Tagged: Neuroscience

Are You a Smoker and Impulsive?

Are You a Smoker and Impulsive?

We observed a significant positive relationship between impulsivity scores and reported craving. A negative correlation was observed between the impulsivity score and activity in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC).

…This is the first study on this topic, and so, results will need to be replicated in both licit and illicit drug abusers.

Front. Psychiatry, 16 July 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00067

Digital C.Elegans…Coming Soon?

Are digital c.elegans coming soon? Their entire genome has been mapped and a virtual connectome has been published, now can we simulate the entire biology of the worm or worms with different mutations? Alexis Madrigral discusses this topic in a provoking article in The Atlantic:

…What’s so hard about simulating its behavior?

Basically, everything.

We don’t know how to simulate every single protein and nucleic acid in a cell. And even if we could, it would be computationally staggering to try to model each and every cell in the worm down to that atomic level, figuring out each and every molecular interaction inside these densely packed cells. No experiments can output that data.

CLARITY: A Big Advancement For Neuroscience

CLARITY: A Big Advancement For Neuroscience


Three-dimensional view of stained hippocampus showing fluorescent-expressing neurons (green), connecting interneurons (red) and supporting glia (blue). Image from Deisseroth lab.

Using fluorescent antibodies that are known to seek out and attach themselves only to specific proteins, Deisseroth’s team showed that it can target specific structures within the CLARITY-modified — or “clarified” — mouse brain and make those structures and only those structures light up under illumination. The researchers can trace neural circuits through the entire brain or explore deeply into the nuances of local circuit wiring. They can see the relationships between cells and investigate subcellular structures. They can even look at chemical relationships of protein complexes, nucleic acids and neurotransmitters.

Obama Talks Neuroscience

Neurons Traced by Daniel Berger of Seung Lab.

Neurons Traced by Daniel Berger of Seung Lab.

The project, which could ultimately cost billions of dollars, is expected to be part of the president’s budget proposal next month. And, four scientists and representatives of research institutions said they had participated in planning for what is being called the Brain Activity Map project.

Last week I wrote a post called Obama Talks Science to comment on the New Frontier of neuroscience as mentioned in the State of the Union address. Today, the New York Times published an article by John Markoff which is a good follow-up in explaining the scope of the project. The research will include a myriad of studies from psychologists, neuroscientists, to nanoscientists.

On “brain porn”

Last month Gary Marcus spoke up about bad neuroscience reporting in the New Yorker. Whenever someone asks me about the brain, I often comment that it’s complex. I mean there are over 1 billion neurons…how these neurons develop and form connections is still being studied under different levels of analysis. There are intricate feedback loops between different brain regions and the timing or firing rate of a neurotransmitter can be crucial. Even researchers like Sebastian Seung from MIT can humbly acknowledge the complexity of how the brain works. (see video)

Seung’s lab is developing a game that engages users to map 3D structures of neurons to help scientists further their understanding of how the brain’s wiring (connectome) leads to higher-level functions. Winners of the citizen science game will have neuron naming rights. This is unlike the research often reported in popular media, which tends to fascinate a broad audience with emphasis on over-simplification or generalizations of fMRI data (not individual neurons). As Marcus pointed out:

The smallest element of a brain image that an fMRI can pick out is something called a voxel. But voxels are much larger than neurons, and, in the long run, the best way to understand the brain is probably not by asking which particular voxels are most active in a given process. It will instead come from asking how the many neurons work together within those voxels. And for that, fMRI may turn out not to be the best technique, despite its current convenience.

There is much to be discovered about the brain and cognitive function, including the methods being used to study them. It’s no surprise that this excitement has become part of the “brain porn” hype. Like Marcus said, “Neuroscience has yet find its Newton, let alone its Einstein.”

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/12/what-neuroscience-really-teaches-us-and-what-it-doesnt.html#ixzz2JKdGBqgC