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By Kate Murphy Maybe it was because when the waiter asked, “Still or sparkling?” you chose sparkling. It could have also been that you were ravenous and ate a little too much. Or, possibly, it was your ex, who happened to be dining at the same restaurant and stood a little too long over your table making awkward small talk. All of these things, hic, might cause spasms, hic, in your diaphragm, hic. Referred to in the medical literature as singultus (from the Latin singult, which means gasp or sob), hiccups are familiar to anyone who has ever taken a breath. In fact, you begin to hiccup while still in the womb. Most people hiccup the most during childhood, with the bouts becoming less frequent over time, but even in adulthood, hiccups are still a common, and annoying, occurrence. Just as we all have our own particular way of sneezing, we all have a unique way of hiccuping that can range from four to 60 hiccups per minute. Most hiccups are benign and last only a few minutes or hours. But sometimes hiccups are indicative of a more serious health issue, particularly when they recur or don’t go away for days, weeks or years. Beyond being embarrassing, the muscle contractions can be physically exhausting. They can interrupt sleep and make it hard to eat. Approximately 4,000 people in the United States are admitted to the hospital every year for hiccups. The patient with the longest recorded case, according to Guinness World Records, was Charles Osborne of Anthon, Iowa, who hiccuped for 68 years straight. He claimed it started while attempting to weigh a hog before slaughtering it. Doctors say there are as many causes for hiccups as there are crazy remedies, including tugging on your tongue, standing on your head and swallowing granulated sugar. Some actually work. Others are more likely just entertainment for friends and family who watch while you try to cure yourself. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior; Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 26503 - Posted: 08.15.2019

By Jennifer Leman, Liz Tormes Art and neuroscience have been intertwined for centuries. Early surgeons and scientists who poked and prodded inside cranial cavities—such as Santiago Ramón y Cajal—often drew what they saw. These artistic renderings played a critical role in helping researchers grapple with the mysteries of our most vital organ. (Cajal even shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1906 for his drawings.) Methods for exploring the brain have (thankfully) changed, and our understanding has evolved. The desire to visualize what we discover, however, has persisted. For the ninth year in a row, the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam has published the winners of its annual Art of Neuroscience competition. The contest celebrates artists and scientists who strive to illustrate the brain’s complexities. This year’s entrants questioned the origins of imagination, imaged collagen fiber, modeled starlike brain cells called astrocytes and explored other intricacies. Presented below—selected from 87 submissions representing 25 countries—are the winning entry, four honorable mentions and five works selected by Scientific American’s editors.* This video employs three artificial-intelligence-based computing systems inspired by human brain networks. The resulting three neural networks simulate the brain’s ability to generate abstract images, sounds and concepts inspired by prior experiences, a phenomenon better known as imagination. In the winning video, produced by members of the pt9 art group at Far Eastern Federal University in Russia, one neural network produces a string of jarring images prompted by a catalogue of existing photographs; a second neural network generates image descriptions; and the third neural network reads the descriptions aloud. © 2019 Scientific American

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 26466 - Posted: 07.30.2019

By Jacey Fortin A man in North Carolina died on Monday after he went swimming in a lake and was infected by Naegleria fowleri, a single-celled organism known as the “brain-eating amoeba.” The man, Eddie Gray, 59, fell ill after he visited the Fantasy Lake Water Park in Cumberland County July 12, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement on Thursday. Naegleria fowleri infections are rare, but deadly. There were 145 known infected people in the United States from 1962 through 2018, and all but four cases were fatal. The amoeba is typically found in warm freshwater, and the majority of cases in the United States have occurred in Florida and Texas. “Mr. Gray’s death was tragic and untimely,” Justin Plummer, a lawyer representing his estate, said in a statement. “The family is currently asking for privacy and respect during this difficult time.” According to his obituary, Mr. Gray was an active member of the Sedge Garden United Methodist Church who enjoyed kayaking, camping, hunting, fishing and NASCAR. “Our sympathies are with the family and loved ones,” Zack Moore, North Carolina’s state epidemiologist, said in a statement. “People should be aware that this organism is present in warm freshwater lakes, rivers and hot springs across North Carolina, so be mindful as you swim or enjoy water sports.” According to the North Carolina health department, Naegleria fowleri “does not cause illness if swallowed but can be fatal if forced up the nose, as can occur during diving, water-skiing or other water activities.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 26454 - Posted: 07.26.2019

