reference to the brain. Any nod to neuroscience will do, even if it doesn’t actually illuminate the problem at hand or prove anything that halfway resembles a point. People tend to find explanations that include references to the brain very convincing, even if those references are mostly nonsense, according to the latest episode of "Psych Crunch," a podcast hosted by psychologist (and Science of Us contributor) Christian Jarrett. Jarrett interviews Sara Hodges, a research psychologist at the University of Oregon and the co-author of a study published this May on the appeal of “superfluous neuroscience information.” In it, Hodges and her colleagues presented students with a variety of explanations for various psychological phenomena. Some of these explanations were not really explanations at all, but rather just a restatement of the facts already presented. The students considered explanations for various quirks of human behavior from the fields of social science, biological science, and neuroscience, and rated how convincing they found each explanation. “The social sciences would refer to something about how people were raised, and the hard-science explanation referred to changes in DNA, the structure of DNA,” Hodges explained to Jarrett. The neuroscience explanation, on the other hand, would pretty much just name an area of the brain thought to be associated with the behavior at hand and leave matters at that, without really explaining anything. Even still, Hodges said, the “neuroscience explanations always came out on top — better than no explanation, better than social science, better than the hard science.” © 2015, New York Media LLC

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 21552 - Posted: 10.23.2015

by Ben Cipollini Thanks to Ms. Amazing, it’s now cliche to say, but hey… I really love SfN. For the uninitiated SfN is a thirty thousand person international conference for neuroscience–a conference so large, only a few cities in the US can handle it. Yes, that’s a giant C-SPAN2 bus that's dwarfed by this small section of the “Great Room”. For many, SfN evokes fear and dread; it’s truly overwhelming in its size, breadth, and depth. For me, it was love at first “OM*G!!!”. Don’t believe me, scientists? Let’s review the data: I loathe running, but I actually do it at SfN. One needs wheels to get from talks to posters to talks again. We filled the New Orleans convention center in 2012; it’s so long you you can actually get directions from one end of it to the other on Google Maps. Yes, that map does say “1.0 kilometers”. I hate crowds, but I will fight through the poster session crowds like a salmon heading upstream to spawn, just to get to one more poster before the end of the session. SfN may have more human traffic jams than China has vehicle jams during Golden week… but that won’t stop me from finding out how callosal connections have properties similar to those of long-range lateral connections, or to understand how hemispherectomy affects functional organization. You’d better too; you never know when one of your research heroes might be presenting the poster, or you’ll find yourself standing in front of a poster that winds up in Science just a few months later.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 21522 - Posted: 10.17.2015

James Gorman If spiders had nightmares, the larvae of ichneumonid wasps would have to star in them. The wasp lays an egg on the back of an orb weaver spider, where it grows fat and bossy, and occupies itself with turning the spider into a zombie. As Keizo Takasuka and his colleagues point out in The Journal of Experimental Biology, this is a classic case of “host manipulation.” Using more colorful language, he described the larva turning the spider into a “drugged navvy.” The larva forces the spider to turn its efforts away from maintaining a sticky, spiral web to catch prey, and to devote itself to building a safe and sturdy web to serve as a home for the larva’s cocoon, in which it will transform itself into a wasp. This process was well known, but Dr. Takasuka and Kaoru Maeto at Kobe University, working with other Japanese researchers, wanted to explore how the wasp overlords controlled their spiders. They suspected that the larvae were co-opting a natural behavior of the spiders. Turning on a behavior already in the spiders’ repertoire would be much easier than controlling every step of modifying a sticky web. So they compared the cocoon web to one that the spiders themselves build to rest in when they are molting. It’s called a resting web. The similarities were striking. In both the resting and cocoon webs, the sticky, spiraling threads that make the webs of orb weavers so appealing were gone. Instead, the spokes of the web remained, decorated with fibrous spider silk that the researchers found reflected ultraviolet light. That would be a highly useful quality to warn away birds and some large insects from flying into the web because those creatures can see in the ultraviolet spectrum. The strength of the two silk webs was also similar. © 2015 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 21403 - Posted: 09.14.2015

