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

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

Ocrelizumab: The first treatment for primary progressive multiple sclerosis

by Tianli Xiao figures by Abigail Burrus Multiple sclerosis begins when a patient is as young as 20. It can start with blurry vision, tingling in the arms or legs, or a persistent feeling of tiredness. MS is a long-term, progressive disease that worsens over time, but there are few drugs available today. Even worse, patients diagnosed with a less common form of MS known … Continue reading Ocrelizumab: The first treatment for primary progressive multiple sclerosis