By Richard Klasco, M.D. Q. Please explain positional vertigo. Two of my siblings have woken up in the morning with it. What do you do if you experience it? A. Positional vertigo is a common type of dizziness that can be treated with a simple maneuver. Vertigo is an illusory sensation of motion that is often accompanied by intense nausea. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or B.P.P.V., is the medical term for positional vertigo. It is important to use this term, as there are other types of vertigo with different causes and treatments. B.P.P.V. is caused by microscopic “stones” that are present on the ends of hair follicles in the ear canal and that help you maintain your balance. Vertigo occurs when these stones break off and move from the body of the inner ear into its semicircular canals, which determine our perception of three-dimensional space. This usually occurs as a result of aging or head trauma. Free-floating stones cause the inner ear to give faulty information to the brain about our position in space, creating a false sensation of motion. The mechanism of B.P.P.V. was discovered almost a century ago by the Viennese physician Dr. Robert Bárány, who won a Nobel Prize for his work. In 1979, Dr. John Epley, an ear, nose and throat specialist in Portland, Ore., found that a simple maneuver could treat most cases of B.P.P.V. without the need for drugs or surgery. The Epley maneuver is a series of rapid changes in position of the head that are performed in a doctor’s office. The maneuver repositions stones so they do not cause symptoms. Incidentally, B.P.P.V. has been reported to be cured in some people after they have ridden on roller coasters. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 26365 - Posted: 06.28.2019

By Lindsey Bever Doctors had broken the disheartening news to Rachel Palma, explaining that the lesion on her brain was suspected to be a tumor, and her scans suggested that it was cancerous. Palma, a newlywed entering a new chapter in her life, said she was in shock, unwilling to believe it was true. In September, scrubbed-up surgeons in an operating room at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City opened Palma’s cranium and steeled themselves for a malignant brain tumor, said Jonathan Rasouli, chief neurosurgery resident at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. But instead, Rasouli said, they saw an encapsulated mass resembling a quail egg. “We were all saying, ‘What is this?’ ” Rasouli recalled Thursday in a phone interview with The Washington Post. “It was very shocking. We were scratching our heads, surprised at what it looked like.” The surgeons removed it from Palma’s brain and placed it under a microscope to get a closer look. Then they sliced into it — and found a baby tapeworm. Palma, from Middletown, N.Y., said she had mixed emotions about it. “Of course I was grossed out,” the 42-year-old said Thursday, explaining that no one wants to think there’s a tapeworm growing inside an egg in his or her brain. “But of course, I was also relieved. It meant that no further treatment was necessary.” A scan showing the tapeworm in Rachel Palma's brain. (Mount Sinai Health System) © 1996-2019 The Washington Post

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Nervous System and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 2: Cells and Structures: The Anatomy of the Nervous System
Link ID: 26308 - Posted: 06.07.2019

