Neuroscience Friends!

I’ve just returned from a thrilling weekend at the BIL Conference in Long Beach, California (yes, the pun on “TED” is very intentional) where I met all kinds of smart, fun people – including lots of folks who share my love for braaaiiins! So I thought I’d introduce you guys to some of the friends I made. I think you’ll be as surprised – and as excited – as I am. Backyard Brains Their motto is “neuroscience for everyone” – how cool is that? They sell affordable kits that let you experiment at home with the nervous systems of insects … Continue reading Neuroscience Friends!

Beyond Perfection

If you continue to practice a skill even after you’ve achieved mastery of it, your brain keeps learning to perform it more and more efficiently, says a new study. As we perform a task – say, dunking a basketball or playing a sweet guitar solo – over and over again, we eventually reach a point that some psychologists call “unconscious competence,” where we execute each movement perfectly without devoting any conscious attention to it at all. But even after this point, our bodies keep finding ways to perform the task more and more efficiently, burning less energy with each repetition. … Continue reading Beyond Perfection

Podcast 1: Our Interview With Joshua Vogelstein

Here it is – the first Connectome podcast! Click here to subscribe in iTunes. Join us as we talk with Joshua Vogelstein, a leading connectomics researcher, about the Open Connectome Project, an international venture to make data on neural connectivity available to everyone, all over the world. It’s like Google Maps for your brain. Here’s a direct link to download the mp3. We’ve learned a lot while working on this first episode, and future ones will be much cleaner and higher-fi. Anyway, enjoy! Continue reading Podcast 1: Our Interview With Joshua Vogelstein

Guiding Neuron Growth

Our neurons’ growth can be shaped by tiny cues from spinning microparticles in the fluids that surround them, a new study reports. The branching and growth of neurons is based on several kinds of guides, including their chemical environment, their location within the brain, and the dense network of glial cells that support and protect them. But as it turns out, they’re also surprisingly responsive to fluid dynamics, turning in response to the rotation of nearby microparticles – a bit like the way a vine can climb a fence-post. Since the early days of neuroscience, researchers have dreamed of growing and shaping neurons for specific purposes – … Continue reading Guiding Neuron Growth

The Colors, Man! The Colors!

Scientists have discovered direct neural correlates of synesthesia, a new study reports. Not only have they detected activation patterns corresponding to synesthesic activity (such as “seeing” certain colors when thinking of certain numbers or sounds) – they’ve isolated an actual functional difference in the brains of synesthesic people. And what’s more, they’ve discovered a way to crank up synesthesic activity. Let’s break this down and talk about what they’ve done here. To understand what’s going on, let’s take a quick glance at history. Synesthesia’s fascinated artists and scientists since way back – in fact, the first people to write about it were the … Continue reading The Colors, Man! The Colors!

The Brain Lab Tour

This past weekend, I got to visit one of the coolest places I’ve ever seen: the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging (LONI). So just for today, I’m gonna take a break from news reporting, and tell you a little about what goes on inside an actual cutting-edge neuroscience lab. Sound good? OK, let’s go! I’m not sure quite what I was expecting to see as I stepped through the lab’s electronically locked door – certainly not the roomful of clean, open-walled work areas that greeted me. I might’ve been standing in a sleek law office, or an advertising agency – … Continue reading The Brain Lab Tour

Flexible Scanner

A new kind of non-invasive brain scanner uses ultra-thin material to record high-resolution maps of brain activity, a new study reports. The scanner is composed of an array of 720 transistors conducting activity from 360 electrodes – and it’s thin and flexible enough to cling to the surface of the brain, or even slip inside the brain’s fissures (folds), or between lobes. Needless to say, this will let researchers peek at the brain’s inner workings with an unprecedented degree of detail. Brain scanning has come a long way since the first electroencephalograms (EEGs) began recording electrical activity from the scalp in the late 1800s. … Continue reading Flexible Scanner