Brain Bits, 1/10/16

Welcome to Brain Bits, where I highlight important or interesting recent news in the world of neuroscience. In store for today: recording the activity of an entire moving brain, sensing different types of touch, optogenetics trials in humans, and more!   Neuroscientists have long dreamed of recording the activity of every neuron in the brain at the same time: since everything the brain does is … Continue reading

Why It’s Tough to Teach an Old Brain New Tricks

Ever wondered why you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? It’s the same reason why you can’t pick up a new language nearly as fast as your kid, or why your grandparents suck at typing. (Sorry Grandma.) It’s also the reason why sports stars or piano virtuosos are usually folks who have been practicing since they were barely out of the womb. Young brains … Continue reading

Brain Bits, 10/24/15

Welcome to Brain Bits, where I highlight important or interesting recent news in the world of neuroscience. In store for today: why every brain cell may be unique, a call for national brain observatories, simulating your brain in a supercomputer, and more!   In 2012, a group of six prominent neuroscientists proposed a large-scale brain mapping project that formed the basis for President Obama’s BRAIN … Continue reading

What Happens When You Put 500 Fly Neuroscientists in the Same Place for 5 Days

This week is SFN, the crazy annual neuroscience extravaganza attended by over 30,000 people. Last year I wrote about what it’s like to attend SFN, in all its awkward and nerdy glory. Alas, this year I’m not going, unlike almost everyone I know (goodbye husband, friends, and labmates; hello Netflix!). Instead of SFN, I just got back from the fruit fly neuroscience meeting at Cold … Continue reading

How Dopamine Helps You Predict the Future

All of us can predict the future. No, we’re not psychic. But we can all learn. At its core, learning is predicting the future based on the past. When something good or bad unexpectedly happens, you learn what events or cues predict that outcome. Your brain is full of predictive associations. For example, I predict that eating a Godiva truffle will lead to several moments … Continue reading

Brain Bits, 9/12/15

Welcome to Brain Bits, where I highlight important or interesting recent news in the world of neuroscience. Today’s Brain Bits are going to be chunkier than usual because there are some really cool recent papers that I want to talk about and actually explain properly. I know, I’ve been away too long! (I’ve turned one of the chunks into a full post for next week, … Continue reading

Weddings vs. Lab: A Brief Comparison

Hey guys! As you may have noticed, Brains Explained took a bit of a summer hiatus. But I plan to get back into the swing of things, starting now! Today’s post may shed some light on where most of my summer went…   Top 5 Similarities Between Planning a Wedding and Working in a Lab 1. Many opportunities for free food     2(a). Lots of Excel sheets and … Continue reading

Brain Bits, 6/21/15

Welcome to Brain Bits, where I highlight important or interesting recent news in the world of neuroscience. This week: sexist comments that went viral, happy thoughts make mice less depressed, why broken DNA can be a good thing, and more!   Well, we might as well start with the story that no one could stop talking about for the last two weeks: Nobel Prize winner Tim … Continue reading

How Our Brains Learn

Today I’m going to address one of the most fundamental questions in neuroscience: how do our brains learn? People often compare the brain to a computer: both are able to process and store tons of information. But computers (generally) don’t learn. Your computer doesn’t mature over time or change its programming based on what worked and what didn’t. That’s why its same annoying habits or bugs will … Continue reading

Brain Bits, 5/17/15

Welcome to Brain Bits, where I highlight important or interesting recent news in the world of neuroscience. This week: why you get hangry, how flies fly without getting lost, kicking old professors out of the lab, and more!   Deep in the brain, within a region called the hypothalamus, there are neurons that control eating. These cells, called AGRP neurons, fire when mice are hungry and … Continue reading