By GREGORY COWLES Oliver Sacks, the neurologist and acclaimed author who explored some of the brain’s strangest pathways in best-selling case histories like “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,” using his patients’ disorders as starting points for eloquent meditations on consciousness and the human condition, died on Sunday at his home in Manhattan. He was 82. The cause was cancer, said Kate Edgar, his longtime personal assistant. Dr. Sacks announced in February, in an Op-Ed essay in The New York Times, that an earlier melanoma in his eye had spread to his liver and that he was in the late stages of terminal cancer. As a medical doctor and a writer, Dr. Sacks achieved a level of popular renown rare among scientists. More than a million copies of his books are in print in the United States, his work was adapted for film and stage, and he received about 10,000 letters a year. (“I invariably reply to people under 10, over 90 or in prison,” he once said.) Dr. Sacks variously described his books and essays as case histories, pathographies, clinical tales or “neurological novels.” His subjects included Madeleine J., a blind woman who perceived her hands only as useless “lumps of dough”; Jimmie G., a submarine radio operator whose amnesia stranded him for more than three decades in 1945; and Dr. P. — the man who mistook his wife for a hat — whose brain lost the ability to decipher what his eyes were seeing. Describing his patients’ struggles and sometimes uncanny gifts, Dr. Sacks helped introduce syndromes like Tourette’s or Asperger’s to a general audience. But he illuminated their characters as much as their conditions; he humanized and demystified them. © 2015 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 21361 - Posted: 08.31.2015

By BENEDICT CAREY The past several years have been bruising ones for the credibility of the social sciences. A star social psychologist was caught fabricating data, leading to more than 50 retracted papers. A top journal published a study supporting the existence of ESP that was widely criticized. The journal Science pulled a political science paper on the effect of gay canvassers on voters’ behavior because of concerns about faked data. Now, a painstaking yearslong effort to reproduce 100 studies published in three leading psychology journals has found that more than half of the findings did not hold up when retested. The analysis was done by research psychologists, many of whom volunteered their time to double-check what they considered important work. Their conclusions, reported Thursday in the journal Science, have confirmed the worst fears of scientists who have long worried that the field needed a strong correction. The vetted studies were considered part of the core knowledge by which scientists understand the dynamics of personality, relationships, learning and memory. Therapists and educators rely on such findings to help guide decisions, and the fact that so many of the studies were called into question could sow doubt in the scientific underpinnings of their work. “I think we knew or suspected that the literature had problems, but to see it so clearly, on such a large scale — it’s unprecedented,” said Jelte Wicherts, an associate professor in the department of methodology and statistics at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. More than 60 of the studies did not hold up. Among them was one on free will. It found that participants who read a passage arguing that their behavior is predetermined were more likely than those who had not read the passage to cheat on a subsequent test. © 2015 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 21355 - Posted: 08.28.2015

Aaron E. Carroll If there is one health myth that will not die, it is this: You should drink eight glasses of water a day. It’s just not true. There is no science behind it. And yet every summer we are inundated with news media reports warning that dehydration is dangerous and also ubiquitous. These reports work up a fear that otherwise healthy adults and children are walking around dehydrated, even that dehydration has reached epidemic proportions. Let’s put these claims under scrutiny. I was a co-author of a paper back in 2007 in the BMJ on medical myths. The first myth was that people should drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. This paper got more media attention (even in The Times) than pretty much any other research I’ve ever done. It made no difference. When, two years later, we published a book on medical myths that once again debunked the idea that we need eight glasses of water a day, I thought it would persuade people to stop worrying. I was wrong again. Many people believe that the source of this myth was a 1945 Food and Nutrition Board recommendation that said people need about 2.5 liters of water a day. But they ignored the sentence that followed closely behind. It read, “Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.” Water is present in fruits and vegetables. It’s in juice, it’s in beer, it’s even in tea and coffee. Before anyone writes me to tell me that coffee is going to dehydrate you, research shows that’s not true either. Although I recommended water as the best beverage to consume, it’s certainly not your only source of hydration. You don’t have to consume all the water you need through drinks. You also don’t need to worry so much about never feeling thirsty. The human body is finely tuned to signal you to drink long before you are actually dehydrated. © 2015 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 21335 - Posted: 08.25.2015

