How Animals Sense Magnetism

Migrating birds and butterflies fly thousands of miles in the autumn to escape cold winter temperatures, then return home in the spring. Salmon swim hundreds of miles from the ocean through rivers until they reach the spawning ground where they were born. During World Wars I and II, pigeons were trained to deliver messages between distant military units or to communicate with spies behind enemy … Continue reading

Brain Bits, 2/27/16

Welcome to Brain Bits, where I highlight important or interesting recent news in the world of neuroscience. I know guys, I’ve been falling behind in writing full-length posts because I’ve been incredibly busy this semester, but I thought some Brain Bits would at least tide you over for now. In store for today: revolutionizing scientific publishing, how your different senses interact, a new method for studying human 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

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

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

Brain Bits, 3/7/15

Welcome to the second installment of Brain Bits, where I highlight important or interesting recent news in the world of neuroscience. This week: how to build a human brain, what female fruit flies do after sex, DIY brain stimulation, and celebrating crappy results.   A hallmark of the human brain is the dramatic enlargement of the neocortex, which is believed to mediate higher-level thought and cognition. Last week a new study in Science … Continue reading

Why We Smell Like Bugs: A Case Study of How Evolution Sculpts the Brain

In a recent post I explained why it’s awesome to study the brains of invertebrates, like fruit flies or worms. I bet by now you’re convinced that doing experiments in these tiny creatures can teach us lots of things about the fly or worm brain. But what most people care about is the human brain.1 Can invertebrates really teach us anything about what’s going on … Continue reading

Why We Study Invertebrate Brains

As you guys might know by now, I study fruit flies. When I tell people I study fruit fly brains, the first question I usually get is, “Fruit flies have brains??” Yes, they have brains. Fairly complex ones actually. I challenge the smartest engineers in the world to build a computer that’s half as smart as a fly brain. The second question I get is, … Continue reading

Why Serial Is Like Science (Part 2): Truth, Lies, and Spin

In my previous post I discussed how the Serial podcast reminds me of doing science: starting with an initial straightforward question that rapidly becomes a murky mess, poring over ambiguous evidence that provides few clear answers, and so on (read the post here). Today I’m going to continue with this analogy and discuss what the search for truth in science really means. One of the … Continue reading