By Diana Kwon Few things are more refreshing than enjoying a cool beverage after spending a day under the hot summer sun. But gulping down a drink does not always quench thirst. Seawater, for example, may look appealing to someone stranded in the middle of the ocean, but taking a swig of it will only worsen dehydration. Scientists have now discovered that in rodents, signals from both the throat and gut control feelings of thirst. These distinct pathways may explain why consuming a beverage is typically refreshing but does not always sate one’s thirst, according to a study by Yuki Oka, a neuroscientist at the California Institute of Technology, and his colleagues at the California Institute of Technology, published May 29 in Neuron. Last year, Oka’s team reported that the simple act of gulping activated a circuit in the lamina terminalis, a region near the front of the brain, which ultimately led to the suppression of activity in neurons responsible for generating feelings of thirst. This throat-brain pathway, which the researchers identified in mice, switched on regardless of what an animal consumed—water, saline solution and oil produced similar effects. But the fact that all of these substances were able to inhibit the brain’s “thirst” neurons indicated that there was something missing. After all, if any liquid could satisfy an animal’s thirst, it might not consume enough water to remain hydrated. According to Oka, behavioral studies in animals dating back decades suggested that there was an additional mechanism in the gut that signaled the presence of water to the brain. So in their latest investigation, Oka’s team set out to map the brain circuits responsible for receiving these signals. By injecting fluids directly into the guts of mice, the researchers discovered that in order for the rodents to feel fully hydrated, this second gut-based circuit needed to be activated. Without these gastrointestinal signals—which, unlike ones from the throat, selectively responded to the presence of water—the brain’s “thirst” neurons quickly revved up again, driving the animals to drink more. © 2019 Scientific American

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 26280 - Posted: 05.30.2019

By C. Claiborne Ray Q. Humans can’t drink seawater. So what do sea lions, whales, dolphins and sea birds drink? A. Marine animals may consume both freshwater and saltwater. They rely on various adaptations for survival when only saltwater is available. Many marine mammals have specialized organs called reniculate kidneys with multiple lobes, increasing their urine-concentrating efficiency beyond that of humans. These animals can handle high concentrations of salt in seawater without becoming dehydrated by salt buildup, as humans would. Experts now believe, however, that many of these creatures drink seawater only occasionally. Instead they get low-salt water from what they eat or manage to produce it on their own. Whales, for example, have the specialized kidneys but need far less water than land mammals. Whales get water mostly from the small sea creatures, like krill, that form much of their diet. Seabirds, on the other hand, have special organs called salt glands above their eyes that extract excess salt from the bloodstream and excrete it through the nostrils. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 26273 - Posted: 05.29.2019

By Joe Lindsey In the final episode of Season 7 of Game of Thrones, the Night King uses a terrifying weapon—the recently deceased dragon Viserion, now reanimated—to destroy the massive, magic-infused Wall that has for millennia stopped the White Walkers from invading Westeros. As the Army of the Dead lumbers through the gap, it’s pretty clear: Winter is here. We’ve only seen the Army of the Dead in action a few times now: Hardhome, in Season 5, and Season 7’s epic Wight Hunt, but it seems like Episode 3 of Game of Thrones’ final season is setting us up for an absolutely titanic clash at the Stark’s ancestral home of Winterfell. But wights—or zombies to use a more common parlance—aren’t just a well-worn trope for fantasy writers. The possibility of reanimating dead tissue—including braaaaains—has challenged neurobiologists around the world. So what are the wights, how do they work, and why does an entire army psychically linked together seem to be controlled by just one mind—the Night King? First off, are wights zombies at all? There are actually two types of zombies, the shambling dead—as representing George A. Romero’s classics—and the zombies of Haitian legend. “There’s the socio-cultural definition of zombie from tales in Haitian voodoo, where someone was put into a state similar to death and then ‘brought back to life,’” says Bradley Voytek, avid Game of Thrones fan, neuroscientist at the University of California-San Diego, and co-author of Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep, which uses zombies as the basis for an introduction to serious neuroscience. ©2019 Hearst Magazine Media, Inc.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 26175 - Posted: 04.27.2019

Jon Hamilton When you're thirsty, a swig of fresh water brings instant relief. But gulp down some salty sea water and you'll still feel parched. That's because your brain is trying to keep the concentration of salt in your body within a very narrow range, says Zachary Knight, an associate professor in physiology at the University of California, San Francisco and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. "If you experience, for example, a 10 percent change, you would be very sick," he says. "A 20 percent change and you could die." Knight and a team of researchers wanted to know how the brain keeps that from happening. They report the results of their search in an article published Wednesday in the journal Nature. "There has to be a mechanism for the brain to track how salty the solutions that you drink are and use that to fine-tune thirst," Knight says. "But the mechanism was unknown." So Knight's team began studying brain cells known as thirst neurons. First, the team piped fresh water directly into the stomachs of some thirsty mice. "Within a minute or two, infusing water into the stomach rapidly turns off these thirst neurons in the brain," says Chris Zimmerman, a graduate student in Knight's lab who conducted the experiment. "And not only that," Zimmerman says, "if we give [the mouse] access to water it doesn't drink at all." © 2019 npr

