by Cheshta Bhatiafigures by Jasmin Joseph-Chazan Ubiquitous actions that we perform in our daily lives, like tying our shoelaces or playing basketball, rely on our brain’s ability to learn and execute motor skills; this ability to knit movements into a series of actions enables us to walk, dance, or play the piano. However, have you ever wondered why we can improve at these tasks with … Continue reading How do motor behaviors get better with practice?
by Ariel Hairstonfigures by MacKenzie Mauger Our lives are stuffed with opportunities for excitement and stimulation. You might wake up in the morning and find yourself staring at your modest collection of succulents, or that small oil painting you bought at a flea market. The first moments of your day might be spent taking a walk around the block, the smell of tree bark hanging … Continue reading Home Decor and the Hippocampus: How environmental enrichment can enhance brain function
Dopamine is not just a happy hormone — it is also heavily involved in learning and memory. Recent studies are showing that dopamine plays a key role in auditory learning in songbirds. Continue reading Happy Hormones Play a Role in Vocal and Sound Learning
Hannah Smith is a Biology PhD student at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Hannah is interested in the biological pathways that regulate aging, and whether we can target these pathways to make people healthier in old age (but she’s currently doing experiments on the microscopic nematode worm C. elegans, not humans). Wei Wu is a graduate student in the Design Studies program at … Continue reading Erich Jarvis: What birds can teach us about ourselves
by Hannah Smith Have you ever wondered why you can teach a parakeet to talk, but you can’t teach a dog or a cat? Dr. Erich Jarvis has spent his scientific career studying the brain pathways required for this behavior, called vocal learning, and trying to decipher how this trait evolved only in a handful of animals. But before he was well known around the … Continue reading Erich Jarvis: What birds can teach us about ourselves
Large bumblebees remember flowers with high sugar nectar better, while small bumblebees remember the locations of all flowers equally. Continue reading Large Bumblebees Remember the High Sugar Flowers
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
A group at Toulouse University in France has found that slime molds are capable of passing on learned behaviors from population to another. After learning how to navigate around an unpleasant stimulus in order to reach its food, the slime mold was merged with a naïve slime mold and then separated. The naïve slime mold then underwent the original experiment and demonstrated the learned behaviors, despite never having been in that situation before. Continue reading Slime molds are capable of passing on learned behaviors to new cell populations