#Successful?

October 17th, 2011 in Article, Opinion 0 comments


As I’ve struggled to think of a topic to kick off my sophomore year blog series, I’ve scanned over practically every YouTube video and online article trying to find some sort of inspiration to come up with the next hot topic. While pop culture is at a stand still at this point with the media hiding under every surface because of the heat from “Occupy this, that, and the next big city,” I’ve decided that I’m going to switch up my role as a writer.

Rather than informing you, my lovely audience, about some irrelevant pop culture icon or explaining random biological processes, I’m going to create my own rant about success. However, this wouldn’t belong in the nerve blog if it was just some college student rambling about his own opinions that nobody cares to listen to, so for that reason, I’ll tie in a norepinephrine reference to make it real ‘neuroscience-y.’ So if you’ve made it through my introduction and are interested in seeing what I have to say, please continue. But, if your already making disgruntled looks at your computer screen after the first two paragraphs, now is the time for you to return to Facebook or whatever else you may be doing… More

Tagged , ,

Rat Brains Get an Upgrade

October 14th, 2011 in News 1 comment


At Universitat Tel Aviv in Israel, scientists have successfully engineered and implanted an artificial cerebellum into the brain of a rat. Designed by Dr. Matti Mintz, it is a microchip attached to the rat’s head that receives sensory information from the brain stem and sends it to other parts of the brain. The artificial cerebellum has successfully restored lost brain function in rats. More

Tagged , , , ,

Hot Headed or Simply Tired?

October 13th, 2011 in Opinion 0 comments


We’ve all seen it happen, marveled at the constancy, and even blamed the friends around us for our own personal breathing. Does this sound strange? I am talking of course about contagious yawning; this is the phenomenon that seeing someone yawn will cause you to immediately do the same. But why, and for that matter, why even yawn in the first place? More

Tagged , , , , ,

Emerging Research on Crowd Behavior

October 12th, 2011 in Pop Culture 0 comments


City dwellers are all too familiar with crowds. In Boston, students regularly navigate through them on their way to class, and more broadly, natives and visitors all have to navigate through sports crowds. These can be particularly dense and sometimes rowdy crowds (have you ever been near Fenway Park after a Red Sox-Yankees game?!).

With crowds occasionally come large-scale riots. A recent notable riot occurred in Vancouver after the Bruins won the Stanley Cup over the Canucks. One of the first signs of unrest was bottles being thrown at TV screens by spectators outside the stadium. It was followed with burning of Bruins apparel and flags. Eventually, a car and truck were overturned and set on fire, and windows of local businesses were smashed. Chaos followed, 100 people were arrested, and there were numerous injuries.

Researchers at Arizona State University are currently studying human behavior in crowds. They use computer modeling to study the outbreak and containment of city riots. One such example can be found here. This video shows the beginnings of a riot outbreak through an immersive model – the progression of the riot and overall crowd behavior is observed from a participant’s point of view. Though various viewpoints are shown in the video, there is initially a focal point of a key initiator, and users can choose their viewpoint when modeling in the program. More

Tagged , , , ,

The Sweetness of Discovery: Miracle Fruit Finally Understood

October 11th, 2011 in News 2 comments


Richardella dulfica: the miracle berry

How often do you eat lemons whole? Would you eat them more often if they tasted like lemonade? An increasing trend in the past three years has been “flavor tripping” by means of the miracle fruit. The fruit is used mainly at parties and events specifically to eat it and taste other foods that are normally sour, sweet, and/or salty, and is not part of a normal diet.

Richardella dulfica, known as “miracle fruit” or “miracle berry,” has the power to make sour foods taste sweet and other foods transform their flavor into a candy-like saccharinity. These magical berries have long been somewhat of a culinary and scientific mystery. A team of researches from Japan and France, led by University of Tokyo’s Keiko Abe, believe that they have discovered the fruit’s sweetening secret. More

Tagged , , , , , ,

Scratching that "Cognitive Itch"

October 10th, 2011 in Arts + Media 1 comment


What comes to mind when you think of Friday? Friends. A night off from work. Movies. Fun. Rebecca Black? Yikes. I don’t mean to remind you of such a low point in the history of American pop-culture but there is, in fact, a small amount of useful information to be extracted from the phenomenon that is Rebecca Black. Why did her music spread like an epidemic through the minds of millions of teens and adults worldwide? This event can be loosely related to what the Germans like to call an öhrwurm.

The term öhrwurm literally translates in English to “earworm”, and can be described as that inescapable occurrence of getting a song stuck in your head for an hour, a day, or even months at a time. The term is misleading in that the repetition of music does not occur in the ear but within the brain. For an experience that is so familiar to most people there is still much unknown as to how and why one contracts this stuck song syndrome. More

Tagged , , , , , ,

Behind Closed Eyes: An Ayahuasca Experience

October 7th, 2011 in Article 5 comments


Ayahuasca is found to produce life-changing visions but can it also produce life-changing cures?

Ayahuasca is found to produce life-changing visions but can it also produce life-changing cures?

“As I closed my eyes, images – if they can be called such – began racing at an ever-increasing speed before me. Swirls of colors, shapes, forms, textures and sounds simply overpowered me to the point where I became immobile. Like many others before me, no doubt, I became somewhat frightened. What had I let myself in for? When I opened my eyes, the phantasmagoria of forms vanished, and I saw myself in the same room with the others”

Donald M. Topping’s description is very similar to the accounts many others have given. He brought up many questions on the vividness of visions produced after his very first ingestion of the hallucinogenic brew Ayahausca.  What underlying brain mechanisms allow potentially healing, uplifting and fearful experiences to occur behind closed eyelids?  That is what Draulio B. de Araujo and others sought out to find. More

Tagged , , , ,

Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Book Review

October 6th, 2011 in Pop Culture 1 comment


If you were asked to describe the consistency of the human brain, how would you describe it? Like jelly? Cottage cheese? Dr. Katrina Firlik would say tofu—the “soft variety.” In her book, Another Day in the Frontal Lobe (Random House, 2006) Dr. Firlik, a practicing neurosurgeon, offers an insider’s perspective on the world of neurosurgery and recounts the journey that got her where she is today. Through her biting wit and the compassionate nature with which she describes her many patients, Firlik paints a vivid and engaging picture of a field about which many know only a little. More

Tagged ,

(Il)logical Lindstrom and the iPhone Infatuation

October 5th, 2011 in News, Opinion 1 comment


The only thing I love is my iPhone.

The only thing I love is my iPhone.

Ahh the Apple iPhone: sleek, sexy, and successful–monopolizing the mobile phone industry since its 2007 release. What is it about the iPhone in particular that sets it apart from its competitors, allowing it garner over 60 million followers worldwide? According to “neuromarketer” and consumer advocate Martin Lindstrom, iPhone users should not be considered addicts but rather amorous devotees who literally “love” their device. Now, I understand the dependency characteristic of an avid cell-phone user, whether Apple or otherwise. But as a neuro-nerd, I am obligated to ask: “Where’s the science behind this?” More

Tagged , , , ,

Esref Armağan

October 4th, 2011 in Arts + Media 1 comment


Most would agree that the most important of our basic senses is sight. Without it, many basic forms of communication fall apart, the vibrance of the world around us dulls, and our understanding and ability to sense the complexity of the physical world diminishes. Without the ability to see, it would logically be impossible to portray our surroundings artistically in a coherent and visually realistic manner…

…wait…what? More

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,