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 26086 - Posted: 03.28.2019

By Emily Baumgaertner The brain-eating monsters are real enough — they lurk in freshwater ponds in much of the United States. Now scientists may have discovered a new way to kill them. Minuscule silver particles coated with anti-seizure drugs one day may be adapted to halt Naegleria fowleri, an exceptionally lethal microbe that invades through the sinuses and feeds on human brain tissue. The research, published in the journal Chemical Neuroscience, showed that repurposing seizure medicines and binding them to silver might kill the amoebae while sparing human cells. Scientists hope the findings will lay an early foundation for a quick cure. “Here is a nasty, often devastating infection that we don’t have great treatments for,” said Dr. Edward T. Ryan, the director of the global infectious diseases division of Massachusetts General Hospital, who was not involved in the research. “This work is clearly in the early stages, but it’s an interesting take.” Infections with brain-eating amoebae are rare but almost always deadly. Since 1962, only four of 143 known victims in the United States have survived, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than half of all cases have occurred in Texas and Florida, where the microscopic organisms thrive in warm pond water. “The classic case is a 10-year-old boy who goes swimming in the South in the summer and starts to get a headache a few days later,” Dr. Ryan said. The amoebae’s feeding causes meningoencephalitis — or swelling of the brain and nearby tissues — and is often misdiagnosed. “When it comes to treatment, doctors often end up throwing in the kitchen sink,” he added. Patients typically are given antimicrobial drugs in extremely high doses in order to break through the body’s protective blood-brain barrier. Many suffer severe side effects. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 25867 - Posted: 01.15.2019

By Christine Hauser A New Jersey man died after being infected with Naegleria fowleri, also known as the “brain-eating amoeba,” a rare infection that is contracted through the nose in fresh water. The man, Fabrizio Stabile, 29, of Ventnor, N.J., was mowing his lawn on Sept. 16 when he felt ill from a headache, according to his obituary and GoFundMe page. His symptoms worsened and he was taken to the hospital after he became unable to speak coherently. A spinal tap revealed he was infected with the amoeba, and he died on Sept. 21. It is the first confirmed case of the infection in the United States since 2016, an epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Jennifer Cope, said on Monday. Mr. Stabile fell ill after visiting the BSR Cable Park and Surf Resort, a surf and water park in Waco, Tex., said Kelly Craine, a spokeswoman for the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District. She said in a telephone interview on Monday that the C.D.C. sent epidemiologists to take samples from the park to test for the presence of the amoeba, and those results could come this week. There are no reports of other illnesses at the Waco park, the C.D.C. said. The amoeba is a single-celled organism that can cause a rare infection of the brain called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, also known as PAM, which is usually fatal. It thrives in warm temperatures and is commonly found in warm bodies of fresh water, such as lakes, rivers and hot springs, the C.D.C. said, though it can also be present in soil. It enters the body through the nose, and it moves on to the brain. Infection typically occurs when people go swimming in lakes and rivers, according to the C.D.C. The amoeba got its nickname because it starts to destroy brain tissue once it reaches the brain, after it is forced up there in a rush of water. Before it enters the body, it happily feasts on the bacteria found in the water. “It turns to using the brain as a food source,” Dr. Cope said. “It is a scary name. It is not completely inaccurate.” © 2018 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior; Chapter 15: Brain Asymmetry, Spatial Cognition, and Language
Link ID: 25515 - Posted: 10.02.2018

