Linky and the Brain: Science and Art edition

Hi folks. Please excuse the brevity of this post - the adrenaline/endorphine one-two punch of tonight's softball game victory has worn off, and I'm ready to catch up on my sleep. But, before I pop off, here's some links I've been collecting over the past couple of weeks to share with you all.

Science? Art? Yes.

Via Laughing Squid, visualizations of animal sounds. The work of software designer and artist Mark Fischer, these eerily evocative illustrations are generated by passing animal calls through a wavelet analysis. Part work of art, part complex data visualization, I thoroughly enjoyed viewing these images. My particular favorite is the Blue-Crowned Manakin. Visit Aguasonic Acoustics for additional interpretations.

Again, courtesy of Laughing Squid, entries in Princeton University's 2013 Art of Science competition. 44 images selected from 170 submissions from 24 Princeton University departments, images were produced as part of scientific research. I vaguely remember Stanford University hosting such a competition; can someone more knowledgeable comment in some information? Shout out to my c.elegans homies (Hi, Sammy): I loved this picture of a swarm of worms on an agar plate. Also, here's a picture entitled "Worm Water Slide". Best title, or best title ever?

Over at the Smithsonian, a brief news report on research into how the natural frequency at which an individuals skull vibrates (this varies from person to person, from 35 to 65 times per second), can (moderately) predict what type of music the person does not enjoy listening to. The Unique Vibrations of Your Skull Affect How Your Hear Music.

Science, in the trenches.

I enjoyed reading this blog post, on the site Small Pond Science, that talks about the familiar situation of having a set of data that perfectly answers a hypothesis... that you didn't initially set out to test. Pretending you planned to test that hypothesis the whole time.

Slight/moderate facepalm moment: Cornell researcher and blogger Zhana Vrangalova writes up a post-game analysis of the media coverage of her recent paper, "Birds of a feather? Not when it comes to sexual permissiveness".

For pure delight, nothing can beat this, via The Atlantic: the second author of the recent Nature paper describing the collection of fluid isolated in the Earth's crust in the Precambrian era, "took one for the team" and drank some of their ~1 billion year old water. It doesn't taste very good.

Public and Private Sectors

A write up of a recent NSF-funded workshop on priorities for the Brain Initiative. (via

Mozilla launches a new online resource for scientists, Science Lab, with the initial vision of encouraging researchers and members of the open web community to "share ideas, tools and best practices for using next-generation web solutions to solve real problems in science, and explore ways to make research faster, more agile and collaborative". (Press release, via The Next Web)

And that's all I've got. Until next time!




Astra Bryant

Astra Bryant is a graduate of the Stanford Neuroscience PhD program in the labs of Drs. Eric Knudsen and John Huguenard. She used in vitro slice electrophysiology to study the cellular and synaptic mechanisms linking cholinergic signaling and gamma oscillations – two processes critical for the control of gaze and attention, which are disrupted in many psychiatric disorders. She is a senior editor and the webmaster of the NeuWrite West Neuroblog

Linky and the Brain: May 28, 2013 (shameless self-promotion edition)

Linky and the Brain: May 28, 2013 (shameless self-promotion edition)

It's been a busy week and I haven't been reading much on the web worth sharing, but I do want to direct you to a podcast interview I did a couple of weeks ago with the great folks at Generation Anthropocene which was just posted today as part of their podcast series. I even got my own little ink-sketch, out of the bargain!

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Linky and the Brain: May 20, 2013

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The past week has been all about maths for me. Well, not all about maths. There was quite a bit of coding (PHP is not my friend) and some experiments (I blocked ALL the acetylcholine receptors).

But special tribute must be paid to all the maths.

First, for those who didn't catch it, Neuro PhD Candidate Kelly Zalocusky posted a fabulous discussion on statistical reliability in neuroscience, reviewing recent work by Stanford Professor Dr. John Ioannidis that highlights the lack of statistical power in many published neuroscience articles. I highly recommend you read Kelly's article (found here). And, if once you're done reading Kelly's post, you have the irresitable urge to calculate the size of n your data needs to be statistically reliable, I recommend the book Power Analysis for Experimental Research: A Pratical Guide for the Biological, Medical and Social Sciences by R. Barker Bauesell and Yu-Fang Li. If you are a Stanford University affiliate, Lane Library has a digital copy (catalogue record here). Last Tuesday, I used the power charts in the t-test section to calculate the correct n I need to have full statistical power, given my pilot data.

From using math to study brains, to studying brains that are doing math. Just in, by a group of researchers at Oxford University - Shocks to the Brain Improve Mathmatical Abilities. This article initialy crossed my internet browser in the form of coverage in Scientific America, as reprinted from Nature. The "shock" in question: transcranial direct current stimulation. The "brain" - the prefrontal cortex. The "math" - arithmetic - "rote memorization of mathematical facts (such as 2 x 17 = 34) and more complicated calculations (for example, 32 – 17 + 5)". The "improvement" - increased response speed - both immediately after stimulation, and, 6 months later, when Oxford students who had received the stimulation were 28% faster than control compatriots. An in depth analysis of the findings/protocols/interpretations of this study would require me to write a longer post, so for the present I'll just link you all to the original article, published in Current Biology. 

