In America, we all know Helen Keller. But we don’t know the more than 200,000 blind children in India. We don’t know that blind children in India do not go to school; that many end up begging on the streets (if they are of the “lucky” half that survives past the age of five). We don’t know that many of these blind children have easily curable disorders, like cataracts. But Pawan Sinha, founder of Project Prakash (meaning “light” in Sanskrit), saw what we have all been blind to. He saw a chance to help these children by providing free medical treatment to restore their vision. However, because the brain's ability to process visual information emerges early in development, there was one question that Project Prakash would need to answer: After removing cataracts from an older child, would the brain still possess the ability to learn how to interpret visual signals in order to recognize objects?Read More
“…Crosses over? Like in an X shape? Well that seems ridiculous”, my younger sister scoffed. After 10 minutes of me trying to briefly explain our visual system to her over the phone, she still couldn’t believe that sending signals from our eyes to our brain wasn’t a straight “Point A to Point B” system. While any human with common sense would agree with my sister’s logic, transmitting signals from our eyes to our brain is a much more complicated process, involving multiple intermediate functions and convoluted pathways.Read More
We all occasionally crave a good cup of instant ramen. But what often holds us back from enjoying one is a combination of factors that make ramen unhealthy: processed ingredients, preservatives—and MSG. We generally know MSG as the menace, the unhealthy additive that makes cheap Asian food distinctively enjoyable but also makes us extremely thirsty afterwards. So what exactly is MSG?Read More
Think about the last time you ate something spicy, whether it be Hot Cheetos, a jalapeño, or sriracha. Did your nose flush? Did you sweat? Cry? And what did it feel like? Like you were breathing fire or like you were getting your tongue pinched?
Those are sensations many of us have experienced to some degree when we’ve eaten spicy foods. The question is: why?Read More
Today our guest is Professor Dwight Bergles, a professor in the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University. In this episode we talk about glia and their role in neuronal circuits, following data wherever it takes you, and a dream of swimming with sperm whales.
In a paper entitled The functional diversity of retinal ganglion cells in the mouse, the authors provide a new and startling classification of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) by recording their real-time activity in response to visual input, revealing many new types of cells.Read More
Although we would like to think of ourselves as independent readers and thoughtful evaluators of published data, it turns out that figure format heavily influences our perception of the data – even when the data points represented by the figure are identical. In this edition of "New in Neuroscience," Kat Kozyrytska describes a study by Prof. Barbara Tversky, who looks at the way people have been representing information visually for thousands of years.
Image credit: Kat KozyrytskaRead More
Have you ever woken up in the morning to the refreshing aroma wafting from the neighborhood cafe? Does it remind you of the last Christmas Eve sitting with family enjoying a cup of coffee, or the cozy conversations with an old friend in you two’s favorite coffee shop? Smelling an odor can cause an emotional reaction or elicit a memory that is unique to that individual person.Read More
Each year, approximately 61.5 million Americans are afflicted by a mental illness. Although we have not yet determined the underlying cause of these disorders, scientists believe that genetic mutations play a major role. Human genetic testing has identified multiple “risk genes” that are associated with major psychiatric disorders, but little is known about how mutations in the same risk gene can contribute to different disorders.Read More
Until the late 20th century, scientists believed the adult brain was hardwired. We now know that adult brains are actually quite plastic, capable of generating new neurons and remodeling after experience or injury. A recent study by Villa et al. visualized remodeling in a living mouse brain and proposes a mechanism through which neurons maintain balance in a changing environment, as if walking a tightrope between excitation and inhibition.
Image Credit: George E. Curtis, 1876 (Maria Spelterini crossing Niagara Falls by tightrope)Read More