Brains & Bourbon Ep13 Sleep

This week on Brains & Bourbon, we share a Manhattan with H. Craig Heller who talk us through the "how" and "why" of sleep and explains what hibernating astronauts have in common with ground squirrels. Plus much more!

Dr. Heller is a professor of biology and is the co-director of the Stanford Center for Down Syndrome Research.

Ask a Neuroscientist: Why is prayer so motivating? Is it because of dopamine?

Ask a Neuroscientist: Why is prayer so motivating? Is it because of dopamine?

Do some people experience a rush of dopamine when they pray or preach the gospel?

Becca Krock's fascinating answer evokes a wide range of subjects, from St. Teresa, "who certainly seems to have enjoyed praying", to the handful of studies that have measured brain activity during prayer, to the writings of William James, "the father of modern psychology".

In the end, she writes, it may be reasonable to conclude that "prayer is an intricate composite of many more run-of-the-mill psychological processes (attention, memory, emotion, speech). And each one...is accompanied by the neural correlates you’d expect to see during that process, regardless of whether it’s occurring in a religious or secular context."

Image source: continuedon.wordpress.com

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Ask a Neuroscientist: How many types of neurons are there?

Ask a Neuroscientist: How many types of neurons are there?

How many types of neurons are there? 

Joran Sorokin discusses one popular property used for distinguishing between neurons: neurotransmission, or how individual cells communicate with one another. How do neuroscientists use this property to break neurons into subtypes? And where does this leave glia??

Read on to learn more. 

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Insatiable Insects

Insatiable Insects

It is possible to eat until your stomach bursts open, but most people will never come close to this horror. ... The neuronal circuits that control our eating behavior have evolved to keep us well fed, but not overfed. There are triggers that tell you to start eating, such as hunger and the availability of food, and triggers that tell you to stop, such as sensation of dangerous foods or gut distension.

But what if that system was broken? Kristin Scott’s lab at UC Berkeley has discovered a small set of neurons in the fruit fly that chronically inhibit eating. Without them, the animal will eat until it regurgitates, excretes, or explodes.

Image credit: Allan-Hermann Pool, Kristin Scott’s Lab at UC Berkeley.

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Brains & Bourbon Ep12: Daniel Hawes – Personality, Neuroeconomics, and a Whiskey Sour

 

 

This week on Brains and Bourbon, we share whiskey sours with Daniel Hawes, a post-doctoral fellow studying the interplay between personality and decision making in Sam McClure’s lab. We ask Daniel about his journey from agricultural engineering student in Germany to psychologist at Stanford, and how the different perspectives of engineering, economics, psychology and neuroscience interact to influence his approach to understanding how individuals make decisions.

Daniel tells us about how psychologists currently think about defining individual differences between people, and how his research is revealing differences in brain activity during decision making that are related to the "big five" dimensions of personality. In the end, we wax philosophical about the importance of understanding personality in developing self-awareness and whether it would be a good idea to tickle people in an fMRI machine.

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In the interview, we mentioned the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment. If you haven't heard of this, you should really see the videos of cute kids trying their best to avoid sweet, white, gooey temptation. Check out a re-creation of the original experiment here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3S0xS2hdi4.