And, to round out our maths trilogy, this morning Gizmodo posted two video's featuring a mathematician explaining math jokes. It's funny. Very funny. Cora Ames, I expect you to integrate this concept into an improv segment. (Maths jokes, Explained)

A few other (non-math related) links:

Science Seeker Awards - With special call out both Part 1 and Part II of The Crayolafication of the Brain (Part II won best psych/neuro post)

SfN Careers Youtube Channel highlights alternative career choices - video interviews with Society members whose career paths are not of the traditional academic flavor.

A meta-analysis of the use of literary puns in science article titles. Yeah, we scientists took English Lit in college, too.


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Astra Bryant

Astra Bryant is a graduate of the Stanford Neuroscience PhD program in the labs of Drs. Eric Knudsen and John Huguenard. She used in vitro slice electrophysiology to study the cellular and synaptic mechanisms linking cholinergic signaling and gamma oscillations – two processes critical for the control of gaze and attention, which are disrupted in many psychiatric disorders. She is a senior editor and the webmaster of the NeuWrite West Neuroblog

Linky and the Brain: May 14, 2013

Linky and the Brain: May 14, 2013

Birds are marvelous little alien creatures. Who hasn't looked at a swallow or a hawk and dreamed of soaring, or smiled fondly at a little sparrow hopping about after crumbs, or marveled at the iridescence of a hummingbird? They may be evolutionarily distant from us, but somehow they remain emotionally compelling, at least for me. I may not have feathers, wings, a beak, or an appetite for worms, but I feel I can put myself in a bird's 3-toed shoes with easier empathy than I can muster for many mammals with whom I share a closer evolutionary bond. (And of course for "empathize", you should feel free to read "anthropomorphize".)

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Linky and the Brain: April 30, 2013

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Linky and the Brain_small We're doing some expanding here at the Neuroblog. In the next few months, readers will start to notice some new names at the top of posts. This expansion of our authorship is due to a newly formalized partnership with the Stanford-based science communication group NeuWrite West.

As part of this expansion, Nick Weiler and I will trade off authorship of a weekly feature, highlighting the science-related internet content that caught our eyes the previous week. I'd like to encourage folks out there to use the comments to jump in and share any items they enjoyed.

With this introduction, I'll debute entry #1 in our new link-sharing feature. 

Absolutely incredible slow-motion video of barn owl hunting

This came to my attention both via the internets and several folks who shared it with me on Facebook. A stunning video of a barn owl using an auditory cue to strike at prey. The video starts out with a side perspective, but keep watching past the first example as the video switches to showing a bottom up angle that highlights the view of the descending owl from the perspective of the prey. Looking at the focused gaze of the swooping owl, with its outstretched talons drawing inexorably closer, I realize its probably a blessing that mice can't see so well.

Interested in the neural mechanisms of how barn owls localize sound? How maps of visual and auditory space are aligned in the barn owl brain to provide a neural substrate for the terrible precision of the bird's ability to locate prey? I'll direct the curious to the work of Mark Konishi (Caltech), as well as Eric Knudsen (Stanford, my graduate advisor, former postdoc of Konishi).

The Evolution of the Country Mouse and the City Mouse

As usual, Carl Zimmer shows science writers how its done in his post highlighting research into "urban evolution". In particular the work of Jason Munshi-South (Baruch College), who studies evolutionary trajectories of white footed-mouse populations in, and around, NYC.

The art of the ambiguous conference poster abstract

In honor of the rapidly approaching SfN 2013 poster abstract deadline, Dr. Becca (@doc_becca) on writing an abstract in the absence of any data (original publication date, last year). A subject near and dear to my heart right now (damn you, preliminary data! I wish you were a fully-fleshed out scientific story already.)

U.S. Lawmaker Proposes New Criteria for Choosing NSF Grants

As a researcher personally funded by the NSF, this Science Insider news article gave me all sorts of feelings.

And some opposition to the proposed changes, from President Obama.

A Tale Of Mice And Medical Research, Wiped Out By A Superstorm

A more tragic topic - NPR covers the tragic losses suffered by Gord Fishell (and other researchers at NYU) when Superstorm Sandy caused flooding in an offsite animal facility.

Battlestar Pedagogica: Using Science Fiction to teach Science!

As an avid science fiction reader (and BSG viewer), I enjoyed reading this post on using science fiction to teach scientific concepts in the classroom. In my experiences chatting about neuroscience with non-neuroscientists (especially my computer science friends), I've found referencing sci-fi concepts to be a remarkably useful way to a) capture attention/interest and b) generate fascinating and complex discussions of current neuroscience.

Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate.

Neil deGrasse Tyson moderates the Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate. This years topic: Nothingness. The panel: Lawrence Krauss (theoretical physics, ASU), J. Richard Gott (astrophysics, Princeton), veteran science journalists Jim Holt (science journalist) and Charles Seife (science journalist), and Eve Silverstein (physics, Stanford). (via io9)

Academic Fraud, a profile of social psychologist Diederik Stapel in the NYTimes Magazine.

A long read from the NYTimes Magazine, on Dutch social psychologist Diederik Stapel who fabricated results in at least 55 of his published articles. Written by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee. (via Cori Bargmann, @betenoire1)

Ending on a Happy Note: First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training.

From the twitter account of @herdyshepherd1, training a border collie to herd sheep.

And that's all the links I've got for now folks. See you round the web. -Astra