by Krissy Lyon When you accidentally touch a hot stove, you pull your hand away almost immediately, thanks to a quick reflex informed by your body’s pain receptors. Pain is an essential feature of our bodies that alerts us to danger or injury. But imagine if you felt pain with no immediate source. What if this pain lasted for months or years? This condition, called … Continue reading Optogenetics: Can Chronic Pain Be Treated with Light?
by Nivanthika K. Wimalasena figures by Anna Maurer Imagine you could know everything you needed to make you into exactly who you were destined to be—which books would inspire you, which people you needed to meet, what you should study in school. Scientists are trying to understand exactly that for the life of a stem cell. They are using their understanding of stem cells and … Continue reading Disease in a Dish: Using Stem Cell-Derived Neurons to Understand the Brain
by Emily Kuehn figures by Kaitlyn Choi “My greatest fear is this brain of mine….The worst thing imaginable is to be terrified of one’s own mind, the very matter that controls all that we are and all that we do and feel.” These are the words of a patient suffering from schizophrenia, a tragic and severe psychiatric disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, … Continue reading Using Genetics to Understand Schizophrenia and More
by Olivia Ho-Shing figures by Tito Adhikary Imagine yourself as a self-sustaining city. Everything you think and all the tasks you carry out are driven and coordinated by a massively complex power network. This is the brain. It transmits thousands of electrical signals along circuits of intricate power lines within milliseconds to execute your behaviors. How can you begin to understand these network circuits that … Continue reading New Technologies Visualize the Power of the Brain
by Kevin Sitek figures by Daniel Utter Over the years, scientists have developed many techniques to observe what’s going on in the human brain as we think or move. Unfortunately, few of the insights we have made so far have resulted in any improvements in standard clinical mental care. Recent advances in neuroimaging may be changing this. Studies from the past few years have shown … Continue reading Can Computers Use Brain Scans to Diagnose Psychiatric Disorders?
by Kelsey Tyssowski figures by Krissy Lyon In the 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama announced a boost in scientific funding aimed at mapping the circuits of the brain in hopes of treating disorders ranging from depression to Alzheimer’s. This promise has developed into the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative, a scientist-led, goal-oriented plan that makes brain mapping seem achievable. … Continue reading 4 Reasons You Should Be Excited about the BRAIN Initiative: Updates and insight from a conversation with Josh Sanes
by Stephen Thornquist figures by Michael Gerhardt A computer has finally beaten the Go world champion, a challenge that was considered the “holy grail” of artificial intelligence for nearly twenty years. Go’s impenetrability comes from the fact that a computer’s ability to methodically analyze every possible outcome is useless in Go. Every turn has around 300 possible moves (see Figure 1), so looking only two … Continue reading Intuition in silico: How Ideas From Computational Neuroscience Help Programmers Build Smarter Computers
by Gabriel Filsinger figures by Bradley Wierbowski Brain diseases and age-related neurological disorders are a growing strain on society, and their impact is poised to expand alongside the aging world population. Due to protracted effects and the limited availability of cures, the societal cost of these diseases is severe: for example, it has been estimated that 35% of all disease burden in Europe is attributable … Continue reading The BRAIN Initiative: Structuring Large-Scale Science Initiatives in the U.S.
by Angela She figures by Shannon McArdel The brain is one of the most complex entities in biology. For thousands of years, humans have wondered how the human brain works, but only in the past few years has technology evolved so that scientists can actually answer some of the many questions we have. What are the causes of brain disorders? How do our brains develop? … Continue reading CRISPR in Neuroscience: How Precision Gene Editing May Unravel How the Brain Works (and Why it Sometimes Doesn’t)