Welcome to the sixth edition of the neuroscience carnival, Encephelon!
From the Neurophilosopher’s Blog comes a fascinating video lecture by Dr. Martin Sereno, a cognitive scientist at UCSD, on why humans possess so much more cognitive power than other animals despite the close similarities in neuroarchitechture. The Neurophilosopher also reports on imaging studies which reveal the “God Spot” (or lack thereof), supposedly the neural center for religious experience. Thinking Meat also ponders this study, and wonders how atheists’ “mystical” experiences might differ from those of religious persons.
How do we ever come to know the meaning of words in a complex environment? Chris Chatham of Developing Intelligence introduces a learning technique adopted by some computers, Latent Semantic Analysis, which is capable of acquiring the meanings of words in a very human-like way and addresses Quine’s “gavagai problem.”
Bora of A Blog Around the Clock presents some hypotheses as to why people with mis-aligned biological clocks (jetlagged) are more likely to contract malaria, and how Plasmodium (infective agent in malaria) relies on the hosts’ time-generated cues to maximize its transmission. Bora also offers two episodes on marine mammal intelligence: debunking the dolphins-are-dumber-than-goldfish stance, and questioning that manatees are smarter than previously thought.
Jake of Pure Pedantry has a nice explanation of long term potentiation (LTP), as well as some recent work in Science which verifies that learning causes a measurable change in LTP in the rat hippocampus. Futhermore, that the chemical blockade of LTP can destroy an acquired memory trace.
Newcomer Chris of Ouroboros examines what seems to be a paradox in regards to insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1): less IGF-1 early in a mouse’s life confers small size and longer life span, however IGF-1 may have a neuroprotective effect on the brain which wanes with age. How can IGF-1’s roles in lifespan and neuroprotection be reconciled?
The Voltage Gate examines whether a connection exists between manual dexerity and intelligence, as illustrated by the encephalization quotient (a ratio of brain to body size).
And finally, from my blog Retrospectacle, a molecular switch has been identified which is important in the decline of stem cell populations (and explains why older tissue has fewer stem cells). Also, one theory on how lithium acts as an anti-depressant.