Scared Stiff: The Story Behind "Fainting Goats"

November 30th, 2011 in Uncategorized 5 comments

Have you ever seen a goat (or any animal, for that matter) do this?

Neither had I. But these are the sorts of things that come up at family parties and pique my curiosity. Perhaps the nickname and title of the YouTube video “fainting goats” is a misnomer (as National Geographic pointed out) as the goats are not actually losing consciousness when they go rigid and topple over. So why the wipe-outs? More

Lolo, Ubongo, Cerebro, Cervello, Cerveau, Brein = BRAIN!

November 29th, 2011 in Article 3 comments

Know any of the above words from ubongo to brein? If so, you can (surprisingly to you of course) say BRAIN in Hawaiian, Swahili, Spanish, Italian, French, or Dutch. And if you can (read this and) fluently speak at least one of these languages, or another not shown, you are multilingual (again, SO surprisingly to you…) – and may consequently reap some benefits from this status! More

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The Zombie Brain

November 15th, 2011 in Pop Culture 0 comments

Ever wonder why zombies are after brains? Perhaps because their own brains don’t function as they should. Based on the clear cognitive deficits exhibited by zombies, UC Berkley neuroscientist Bradley Voytek and colleague Timothy Verstynen have modeled what their brains might look like.

A model of what the zombie brain would look like

Amodel for what the zombie brain would look like

All of the zombies’ “symptoms” would likely be caused by loss of the association areas of the brain, essentially ridding zombies of higher cognitive functions, as demonstrated by their overly-aggressive behavior and aphasia. Along with deficits of the association areas, the hippocampi would be massively damaged, resulting in memory defects. Finally, a loss of the majority of the cerebellum could explain their lack of coordinated movements. What would remain unimpaired, however, are most of the primary cortices. From so-called “behavioral observations”, Voytek and Verstynen concluded that vision, hearing, olfaction and gustation would still work perfectly, and somatosensation would be preserved for the most part. Since zombies are alive (or at least, undead) most parts of their thalami and midbrains, hindbrains, and spinal cords would be either over-active or preserved.

Many of these damaged regions of the zombie brain are part of the Papez circuit. James Papez identified the circuit while trying to understand the strong link between memory and emotion. He tested his hypothesis by injecting cats with a rabies virus to watch how it would spread. Sure enough, the disease spread through the hippocampus (important for memory formation), the orbitofrontal cortex (social cognition and self-control), the hypothalamus (hunger regulation, etc.), the amygdala (emotional regulation), and so on. Voytek even suggest that a virus similar to rabies could create zombies…maybe.

The widespread nature of zombie brain damage accounts for almost all of a zombie’s behaviors. It explains their over-active aggression circuit, global aphasia (they can’t speak or understand language), impaired pain perception, long term memory loss…With all this knowledge, we should be able to avoid the zombie apocalypse…right?

The Zombie Brain by Bradley Voytek – Quora

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Insights from a Failing Brain

November 14th, 2011 in Arts + Media 0 comments

For years, scientists have investigated cases of human brain damage as a means of further understanding the function of specific neural regions, but neuroanatomist, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, received the unique opportunity of experiencing this function-impeding damage firsthand. She awoke one morning to find herself having a stroke, and years later has recovered to share the event. Taylor’s unique experience sheds and interesting light on the underlying processes of our fascinating brains. Here is the video (via YouTube):


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A Diet to Boost Your Brain's Performance

November 11th, 2011 in Pop Culture 7 comments

Our culture obsesses over self-image and appearance, and people are always trying to find the next miracle diet to make them thin, buff, and beautiful. However, tailoring a diet to ensure the fitness and optimal function of the most important organ, the brain, is just as important. The search for the perfect brain diet has yielded many different results, and now the Nerve Blog will give you the aggregated, ultimate, and effective diet for your brain. More

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It Seems The Beatles Were on to Something.

November 9th, 2011 in Uncategorized 0 comments


The year is 1966. After months of extensive preparation and creative troubleshooting, three scientists studying the brain’s unique split personality eagerly awaited the results of their carefully designed experiment. By placing an electrode into a cat’s corpus callosum, they were hoping to decode the brain’s elusive internal code. What they ended up finding was something much more profound, and much more revealing… More

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Run Crustaceans, Run!

November 8th, 2011 in Article 0 comments

When humans fall ill, we can go to the doctor to receive a diagnosis and treatment. We have a form of communication, and our body has good indicators that can help the doctor diagnose the problem. But what happens when we are trying to diagnose organisms that have no way to tell us what is wrong, and no way of knowing how badly they are affected? For instance, in the case of many marine organisms, illness is being caused by humans. We have used our oceans such that they now contain areas with little to no oxygen, where life is barely sustainable. How does this, combined with ongoing pollution and human activities, stress marine life? More

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A Knitted Brain

November 7th, 2011 in Arts + Media 2 comments

Art is popular. There are many people that enjoy, support, or make a living off of art. It has the power to evoke emotion and also to allow one to express emotion through shapes, color, and patterns. Brains are popular too, but in a different sense. Everyone has a brain. Some may use it more than others, but it is something that all humans possess.  This is, of course, excluding the various other life forms on earth that  make use of a brain. What is not so popular is brain art. Especially brain art that is anatomically correct. The Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art claims to be the largest collection of anatomically accurate representations of the brain made entirely from fabric. How exciting! The inspiration for each piece comes from dissections of the brain, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), neuroscience research, and positron emission tomography or PET (another medical imaging technique). These self-deemed “neuroartists” employ traditional art techniques such as quilting, knitting, and rug hooking to create their cranial masterpieces. Although extremely talented, these artists do warn not to use the accuracy of their art as a guide for any kind of surgical medical endeavor. More

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LSD and Creativity

November 4th, 2011 in Pop Culture 1 comment

In 2007, Albert Hofmann, the creator of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), wrote a letter to Steve Jobs on behalf of his friend Rick Doblin, who was the founder of the nonprofit organization Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).  Hofmann was with hopes, at the age of 101, that Jobs might want to make a donation to support Swiss psychiatrist Dr. Peter Gasser’s proposed study of LSD-assisted psychotherapy.  The main mission of MAPS is to develop psychedelics and marijuana into prescription drugs that could be made available to treat people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), pain, drug dependence, anxiety, and depression.  Hofmann, a large supporter of the organization, pushed the idea that his creation has helped others and could provide crucial benefits in future health treatments and so asked Jobs for “help in the transformation of [his] problem child into a wonder child.” Many others who have had the opportunity to experiment with this psychedelic drug brought on an entirely different perspective of what LSD provides: an awakening of the Self and for many innovative thinkers an eye-opening journey in expanding their creativity. More

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The Trust Molecule

November 3rd, 2011 in Arts + Media, News 0 comments

Paul Zak, the director of The Center for Neuroeconomic Studies at the Claremont Graduate University, for years has been searching for what makes us moral, and he thinks he has the answer. In this short talk Zak explains why massage, dance and prayer may increase donation to charity up to 50%, and how morals from a Californian high schooler to a primative Papua New Guinea subsistence farmer may have an identical physiological basis. The answer he claims, is Oxytocin. Here is the talk (via Youtube):

Trust, morality — and oxytocin –

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