By Neuroskeptic On this blog I usually focus on academic, scientific neuroscience. However, there is a big world outside the laboratory and, in the real world, the concepts of neuroscience are being used (and abused) in ways that would make any honest neuroscientist blush. In this post I’m going to focus on three recent examples of neuro-products: commercial products that are promoted as having some kind of neuroscience-based benefit. 1) Neuro Connect Golf Bands We’ll start out with a silly one. This product, full name Neuro Connect™ INFUSED Shaft Bands, costs $150 for a pack of ten bands. You’re supposed to place one of these bands just below the grip on your golf clubs. This will improve your golf swing by providing a ‘subtle energy connection’ between your club and your brain. Here’s how it works: “A field emitted by the shaft bands intersects with the central nervous system when the club is swung around the body. Swinging with an INFUSED shaft band immediately enhances the function of nerve receptors in muscles and joints.” Now, generally speaking, when an “energy field” interacts with your nerves, the result is rather painful, but Neuro Connect uses a special “subtle energy pattern” which has no known negative effects. I suspect the field has no positive effects either, and that it doesn’t exist. On their FAQ, under the heading of “Do you have any scientific proof the devices work?”, Neuro Connect admit that “credible peer-reviewed studies take years to complete” which I take as a roundabout way of saying “no”.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 25336 - Posted: 08.16.2018

Laura Sanders To understand the human brain, take note of the rare, the strange and the downright spooky. That’s the premise of two new books, Unthinkable by science writer Helen Thomson and The Disordered Mind by neuroscientist Eric R. Kandel. Both books describe people with minds that don’t work the same way as everyone else’s. These are people who are convinced that they are dead, for instance; people whose mental illnesses lead to incredible art; people whose memories have been stolen by dementia; people who don’t forget anything. By scrutinizing these cases, the stories offer extreme examples of how the brain creates our realities. In the tradition of the late neurologist Oliver Sacks (SN: 10/14/17, p. 28), Thomson explores the experiences of nine people with unusual minds. She travels around the world to interview her subjects with compassion and curiosity. In England, she meets a man who, following a bathtub electrocution, became convinced that he was dead. (Every so often, he still feels “a little bit dead,” he tells Thomson.) In Los Angeles, she spends time with a 64-year-old man who can remember almost every day of his life in extreme detail. And in a frightening encounter in a hospital in the United Arab Emirates, she interviews a man with schizophrenia who transmogrifies into a growling tiger. By visiting them in their element, Thomson presents these people not as parlor tricks, but as fully rendered human beings. Kandel chooses the brain disorders themselves as his subjects. He explains the current neuroscientific understanding of autism, depression and schizophrenia, for example, by weaving together the history of the research and human examples. His chapter on dementia and memory is particularly compelling, given his own Nobel Prize–winning role in revealing how brains form memories (SN: 10/14/00, p. 247). |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 25326 - Posted: 08.14.2018

By Gretchen Reynolds Don’t skip drinking during exercise in hot weather, a new study reminds us. This advice might seem obvious. But apparently some athletes, especially in team sports, have begun to eschew fluids during hot weather workouts, in hopes that the privation might somehow make them stronger. But the new study finds that it is likely only to make them more physically stressed. And very, very thirsty. Working out in the heat is inherently difficult, as any of us who exercise outside in summer knows. When ambient temperatures are high, we generate internal heat more quickly than if the weather is cool. To remove this heat and maintain a safe body temperature, our hearts pump warm blood toward the skin’s surface, where heat can dissipate, and we sweat copiously, providing evaporative heat loss. These reactions become more pronounced and effective with practice, a process known as heat acclimation (also referred to as acclimatization). During heat acclimation, which can require several weeks of sultry exercise, we begin to sweat earlier and in greater volume. This and other changes help our hearts to labor less, so that, in general, the effort of being physically active in high temperatures starts to feel less wearing. A run on a sizzling summer day in August should feel easier than a similar run on an equally hot evening in June, if we have been running outside in the meantime, because our bodies will have acclimated to the heat. But athletes being athletes, some of them and their coaches began to wonder in recent years whether, if heat acclimation taxes the body and makes it stronger, would exacerbating the physical difficulties of acclimation lead to greater adaptations, in approved Machiavellian style? © 2018 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 25313 - Posted: 08.10.2018

