Neurophilosophy

Archives for November, 2008

The memory molecule

My first contribution to the Scientific American Mind Matters website is now online. The article, called “The Power of the Memory Molecule“, is about the recent study which showed that memories can be selectively erased from the brains of mice by altering levels of the enzyme αCaMKII.

Embryonic stem cells form functional brain tissue

A team of Japanese researchers has demonstrated that embryonic stem cells obtained from  mice and humans can spontaneously organize themselves into cortical tissues when grown in a culture dish under special conditions. Reporting in the journal Cell Stem Cell, the researchers show that the neurons generated form functioning short-range and long-range connections, and  can be …

The Men’s Final of the 1981 Wimbledon Tennis Championships is one of the most memorable events in sporting history. John McEnroe, who was playing against Bjorn Borg, famously challenged one of the referee’s calls by throwing a tantrum, during which he shouted the immortal line “You cannot be serious!” McEnroe’s outburst was controversial, and he…

Brain power

Yesterday’s episode of the CBS programme 60 Minutes featured this report called Brain Power, about the use of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) by a number of patients who have been paralysed by various conditions. (The 12-minute report is preceded by a commercial.) Generally speaking, BCIs record the electrical activity of the pre-motor or motor cortex, which…

Memories are made of molecular motors

Learning and memory are widely thought to involve long-term potentiation (LTP), a form of synaptic plasticity in which a neuron’s response to the chemical signals it receives is enhanced. This leads to a strengthening of the neuronal circuit, so that the memory encoded in the circuit can persist for long periods of time. One of…