7–10 Neuroimaging techniques have revolutionized our understanding of how the brain works. A recent study, for instance, used functional MRI to show that physical and emotional pain, such as feelings of rejection after a breakup, activate the same pathways in the brain. At the four-day International Society for Neuroimaging in Psychiatry conference, researchers will focus on how to use imaging techniques to visualize both normal changes that occur during a person’s life and the effect of age-related diseases, such as schizophrenia or dementia, on brains over time.
24 Ever wish you could see what was going on inside your head? At the Technology Museum of the Federal Electricity Commission’s Brain: The World Inside Your Head, you can. The exhibit, sponsored by pharmaceutical company Pfizer, takes visitors into a shimmering tunnel displaying a human brain in action. Special effects, 3-D and virtual reality enable museumgoers to explore what happens when we dream, how we experience pain and what the future of medicine holds for the brain.
25–29 A dolphin’s sonar message to another dolphin and the ominous footsteps a human hears on a deserted street have at least one thing in common—both patterns of sounds can contain information crucial for survival. At the five-day 11th International Conference on Cognitive Neuroscience, Carles Escera, a neuroscientist from the University of Barcelona, will explore the similarities in how humans and animals detect novel sounds. Other speakers will discuss topics such as the neural basis of aging and memory, models of cognition in animals and techniques for imaging the brain.
Understanding the brain’s complexity can be overwhelming, especially for children. The Web site Brain Power: It’s All in Your Head, created by faculty members at the University of Washington, may make this learning process easier. For children aged 10 to 14, the site presents 30 exhibits that investigate how the brain works. One exhibit simulates how alcohol or other drugs can disrupt our sense of balance and our reaction times, and another models the process of addiction.
Roundup: Navigating Mental Illness
Is it possible to empathize with a serial killer, even root for him to succeed? Surprisingly, it is—at least in the Showtime television series Dexter. Premiering its sixth season this month, the show centers on serial killer Dexter Morgan (played by Michael C. Hall), who works as a forensic bloodstain-pattern analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department. Like many people with antisocial personality disorder, Dexter expresses little to no remorse or empathy for others, lies pathologically, and needs to exert control and maintain order in his life. What helps make Dexter a likable killer, however, is his desire to live by a moral code, one that mandates he can kill only other murderers.
Mental illness is more common than one might expect. According to a government survey in 2009, approximately one in five Americans (about 45 million people) experienced a mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety, that year. Learn more about what causes these diseases and what treatments exist during Mental Illness Awareness Week by participating in outreach and educational programs across the country. Throughout the week PBS television stations will also air the documentary Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia, which follows a man afflicted with paranoid schizophrenia as his condition progresses and his daughter as she struggles to accept his illness.
Schizophrenia affects about 1 percent of the world’s population, but currently researchers do not know what causes the disease or how to cure it. Lorna Role, professor and chair of the department of neurobiology and behavior at Stony Brook University, is hoping to uncover this mystery. During the Washington University Neuroscience Colloquium, Role will describe her work on neuregulin-1, a key gene implicated in the disease’s progression.
St. Louis, Mo.