Stories tagged neurology

It's Friday, so it's time for a new Science Friday video. Science Friday
Science Friday
Courtesy Science Friday
Today,
"Many of us spend more waking hours at our desk than anywhere else. Writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks explains what his desk means to him. From lumps of metal to lemurs, Sacks describes some of his treasures, his preferred method for writing his books and why he takes comfort in dense metals."

What's on your desk? And why?

Oct
04
2009

Antennas key to navigating during migration

Monarch migration: The antenna is vital to navigating.
Monarch migration: The antenna is vital to navigating.Courtesy L-T-L

Ever wonder how monarch butterflies navigate. They use the sun you might say. The sun is constantly moving, though. Well, maybe a built in clock helps. How important are the eyes compared to the antennas?

To figure out what was important scientists dipped some antennas in clear varnish and some in black paint. The ones with clear varnish had no trouble navigating. The ones with black paint covering their antennas could not.

That not only showed the antennas were sensing light for navigating, it also showed that the sense of smell isn't involved in finding the way, since both paints blocked that ability. USA Today

Learn more monarch migration

The study was led by Dr. Steven M. Reppert, chairman of neurobiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. I urge you to visit his faculty web page which explains how his team is using anatomical, cellular, molecular, electrophysiological, genetic and behavioral approaches to more fully understand the biological basis of monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) migration.
The incredible detail and depth of their research made me appreciate how understanding one little thing like butterfly migration can lead to better understanding how complex things like the human brain works. This recent paper published in science was titled, Antennal Circadian Clocks Coordinate Sun Compass Orientation in Migratory Monarch Butterflies.

The Neurology of Shopping

by Anonymous on Dec. 16th, 2008

Insula Cortex: The highlighted part of the brain is responsible for a range of things such as pain, empathy, and social emotions.  Other recent research has linked this part of the brain with cigarette addiction, showing that individuals with damage to this part of the brain were able to give up cigarettes instantly.  Maybe similar damage would cure shopping addiction?
Insula Cortex: The highlighted part of the brain is responsible for a range of things such as pain, empathy, and social emotions. Other recent research has linked this part of the brain with cigarette addiction, showing that individuals with damage to this part of the brain were able to give up cigarettes instantly. Maybe similar damage would cure shopping addiction?Courtesy Sanjay Sharma
Do you prefer paying for things with cash or credit card? It seems fairly common sense that paying with a credit card, instead of cash, makes it easier to overspend. Paying with a plastic card, which looks and feels the same no matter how much you spend on it, creates a lot less immediate guilt than paying with cash. Interestingly enough, scientists have pinpointed the part of the brain that is responsible for this phenomenon, called the insula. Also, the way in which you spend (i.e. overspending to combat sadness, buying luxury items just because they're on sale, etc.) is controlled by this part of the brain. Click here for the full article in Newsweek.

It totally is red!: Oh, man, I have to go give myself a concussion.
It totally is red!: Oh, man, I have to go give myself a concussion.Courtesy rbrwr
What a boring title for something kind of awesome.

So--synaesthesia. It's where people associate (to varying degrees) one sense with another. Like maybe a certain musical note sounds yellow, or, more frequently, certain letters will always be seen as certain colors.

Well, in this study it was revealed that color/letter synaesthetic associations aren't totally arbitrary. "A," for instance, is most often associated with the color red, "V" with purple.

What's more, there seems to be a link to how often the colors and letters are used in language. Both "A" and "red" are common in language, while "V" and "purple" are proportionately less common. Common letters and common colors are usually paired to each other, with the same going for less common letters and colors.

The brain is so weird.

Neurologists used functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to study the brain function of a woman who'd been in a coma for five months. To their surprise, when they asked her to respond to commands or imagine things, her brain "lit up" in the same way that the brains of healthy subjects did. The scientists caution that this is likely not the situation for many vegetative patients.

Mar
06
2006


baby2: A baby standing on a chair.

A researcher in Germany has conducted experiments showing that babies as young as 18 months old have a natural instinct to help others. The researcher performed tasks with books or clothespins in front the babies. If he accidentally dropped something, the baby would come over to pick it up. If he dropped it on purpose, the babies would not help.

According to the article:

Toddlers' endearing desire to help out actually signals fairly sophisticated brain development, and is a trait of interest to anthropologists trying to tease out the evolutionary roots of altruism and cooperation.

Now, of only they could retain that helpfulness as teenagers!

Feb
15
2006


Lab rat: A brown lab rat in a cage, poking it's nose out between the bars -- ooh, it's sooooo cute!

A new study suggests that our brains learn by replaying events in reverse.

In a lab experiment, mice were taught a new task. Researchers recorded their brain activity. After the task, they found the nerve cells active in learning the task fired again, but in reverse order. Scientists suspect the brain is trying to reinforce the activities closest to the successful completion of the task.

Human brains and rat brains have some strong similarities, so this may lead to a new understanding of human learning. For instance, researchers have long known that cramming right before a test generally doesn't help—the brain needs time to absorb the new knowledge. If the "running in reverse" pattern holds true in humans, then the best approach may be to take frequent breaks to allow our brains to review the material.

Hmm, I wonder if my boss will buy that? "I wasn't goofing off playing Solitaire! I was giving my brain a chance to replay my new knowledge!"