The Mysterious Fear Learner: The locus coeruleus

by Mona Han figures by Mona Han and Daniel Utter In the 19th century, Pavlov, a Russian scientist, electrically shocked dogs’ feet while ringing a bell. He found that his dogs quickly learned to dread the sound of his bell. We now think that learning to fear an innocuous stimulus, like the bell, is what underlies Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD patients dread things associated … Continue reading The Mysterious Fear Learner: The locus coeruleus

Heat waves hurt your brain: the argument for window AC units

As our planet warms, the effects of heat on the human body will become important information. The human body is capable of dealing with heat, but reprieves are needed to allow our systems to rest, else our bodies become over-stressed. This reprieve often comes in the form of night, when temperatures typically  cool. During heat waves, nights remain toasty, and reprieves only exist for those … Continue reading Heat waves hurt your brain: the argument for window AC units

FDA Approves New Drug for Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disease that affects over 2 million people worldwide. In patients who suffer from MS, an abnormal immune response causes damage to a fatty substance called myelin. Like the coating around an electrical wire, myelin insulates nerve cells and facilitates neural communication. Symptoms of MS include muscle weakness, fatigue, and impaired speech. On March 28th 2017, the FDA approved Ocrevus, an … Continue reading FDA Approves New Drug for Multiple Sclerosis

One Neuron to Rule Them All?

  The brain is arguably the most complex organ in the human body and understanding its structure could help explain a fundamental mystery of human existence: consciousness. The brain is composed of billions of specialized cells called neurons, which communicate with each other via electrical and chemical signals. Neurons are responsible for processes ranging from vital life functions to the ability to walk, talk remember, … Continue reading One Neuron to Rule Them All?

Love, Actually: The science behind lust, attraction, and companionship

by Katherine Wu figures by Tito Adhikary In 1993, Haddaway asked the world, “What is Love?” I’m not sure if he ever got his answer – but today, you can have yours. Sort of. Scientists in fields ranging from anthropology to neuroscience have been asking this same question (albeit less eloquently) for decades. It turns out the science behind love is both simpler and more … Continue reading Love, Actually: The science behind lust, attraction, and companionship

New method successfully recovers lost short-term memories

For decades now, scientists have believed that working memory, a form of short term memory, can be accessed only through the sustained firing of neurons. Working memory is used constantly in our day to day lives — from remembering the name of someone you just met while carrying on a conversation, to mixing the right ingredients in a recipe – it allows us to access … Continue reading New method successfully recovers lost short-term memories

New Detailed Brain Map Could Aide Future Understanding

Researchers have created the most detailed general map of the brain to date by scanning the brains of 1200 people. After recording detailed imaging of the subjects’ brain activity as they performed a variety of mental tasks, the information was used to ‘teach’ a computer to identify spatial ‘regions’ of related activity. These regions span the brain, creating a 3D, puzzle-like map. Also called a … Continue reading New Detailed Brain Map Could Aide Future Understanding

How a newly discovered body part changes our understanding of the brain (and the immune system)

by Marie Siwicki figures by Anna Maurer At this time of year, researchers, doctors, and recreational nerds alike turn to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for the list of the past year’s most important scientific breakthroughs [1]. 2015 saw many significant advances that gained flashy and well-deserved press. The world witnessed the creation of an Ebola vaccine, the first fly-by of … Continue reading How a newly discovered body part changes our understanding of the brain (and the immune system)

The spreading confusion: Rethinking Alzheimer’s disease

by Danielle Heller Proteins are molecular machines. They perform an incredible diversity of tasks that enable all living cells to function.  Like any machine, a protein must be properly assembled in order to carry out its specific task, and if something goes awry, the cellular consequences can be dire. Take Alzheimer’s disease for example. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disorder, affecting over 5 … Continue reading The spreading confusion: Rethinking Alzheimer’s disease