New in Neuroscience: Pericytes are Novel Players in Fueling the Brain

New in Neuroscience: Pericytes are Novel Players in Fueling the Brain

The brain is a gas-guzzler. Weighing in at only 2% of the mass of your body, the brain consumes over 20% of the body’s energy. The idea that high-activity regions of the brain need more blood is the principle behind human neuroimaging techniques like PET and MRI, but how do neurons ask for more blood when they need it?

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Neurotalk S4E13 Carl Hart

Today, our guest is  Carl Hart, associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University and author of the 2013 book, High Price: A neuroscientist’s Journey of Self Discovery That Challenges Everything you Know about drugs and society. We’ll be speaking with him about surprising discoveries about psychoactive drug use, and how neuroscience can better inform policy

Ask a Neuroscientist: Restless Legs Syndrome

Ask a Neuroscientist: Restless Legs Syndrome

Is restless leg syndrome a neurological disorder? What could be the root cause and is there any cure?

I fell deep into a rabbit hole of RLS and related research in writing this article. RLS is a neurological disorder, and we have some tantalizing clues about its cause--but there are far more questions than answers at this point. But two candidates are dopamine and iron. 

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New in Neuroscience: Understanding ALS

New in Neuroscience: Understanding ALS

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is finally in the spotlight. As a rare neurodegenerative disease characterized by the progressive loss of a subset of motor neurons, ALS has often been overshadowed by other diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  However, thanks to events such as the viral Ice Bucket Challenge last summer and Eddie Redmayne’s Oscar winning portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, ALS has entered the public consciousness. In parallel, the scientific field has also experienced major growth, with new disease-causing mutations being reported on a regular basis. Labs have rushed to understand how these genetic mutations cause neurodegeneration, but a fundamental question remains unanswered: why do only certain motor neurons die in the course of ALS? After all, genetic mutations are global, and yet in ALS and most neurodegenerative diseases, only a subset of neurons die.

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Ask a Neuroscientist: Thinking Beyond the Halle Berry Neuron

Ask a Neuroscientist: Thinking Beyond the Halle Berry Neuron

Is it possible to measure the occurrence of a thought and its corresponding firing neuron - does the thought have to be present in a firing neuron, for it to exist? If so, which comes first - or are they one and the same thing?

These questions cut right to the heart of what many neuroscientists find fascinating about the brain and why we choose to study it. Essentially all neuroscientists believe that thoughts are purely an effect of firing neurons. But which one comes first? And can individual neurons be responsible for individual thoughts? 

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Eureka! The neuroscience of creative insights

Eureka! The neuroscience of creative insights

"If the brain is recalling a flash bulb memory, what would the average firing rate of neurons be in a human?"

The answer is: more than zero, (probably) less than a grand mal seizure.

A more compelling version of this question might be: "What is the neural process that underlies an "ah ha!" moment?" Or, in other words, what is our brain doing when we leap out of our baths yelling "eureka"? To help answer this question, I dig up a video of Dr. Mark Beeman, who studies the cognition of insight and creativity. 

Image source: Mike Rohde (flickrCC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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