Emily M. Keeler How smart are you? Would you be smarter if you ate more blueberries, played better video games, learned another language, or read the novels of Proust? What about if you did more crosswords? Took some pills? Electrically stimulated your brain? Or are you smart enough as is? Patricia Marx is, of course, pretty smart already. She’s a Guggenheim fellow, and a New Yorker Staff writer. She’s also funny as hell. Marx was the first woman elected to the Harvard Lampoon, and is a former writer for Saturday Night Live. Her new book, Let’s Be Less Stupid, takes readers on a chatty nosedive into her own neurological functioning, in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, we’ll all become a little smarter along the way. The book is the most recent entrant in the burgeoning field of pop-neuroscience, but with a liberal helping of humour. For four months, Marx did everything she could to add a few points to her IQ, including becoming adept with Luminosity, a video game app intended to improve cognitive function, and learning a little Cherokee in the hopes of multilingualism giving her brain a competitive advantage against the inevitable decline. When I called Marx to chat about her brain, she said she was sure her four months of compulsively chasing brain health hadn’t done her much good; in fact, she sheepishly admitted she’d already forgotten most of what she’d learned about the incredibly complex organ folded up inside our skulls. © 2015 National Post

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 21169 - Posted: 07.15.2015

By VIRGINIA HUGHES An extraterrestrial dropping into a modern-day hospital might be forgiven for thinking it was run by machines. Against a techno soundtrack of whirs and beeps, sleep-deprived doctors file in and out of exam rooms. They ask patients a series of standard questions, and make a few clicks on a computer to order a blood test or chest X-ray or pain meds. Then they hustle out the door to repeat the protocol on the impossibly large number of other patients under their watch. When their shifts end, some 12 or 18 or even 28 hours later, these zombies in blue scrubs are replaced by others, while the unflappable computers ease the handoff. The tech-centric approach to medicine has its benefits, to be sure. Imaging machines and genetic screening give doctors biological clues otherwise hidden. Computers can make hospitals more efficient, and prevent dumb mistakes. But the practice of medicine cannot be reduced to algorithms, pixels and protocols, as the neurologist Dr. Allan H. Ropper subtly argues in his entertaining book, “Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole.” (Read excerpt.) To Dr. Ropper, medicine is a craft — an art — that depends on the human interaction between doctor and patient. Like an episode of the popular television series “House,” the book presents mysterious medical cases from the behemoth Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The 10th floor holds the neurology inpatient ward, a place where, as Dr. Ropper and his co-author, Brian David Burrell, put it, “the strangest and most challenging cases are sent to be sorted out.” © 2015 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 21138 - Posted: 07.07.2015

Anthony Kulkamp Dias, a 33-year old Brazilian bank worker, performed a Beatles classic for the team of surgeons operating on his brain tumour. The video shot by one of the medical team shows Dias horizontal, strumming on a guitar and singing the Beatles’ iconic song ‘ Yesterday’. The lyrics, “yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away…” had added pertinence considering the unique situation Dias found himself in. There was a medical explanation behind the impromptu singsong with doctors keeping Dias awake in order to conduct ‘cerebral monitoring’, which a spokesperson reportedly said is “important to prevent injuries that occur in the sensory, motor and speech areas of the brain.” Through his performance, Dias was able to provide real-time feedback about how the surgery was affecting his brain. © independent.co.uk

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 21019 - Posted: 06.06.2015

Neurosurgeon Henry Marsh has opened heads, cut into brains and performed the most delicate and risky surgeries on the part of the body that controls everything — including breathing, movement, memory and consciousness. "What is, I think, peculiar about brain surgery is it's so dangerous," Marsh tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "A very small area of damage to the brain can cause catastrophic disability for the patient." Over the course of his career, Marsh, a consulting neurosurgeon at Atkinson Morley's/St. George's Hospital in London since 1987, has learned firsthand about the damage that his profession can cause. While many of the surgeries he has performed have been triumphs, there is always a risk of leaving the patient severely disabled. In the memoir Do No Harm, Marsh confesses to the fears and uncertainties he's dealt with as a surgeon, revisits his triumphs and failures and reflects on the enigmas of the brain and consciousness. Despite his decades on the job — or perhaps because of them — Marsh says that much of the brain remains beyond his grasp. He likens the mystery of the brain to that of the big-bang theory. "We're all sitting on an equally great mystery within ourselves, each of us, in this microcosm of our own consciousness, and I find that a quite nice thought," he says. You can nick the liver, you can remove bits of the lung, you can remove bits of the heart and the organ goes on working. But with the brain, although some areas can suffer some damage without terrible consequences for the patient, in general terms, it's very dangerous. Which means the decision-making is very important and ... in my experience over the years, when things have gone wrong, it's not because of [we] cut the wrong blood vessel or dropped an instrument or something like that. The mistakes made — the mistakes are in the decision-making — whether to operate or when to operate. © 2015 NPR

