Would you ever voluntarily give up one of your senses? Turns out, the answer for an ever-increasing number of people is yes (albeit only temporarily). Novelty concepts such as dining in the dark have risen in popularity over the past decade; restaurant-goers frequently give up their sense of sight as a way to have a “heightened” mealtime experience. Most of these diners believe that their temporary blindness intensifies their other sensations - but how would a more permanent loss of sensation affect the ways we perceive our world?Read More
The phone rings — you hear it. The caller ID displays — you read it. You pick up the phone — you say hello. But no matter how hard you listen, you can’t understand a single word that’s said either by you or the caller.
No, you haven't just crossed over into the Twilight Zone; you have a rare syndrome called pure word deafness (PWD). Individuals with PWD cannot understand any speech, even if they can identify other sounds and read written words with no difficulty whatsoeverRead More
When I say my mother smells funny, I don't mean that she has an odor or can sniff out humor, but that her senses have been altered. A number of years ago, my mother slipped on a bathroom floor and hit her head. The displacement of her brain stunned her seventh nerve and severed her olfactory bulb, which convey taste and smell, respectively. For several weeks the experience of eating was like chewing textured cardboard. Her sense of texture was intact, but if she closed her eyes she couldn’t tell the difference between biting into a fresh apple and biting into a raw potato. Luckily, her taste recovered (debatable), but her smell hasn’t.
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