Neurobiology

Pharyngula

Category archives for Neurobiology

The neuroplasticity bait-and-switch

As long as we’re talking about brains this morning, here’s another topic that irritates me: the abuse of the term neuroplasticity. Way, way back in the late 1970s, my first textbook in neuroscience was this one: Marcus Jacobson’s Developmental Neurobiology. (That link is to a more recent edition; the picture is of the blue-and-black cover…

Steven Novella makes an important point: memories are fluid. There’s no VCR in your head, and no tape recorder either, and memories are constructs. You remember the framework (sometimes very poorly) of a past event, and your brain builds a plausible set of details around it. When you picture Christmas at your grandmother’s house when…

A primer in eyes

Michael Land was one of those people who totally warped my brain. I’ve been interested in science since I was a kid, but I’m embarrassed to say that I never heard a whisper about evolution in the public schools I attended. Although I read about it avidly, I came out of high school and charged…

Egnor babbles some more

Michael Egnor has replied to my dismissal of his claims that memories can’t be stored in the brain with a curiously titled post, Understanding Memories: Lovely Metaphors Belong in Songs, Not Science. I was a bit confused, at first…I don’t recall using any song lyrics or poetic metaphors in my post on the subject, but…

Michael Egnor, neurosurgeon, has made a bizarre post in which he reveals that he knows nothing about how the brains he cuts up work. Egnor claims that it is impossible for the brain to store memories. Yes, he knows that neural damage can cause loss of memory, that certain delicate areas of the brain, if…

Chocolate brains

The ever-charming Sam Harris has smarmily connected me to Deepak Chopra, so now I’m getting a flood of both smug, superior cluelessness from the Vulcans of Planet Sam, and the spacey vacuous nonsense of the Chopralites. Thanks, Sam! Although, I must say, so far Chopra freaks are doing a better job of actually saying something.…

What are you going to simulate?

The EU is sinking €1.2bn (and the US is proposing to spend more, $3 billion) into a colossal project to build a supercomputer simulation of the human brain. To which I say, “What the hell? We aren’t even close to building such a thing for a fruit fly brain, and you want to do that…

Virginia Hughes tells us about techniques to look inside the zebrafish brain. The gang at HHMI are using two photon imaging and clever image analysis to get very clear, sharp images of fluorescent neurons. Oy, that’s pretty. This old codger did some of that stuff, many years ago, but you know what we had to…

Frugal to the point of vacuity

What does it take to get Carl Zimmer to review your research in the New York Times? I suppose it helps to be at Harvard. It also helps to have a combination of subjects — evolution and the human brain — that Zimmer has written about in the past. It helps to have a paper…

A cautionary note about fMRI studies

I’ve been distracted lately — it’s end of the world semester time — and so I didn’t have time to comment on this recent PNAS paper that reports on dramatic sex differences in the brains of men and women. Fortunately, I can just tell you to go read Christian Jarrett, who explains most of the…