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 20987 - Posted: 05.27.2015

Backyard Brains. For 235 years we have been trying to isolate, understand, and analyze the elusive action potential, and here we tell the story that continues today. The progress of understanding Action Potentials can be classed into three main endeavors: 1. Amplification The amplifiers that gave us the first hint of the electrical impulses generated by neurons came from biological tissue itself! Scientists of the 18th and early 19th century used the contractions of muscles as "bioamplifiers" to indirectly measure neural firing. Using friction machines (spark generators), Leyden jars (primitive capacitors), or Voltaic Piles (the first batteries), electrical stimuli could be delivered to motor neurons that were still attached to muscles. The electrical stimulation would cause the nerve to fire action potentials (so people hypothesized), the muscle would then contract, and the force of contraction could be measured with a spring. With increasing electrical stimuli strength (thus more action potentials in the motor neurons), the muscle would contract with increasing force. This technique worked, but led to vigorous debates as to whether the neural tissue was actually generating its own action potentials at all, or whether the muscle contraction was just a direct result of electrical stimulation. By the mid-19th century, galvanometers had been invented, and it was possible to see that nerves were indeed generating their own action potentials. These galvanometers exploited the then new technology of electromagnets. For example, Emil de Bois-Reymond built by hand a type of galvanometer with 24,000 turns around an iron plate. When the nerve fired action potentials, a metal needle suspended by the plate would deflect. These devices worked, but the needle movement was not fast enough to separate the 1 ms individual action potentials, and the machines occupied a lot of time to construct. © 2009-2015 Backyard Brains

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 3: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 3: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Link ID: 20944 - Posted: 05.18.2015

By Jonathan Webb Science reporter, BBC News Scientists have stumbled upon one of the secrets behind the big gulps of the world's biggest whales: the nerves in their jaws are stretchy. Rorquals, a family that includes blue and humpback whales, feed by engulfing huge volumes of water and food, sometimes bigger than themselves. Researchers made the discovery by inadvertently stretching a thick cable they found in the jaw of a fin whale. Most nerves are fragile and inelastic, so this find is first for vertebrates. The work is reported in the journal Current Biology. A Canadian research team had travelled to Iceland to investigate some of these whales' other anatomical adaptations to "lunge feeding" - things like their muscles, or the remarkable sensory organ in their jaws, discovered in 2012. They were working with specimens in collaboration with commercial whalers. "It's probably one of the only places in the world where you can do this sort of work, because these animals are so huge that even getting in through the skin is something you can't do without having heavy machinery around," said Prof Wayne Vogl, an anatomist at the University of British Columbia and the study's first author. When you are working with a 20m fin whale, it's important to have the right equipment, he said. "If a heart falls on you, it could kill you." © 2015 BBC.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Nervous System and Behavior; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 2: Cells and Structures: The Anatomy of the Nervous System
Link ID: 20889 - Posted: 05.05.2015

By Emily Underwood NASA hopes to send the first round-trip, manned spaceflight to Mars by the 2030s. If the mission succeeds, astronauts could spend several years potentially being bombarded with cosmic rays—high-energy particles launched across space by supernovae and other galactic explosions. Now, a study in mice suggests that these particles could alter the shape of neurons, impairing astronauts’ memories and other cognitive abilities. The concern about cosmic rays is a long-standing one, prompting NASA (and science fiction writers) to spend a lot of time discussing ways of protecting astronauts from them. (A buffer of water around the spacecraft’s hull is one popular idea.) But scientists don’t really know how much of a threat the radiation poses. It’s not feasible to study the effects of cosmic rays on real astronauts, such as those living in the International Space Station, because many variables, including the stress of living on a spaceship, can affect cognition, says Patric Stanton, a cell biologist at New York Medical College in Valhalla. It’s also impossible to control the level of radiation astronauts are exposed to, making it difficult to do rigorous experiments, he says. To overcome those challenges, several NASA-funded research groups are testing cosmic radiation on mice. In the new study, published today in Science Advances, Charles Limoli, a molecular biologist at the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues took male mice to a particle accelerator at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory in Upton, New York. There, they catapulted oxygen and titanium ions down a 100-meter transport tunnel and into the restrained rodents’ brains at roughly two-thirds the speed of light. The dose of high-energy particles resembled the radiation likely to pass through the unprotected hull of a spaceship over the course of a mission to Mars, Limoli says. © 2015 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 20873 - Posted: 05.02.2015