Vampire Science: Young Blood Recharges Old Brains

In this article for Discover Magazine, I dig my teeth into a new set of experiments that seems almost supernatural: Injecting aging mice with blood from younger mice can reverse the aging process in their brains. Sounds like something straight out of a horror movie, doesn’t it? But its real, and it’s scientifically proven to work. Join me and find out how. After the parabiont mouse pairs had spent five weeks sharing blood, the experimenters examined the genes in each mouse’s hippocampus – a brain structure crucial for learning and memory. They found that older mice which had gotten young … Continue reading Vampire Science: Young Blood Recharges Old Brains

Brain-Wide Map of “Neural Highways” Is First of Its Kind

In this article for Scientific American, I report on a new map of neural connections among just about every area of the cerebrum. What does this map mean, exactly? Where does the data come from? What does it tell us about how the brain works? And how can we use it to help treat brain disorders? Dig in and find out the answers for yourself! This white-matter map not only charts the geography of these neural highways – it also plots out which of them interact with the most other paths, which are most crucial for supporting key brain functions, … Continue reading Brain-Wide Map of “Neural Highways” Is First of Its Kind

“2013’s Nobel Prize Winners” — Podcast 11: James Rothman, Randy Schekman & Thomas Südhof

On Episode 11 of The Connectome Podcast, I’m joined by all three of 2013’s Nobel Prize winners in the Physiology/Medicine category — James Rothman, Randy Schekman and Thomas Südhof! All three of these guys contributed crucial pieces to a longstanding puzzle: How, exactly, do our brain cells communicate with each other? See, biologists had known since the 1960s that nerve cells pass chemical messages to one another inside hollow little globs of proteins called synaptic vesicles — and yet, as recently as the early 90s, no one had figured out much of anything about how this process worked. Meanwhile, as … Continue reading “2013’s Nobel Prize Winners” — Podcast 11: James Rothman, Randy Schekman & Thomas Südhof

The Top 5 Neuroscience Breakthroughs of 2013

If 2012 was the year neuroscience exploded into pop culture, 2013 was the year it stepped into the halls of power. The Obama administration’s $100-million BRAIN Initiative stirred up furious debate, as proponents cheered to see so much funding and press attention thrown at large-scale efforts to map the human brain, while opponents claimed that the whole thing might be a gigantic waste of valuable resources. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the European Union’s Human Brain Project sparked similar disputes – disputes that continue even as unexpected breakthroughs have begun to surface. It’s also been a year of explosive growth here … Continue reading The Top 5 Neuroscience Breakthroughs of 2013

The Search for a Nobel Prize-Winning Synapse Machine

In this article for Scientific American, I talk with all three winners of 2013’s Nobel prize in physiology or medicine, about the paths that led them to victory. Where did their scientific careers start? Did they have any idea they’d be working in this area of research, let alone discover something as profound as they did? And what, exactly, did they discover? The answers are here, and they may not be what you expect. Winners James Rothman, Randy Schekman and Thomas Südhof all helped assemble our current picture of the cellular machinery that enables neurotransmitter chemicals to travel from one … Continue reading The Search for a Nobel Prize-Winning Synapse Machine

Brains of Autistic Children Are Surprisingly Hyper-Connected

In this article for Discover Magazine, I explore a new study that’s found a new difference in the brains of autistic children: Different brain regions aren’t actually under-connected, as some researchers have believed – they’re actually hyper-connected, exchanging information much more than they would in a non-autistic brain. What does this mean? Could it point toward potential treatments for autism? The studies, one at San Diego State University and another at Stanford University, consisted of fMRI scanning of children and teens with autism and a non-affected control group, all of whom were directed to think about nothing in particular. The … Continue reading Brains of Autistic Children Are Surprisingly Hyper-Connected

“Crowdsourcing a Neuroscience Revolution” — Podcast 10: Sebastian Seung

On Episode 10 of The Connectome Podcast, I chat with Sebastian Seung, a neuroscience researcher whose latest work — in cooperation with teams at MIT, at Germany’s Max Planck Institute and at other cutting-edge institutions — is proving that an improbable-sounding dream isn’t so improbable after all: We may be able to map the structure and function of every neural connection in an entire mammalian nervous system, from the cellular level up… and it may happen within our lifetimes. Seung’s bestselling book Connectome offers an exciting tour through this fast-growing field of connectomics — and in fact, it was his … Continue reading “Crowdsourcing a Neuroscience Revolution” — Podcast 10: Sebastian Seung