By Jane E. Brody I wonder how we all survived — and even thrived — in our younger years without the plethora of water bottles that nearly everyone seems to carry around these days. In reading about the risks and consequences of dehydration, especially for the elderly and anyone who exercises vigorously in hot weather, it’s nothing short of a miracle that more of us hadn’t succumbed years ago to the damaging physical, cognitive and health effects of inadequate hydration. Even with the current ubiquity of portable water containers, far too many people still fail to consume enough liquid to compensate for losses suffered especially, though not exclusively, during the dehydrating months of summer. For those of you who know or suspect that you don’t drink enough to compensate for daily water losses, the good news is you don’t have to rely entirely on your liquid intake to remain well-hydrated. Studies in societies with limited supplies of drinking water suggest you can help to counter dehydration and, at the same time, enhance the healthfulness of your diet by consuming nutritious foods that are laden with a hidden water source. Plant foods like fruits, vegetables and seeds are a source of so-called gel water — pure, safe, hydrating water that is slowly absorbed into the body when the foods are consumed. That’s the message in a newly published book, “Quench,” by Dr. Dana Cohen, an integrative medicine specialist in New York, and Gina Bria, an anthropologist whose studies of the water challenges faced by desert dwellers led to the establishment of the Hydration Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes understanding and consumption of nonliquid sources of water. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 25185 - Posted: 07.09.2018

By Neuroskeptic Do scientists have a responsibility to make their work accessible to the public? “Public Engagement”, broadly speaking, means scientists communicating about science to non-scientists. Blogs are a form of public engagement, as are (non-academic) books. Holding public talks or giving interviews would also count as such. Recently, it has become fashionable to say that it is important for scientists to engage the public, and that this engagement should be encouraged. I agree completely: we do need to encourage it, and we need to overcome the old-fashioned view that it is somehow discreditable or unprofessional for scientists to fraternize with laypeople. However, some advocates of engagement go further than I’d like. It is sometimes said that every researcher actually has a responsibility to engage the public about the work that they do. Speaking about my own experience in neuroscience in the UK, this view is certainly in the air if not explicitly stated, and I think most researchers would agree. Public engagement and ‘broader impact’ sections now appear as mandatory sections of many grant applications, for instance. In my view, making public engagement a duty for all scientists is wrong. Quite simply, scientists are not trained to do public engagement, and it isn’t what they signed up to do when they chose that career. Some scientists (like me) want to do it anyway, and they should be encouraged (if I say so myself), but many don’t want to. Cajoling the latter into doing engagement is futile. A half-baked public engagement exercise helps no-one.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 25133 - Posted: 06.25.2018

…but has yet to reach Base Camp 1 By Gary Stix LONG ISLAND, N.Y.—Brains & Behavior,* a conference at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) held from May 30 to June 4—furnished a captivating look at the work of neuroscientists toiling to isolate the multitude of missing links that bind B&B. Of course, everyone knows about the close ties between the two, but generation after generation of researchers will be needed toto figure out the how of it all. At the end of the conference, Adam Kepecs, a CSHL researcher who had given a talk about his lab’s work on how the brain computes confidence in its own decision-making, summarized several emerging themes to be derived from the conference—novel technologies driving progress in the field and the conversion of some basic research into treatments—not just pharmaceuticals but technologies such as electrical stimulation of the brain. The still relatively slow pace toward clinical trials follows from the size of the challenge. “Understanding the brain functionally—and its dysfunctions—is arguably one of the greatest challenges of humanity,” Kepecs said. CSHL asked me to interview three of the presenters for the lab’s YouTube channel, CSHL Leading Strand. The videos, just a few of those from the conference on the lab’s channel, provide more detail about what the scientists there are up to—and the halting steps toward that initial base camp. There was Li-Huei Tsai of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory who talked to me about using noninvasive, flickering light that alters brain rhythms to potentially aid Alzheimer’s patients. Ricardo Dolmetsch, global head of neuroscience with the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, recounted the development of a gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy. And Robert Malenka, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University Medical School continues to investigate a brain pathway that promotes social interactions—as well as the street drug, MDMA (aka ecstasy), which enhances prosocial behavior, also through its actions on the neurotransmitter serotonin. © 2018 Scientific American

