The past several years have brought two parallel revolutions in neuroscience. Researchers have begun using genetically encoded sensors to monitor the behavior of individual neurons, and they've been using brief pulses of light to trigger certain types of neurons to activate.
We all know how it feels to get lost in a great book. Sometimes the characters and emotions can seem every bit as real as those of our everyday lives.
For the first time ever, neuroscientists have completed a comprehensive roadmap of the top-trafficked communication highways in the human brain.
2013s Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine honors three researchers in particular – but what it really honors is thirty-plus years of work not only from them, but also from their labs, their graduate students and their collaborators.
As Albert Einstein famously said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” The history of science is littered with so-called “intractable” problems that researchers later cracked wide open using techniques their ancestors could hardly imagine.
Stacked layers have fascinated us humans for as long as we’ve sought to organize the universe around us. Authors and artists have developed primitive conceptions of heaven, earth and hell into elaborate hierarchies of celestial and infernal spheres.
Your neurons are outnumbered. Many of the cells in your brain - in your whole nervous system, in fact - are not neurons, but glia. These busy little cells shape and insulate neural connections, provide vital nutrients for your neurons, regulate many of the automatic processes that keep you alive, and even enable your brain to learn and form memories.
"Let's say you have an axe. Just a cheap one, from Home Depot," opens the horror-comedy novel John Dies at the End. "On one bitter winter day, you use said axe to behead a man." This blow splinters the axe's handle - so the story goes - so you get the hardware store stick a new handle on the blade.
[caption id="attachment_165" align="alignleft" width="336" caption="Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in the brand-name drug Tylenol, likely helps buffer feelings of social pain in addition to relieving muscle and joint aches."][/caption] Horror isn't the only film genre that specializes in dread.
When the piece first premiered, critics When the piece first premiered, critics called it "repellent," "incomprehensible;" a "confusion." The audience didn't even call for an encore - a slight that threw the piece's composer into a rage.
In 1956, a legion of famed scientific minds descended on Dartmouth College to debate one of mankind's most persistent questions: Is it possible to build a machine that thinks?
They called him “Diogenes the Cynic,” because “cynic” meant “dog-like,” and he had a habit of basking naked on the lawn while his fellow philosophers talked on the porch.
In the early 1990s, a team of neuroscientists at the University of Parma made a surprising discovery: Certain groups of neurons in the brains of macaque monkeys fired not only when a monkey performed an action – grabbing an apple out of a box, for instance – but also when the monkey watched someone else performing that action; and even when the monkey heard someone performing the action in another room.In short, even though these “mirror neurons” were part of the brain's motor system, they seemed to be correlated not with specific movements, but with specific goals.Over the next few decades, this “action understanding” theory of mirror neurons blossomed into a wide range of promising speculations.
There’s a scene in Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas in which the writer, high out of his mind on hallucinogens, watches a roomful of casino patrons transform into giant lizards and lunge at each other in bloody combat.
In 2000, a team of neuroscientists put an unusual idea to the test. Stress and depression, they knew, made neurons wither and die - particularly in the hippocampus, a brain area crucial for memory.