Traumatic brain injuries, often referred to as TBI, have gained major traction in the field of neuroscience over the past couple years, and for obvious reasons. The name itself suggests that something has gone horrible awry with our BRAIN – you know, the mass of cells inside our skulls responsible for telling our heart to pump and our muscles to contract, the organ that controls all of our cognitive abilities and complex processing, that space between our ears that has been associated with creating the somewhat vague concept of our mind? It’s not surprising that neuroscientists have deemed it important to begin researching ways to at least partially remedy the potentially devastating effects of an injury to our most central organ.
Previous TBI research hasn’t exactly led to the most uplifting results. While research has advanced enough for us to be able to visualize TBIs and generally understand the symptomology of TBI, the field has lagged in suggesting potential therapies for patients with this condition. The broad view has always been that patients with TBI improve up to a certain point, and then they plateau, staying at a consistently impaired state – until now.
Scientists from Duke University and Brazil claim wires connecting one rodent to another can allow communication spanning continents via the internet. Professor Miguel Nicolelis of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, led a team of researchers who demonstrated that it is possible to transmit instructions from one animal to another by brain-to-brain communication, a process akin to telepathy.
Brain-to-brain communication could be the start of organic-based computing based on networks of interconnected brains. Pairs of laboratory rats were able to communicate with each other using microscopic electrodes implanted into their brains. This occurred as part of an experiment where the two rats had to work together in order to receive a reward (see video at source).
Do you remember telling a lie at 2, 3, or 4? Well, feel guilty no more! Lying is actually a reliable sign of higher cognitive functioning. It was previously accepted that children were able to start lying at 3.5 years and no earlier. However, a recent study by psychologist Angela Evans found that 25% of two-year olds, 50% of three-year olds, and 80% of four-year olds were capable of lies.
Here’s a great TED Talk to get everyone thinking today.
Tyler DeWitt is a PhD candidate at MIT and an advocate of the idea that science education in high schools needs to take a turn for the less serious if we want kids to really get excited about it. Instead of the highly technical jargon of textbooks, he is in favor of turning science lessons into storytelling. “Science has become that horrible storyteller…who gives us all the details nobody cares about,” DeWitt says, and his goal is to change that. DeWitt also has a growing library of YouTube videos aiming at exposing students to topics in biology, chemistry, physics, and math in a fun, engaging, and (perhaps most importantly) relatable way.
Pretty music with pretty pictures: all of our brains love that (nothing new to neuroscience there)! Have a fantastic holiday season everyone!
Neuroscience researchers in China have created a method of transforming brainwaves into music by combining EEG and fMRI scans into sounds that are recognizable to human beings. The EEG adjusts the pitch and duration of a note, while the fMRI controls the intensity of the music. According to Jing Lu and his associated colleagues from the University of Electronic Science and Technology in China, this brain music, “embodies the workings of the brain as art, providing a platform for scientists and artists to work together to better understand the links between music and the human brain.”
Applying EEG and fMRI data to make better music represents the limitless opportunities of the brain, potentially leading to improvements useful for research, clinical diagnosis or biofeedback therapy. In fact, researchers at the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate have already looked at a form of neuro-training called ‘Brain Music’, which uses music created from an individual’s brain waves to help the individual move from an anxious state to a relaxed state.
…Says the slime mold before the zombie ate its brain centuries ago, forcing the whole species to adapt into its present state: brainless yet smart.
Okay, the zombie part isn’t entirely accurate, BUT, these slime molds (the gelatinous amoebae also known as the protist, Physarum polycephalum) do seem to have no problem functioning without a brain. They can navigate complex mazes for food, choose healthy over less nutritious food, and determine the shortest route between points of interest – a feat that takes humans years when designing complex transportation systems. How could this be? More
Behold – our recent ancestor, the gorilla, and ourselves, the human:
There are many characteristics that separate us from our monkey fathers. Most notably, factors that mark the evolution are the use of fire, use of tools, and a bigger brain. A recent study suggests that it is actually the onset of the use of fire that explains the ability to begin to grow a larger brain. According to a timeline of human history, the earliest Homo Sapiens appeared shortly after beginning to use fire to cook food:
Sometimes, writing is tough. The passion isn’t there, and every word is a struggle. We’ve all had those moments when forced to do something artistic or creative, whether it be writing or drawing or playing an instrument (or anything really). We’re just not into it, we don’t feel the pulse of the art pounding in our blood. Yet at other times, it’s like our blood rushes in a massive torrential pour, as if it had been held back by a massive dam for a thousand years. Whether its a subject that makes you jump for joy, a song you can head-bang to, or some other Picasso, some things just burst forth in a sudden and fervent explosion of productivity and creativity.
I think we’ve all had those moments when the pieces all click together, and a piece of work flows from us as easily as a hot knife through butter. During those moments, we feel alive, throbbing with a vibrant energy as our whole being is focused onto a single task. It’s an exhilarating feeling, yet at the same time, when you finally come down out of this strange natural high, it feels as though there was something slightly wrong about that, as if those who are capable of reaching that level often must have something wrong with them.
Election Day is almost here! Many people will have their minds already made up when they walk into their local voting station on Tuesday, confident in their choice for President. This is exciting, even if simply that Election Season will finally be over and we can all move on with our lives, as this disgruntled 4-year old girl so desperately wants.
And yet, there will still be some undecided voters who will make their choice on the way to the voting booth. I’m willing to bet that some of these people, especially those who will cast those critical swing-state votes, will enter their preferred candidate’s name with seemingly no sense of the democratic responsibility and power their vote yields, as evidenced by this political cartoon.