Neurophilosophy

Archives for September, 2008

Learning to play a musical instrument is known to involve both structural and functional changes in the brain. Studies published in recent years have established, for example, that professional keyboard players have increased gray matter volume in motor, auditory and visual parts of the brain, and that violinists have a larger somatosensory cortical representation of…

The Glass Forest

This scanning electron micrograph of diatoms attached to an invertebrate host won first place in the photography category of the 2008 Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge.  Other winners and honorable mentions can be seen in this slideshow.

New neurons are needed for new memories

Around 15 years ago, researchers discovered that the adult rodent brain contains discrete populations of stem cells which continue to divide and produce new neurons throughout life. This discovery was an important one, as it overturned a persistent dogma in neuroscience which held that the adult mammalian brain cannot regenerate. Since then, neural stem cells…

Exercise repairs radiotherapy-induced brain damage

Radiation therapy is a common treatment for adults and children who present with tumours in or close to the brain. In the last 20 years, advances in radiotherapy have significantly improved the prognosis for brain cancer patients. However, the resulting longer survival rates reveal that the therapy has deleterious effects on brain health – even…

Artificial eye

A short piece in the MIT Technology Review describes a new retinal implant designed to remain in place for long periods of time: In retinal diseases such as acute macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, the light-sensing cells of the retina may no longer work, even though the neurons that carry signals from these cells to…

Neuronal light switches

The September issue of Scientific American contains an excellent and lengthy article about a state-of-the-art technique called optogenetics, by molecular physiologist Gero Miesenböck, who has been instrumental in its development. As its name suggests, optogenetics is a combination of optics and genetic engineering. It is a powerful new method for investigating the function of neuronal…

Developmental topographagnosia

We continually rely on our abilities of spatial navigation, be it for the daily commute to work, a trip to the local supermarket, or simply to make our way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. These tasks involve complex cognitive processes, yet most people perform them effortlessly and some develop them to…

Science blogging article & paper

The current issue of The Economist contains a short article about how weblogs are beginning to change the way science is being communicate: Earlier this month Seed Media Group…launched the latest version of Research Blogging, a website which acts as a hub for scientists to discuss peer-reviewed science…The new portal provides users with tools to…

Beauty & the Brain

The new issue of Seed contains a short piece by me called Beauty and the Brain, about the emerging field of neuroaesthetics, which seeks to investigate the neural correlates of the appreciation of beauty in art. Neuroaesthetics was pioneered by Semir Zeki, who has been criticized as making extravagant claims about what can be achieved…

Encephalon 54

Welcome to the 54th edition of Encephalon, the neuroscience and psychology blog carnival. This edition has everything from the perception of colour and shapes to behavioural economics, the neuroscience of sports and squabbling psychologists. First up is the editor’s choice: an in-depth review of the evolution of modularity in the brain by Caio Maximino. A…