Brain Bits: Best of 2017*

Welcome to a special year-end Brain Bits! Today I’ll discuss some of my favorite brain-related research from 2017. *Note: “Best of” = random papers that I liked. Apologies to the authors of all the other awesome 2017 papers that are not mentioned here!   How the brain creates an internal compass My favorite neuroscience story of the year was the discovery of the mechanism that … Continue reading

Fly Neurobiology Meeting, Redux

So I just got back from the fruit fly neurobiology meeting at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. It was a week filled with posters and talks, reunions and awkward introductions, wine and lobster, disco balls and a dance party reminiscent of your high school prom. After the last meeting two years ago I wrote all about what this quirky fly extravaganza is really like (posted here), … Continue reading

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

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

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

Changing Minds: A New Study Explores Variability in the Brain

If you’ve ever done research, then you know about variability. Probably too much about it, in fact. Variability means your results change from day to day, or from cell to cell, or animal to animal. This does not make us scientists happy. Especially for those of us who study animal behavior, which is particularly capricious, variability is the bane of our existence. Even when we … 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