‘Pacemaker for the brain’ may help prevent seizures and treat movement disorders

Anyone who has ever been scolded for talking over someone knows that speaking and listening simultaneously is a hard thing to do. Conducting an intelligent conversation requires active listening, understanding the received knowledge, and crafting a meaningful response, which often requires blending the new information with one’s own experiences. On a microscopic scale, each neuron in the brain must do exactly this – listen to … Continue reading ‘Pacemaker for the brain’ may help prevent seizures and treat movement disorders

Your Brain on tACS: Electrical Stimulation Can Alleviate Chronic Back Pain

An investigation of individuals with chronic low back pain revealed that a disruption of normal brain activity patterns is related to worse perceived pain. Use of targeted electrical stimulation showed an increase in normal brain activity and reduced pain severity. While these results are only preliminary, they show promise for use of a noninvasive therapy for chronic pain that can be tailored to an individual’s specific brain activity. Continue reading Your Brain on tACS: Electrical Stimulation Can Alleviate Chronic Back Pain

My Favorite Things

The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is an area of the brain located in the prefrontal cortex, which, as its name suggests, is the front part of the brain. The OFC is my favorite area of the brain, partially because it was the first region I studied, but mostly because of its complex role in motivated behaviors. The OFC is comprised of five subregions: medial, ventral, ventrolateral, … Continue reading My Favorite Things

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

Dopamine, Smartphones & You: A battle for your time

by Trevor Haynes figures by Rebecca Clements “I feel tremendous guilt,” admitted Chamath Palihapitiya, former Vice President of User Growth at Facebook, to an audience of Stanford students. He was responding to a question about his involvement in exploiting consumer behavior. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works,” he explained. In Palihapitiya’s talk, he highlighted something most of … Continue reading Dopamine, Smartphones & You: A battle for your time

Dog owners rejoice! Dogs could be smarter than cats

A new study has compared the brains of dogs and cats and found cats wanting. Scientists counted the number of neurons in the cerebral cortex of brains and found that dogs have more than double the number of neurons of a cat. While this doesn’t immediately rule that dogs are the smarter species, it does suggest they have a higher capacity for learning. Continue reading Dog owners rejoice! Dogs could be smarter than cats

Can We Erase Painful Memories with Electroconvulsive Therapy?

by Mona Han figures by Abigail Burrus What comes to mind when you hear the term electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)? A cruel torture method for disobedient psychiatric patients portrayed in films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? Or a last-resort for treatment-resistant depression with less discomfort and fewer side-effects? New developments in using ECT to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder might soon give us a new way … Continue reading Can We Erase Painful Memories with Electroconvulsive Therapy?

Building a Better Human: How scientists plan to merge man and machine to transcend human limitations

by Julia Nguyen figures by Alexandra Was What would you give for a brain chip that seamlessly translates any language into your native tongue? Or a retinal implant that lets you see in the dark? Or an implant that lets you record every single memory and experience in your life and replay it at any moment? This is all science fiction, but it may not … Continue reading Building a Better Human: How scientists plan to merge man and machine to transcend human limitations

Shining A Light in the Brain: Optogenetics as a “guiding light” for deep brain stimulation

by Trevor Haynes In the late 18th century a particularly resourceful experimenter, Giovanni Aldini, saw scientific opportunity in the increasingly prevalent public executions being performed across Europe at the time. Using the corpse of a recently deceased prisoner, Aldini electrically stimulated the prisoner’s exposed brain causing his eyes to open and his face to contort and twitch, thus putting his uncle’s theory of bioelectricity to … Continue reading Shining A Light in the Brain: Optogenetics as a “guiding light” for deep brain stimulation