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 25063 - Posted: 06.07.2018

by Lindsey Bever A rare, brain-damaging virus has killed at least 10 people in southern India, where medical crews are scrambling to manage the spread of the deadly disease — and to minimize panic. Health officials said Tuesday that 10 people who were exposed to the Nipah virus and showed symptoms have died. Two others have tested positive for Nipah and are considered critically ill, and more than three dozen people have been put into quarantine since the outbreak began in the Indian state of Kerala, according to BBC News. “This is a new situation for us; we have no prior experience in dealing with the Nipah virus,” said K.K. Shailaja, health minister of the state, according to Reuters. “We are hopeful we can put a stop to the outbreak.” Shailaja had said earlier the outbreak had been “effectively” contained and that there was no need for the public to panic. But the virus's spread — and the rapidly rising death toll — have prompted concern in the outbreak's epicenter, Kozhikode, a coastal city in Kerala, where people have been “swarming” hospitals with fevers and other illnesses to ensure they do not have the virus, a local government official told Reuters. “We’ve sought the help of private hospitals to tide over the crisis,” said the official, U.V. Jose. Gulf News reported that Kerala “is in a state of panic after many cases of the killer Nipah virus were detected.” © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 25009 - Posted: 05.23.2018

Nicola Davis Brain tumour research is to get an £18 million injection of funding to aid projects ranging from exploring how such cancers begin to developing new ways to treat them. More than 250,000 people worldwide, including 11,400 people in the UK alone, are diagnosed with a brain tumour every year and often the prognosis is bleak. According to Cancer Research UK figures, just 14% of those diagnosed survive for 10 years or more, while less than 1% of brain tumours are preventable. The disease was recently thrown into the spotlight after Tessa Jowell, the former Labour minister, revealed she has terminal brain cancer. Among the reasons why treatments have proved elusive, experts say, are that brain tumours show a lot of variation from person to person, are often diagnosed at an advanced stage, and are often resistant to treatments used for other cancers, with the blood-brain barrier also preventing some drugs from reaching the cancer. Also, as the cancer is in the brain, it is not possible to remove large amounts of tissue during surgery. “The human brain has about 100bn neurons and each of those neurons connects to tens of thousands of other neurons – it is incredibly complex,” said Dr Iain Foulkes, CRUK’s executive director of research and innovation. “What we are trying to do here is understand one of the most complex diseases known to humankind, which is cancer, in the most complex of organs. So it is a big challenge.” © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 24929 - Posted: 05.02.2018

By Neuroskeptic | I’ve been thinking lately about the question of what leads scientists to choose a discipline. Why does someone end up as a chemist rather than a biologist? A geneticist as opposed to a cognitive neuroscientist? We might hope that people choose their discipline based on an understanding of what doing research in each discipline involves, but I don’t think this often happens. I know it didn’t happen in my case. Here, then, is how I became a neuroscientist. As far back as I can remember, I had always wanted to be a scientist. As a young child there was no doubt in my mind about that. But back then I didn’t know what kind of science I was most interested in. I didn’t even know that I would eventually have to pick one. When I got to high school, I did well in both chemistry and biology, and I enjoyed studying both. (The less said about physics the better). But it was biology that really held my attention. Chemistry, it seemed to me, was pretty much finished. The big discoveries had all been made already. Only biology was still a work in progress. I realize now that this was a superficial view, but that was how I saw it at 17. So biology it was. But which kind of biology? Here, I didn’t really have a clue. When I arrived at university, I thought vaguely that my future lay in some kind of molecular biology. I dreamed of curing cancer or malaria one day. But this dream did not survive my first year classes in biochemistry and cell biology, which I found dry and, like chemistry, just too well understood. However many lives might be saved by finding out which gene codes for which protein, I couldn’t see myself being interested in this, so I callously abandoned my plan to save the world.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 24921 - Posted: 04.30.2018