Typically we are introduced to the nervous system by analogy to an electrical circuit, like a door bell or a telephone line carrying a signal rapidly over long distances to activate a specific process. Never mind that electrical impulses are not transmitted through nerve axons anything like electrons flowing through a copper wire, this electronic circuit analogy is useful up to a point. If you want to understand how the brain works at a more complex level, you are going to need a new analogy, and if you play an acoustic guitar you’ll find it under your fingertips.
“Turns out he wasn’t kidding,” said Ray. “He really couldn’t remember last week’s puzzler.” (1) On Monday Tom Magliozzi, co-host of NPR’s ‘Car Talk’ died of Alzheimer’s disease. For his many fans the dreaded disorder suddenly became personal. For many, it comes as a shock to learn that the mind-robbing disease can be fatal.
Recently scientists have been exploring part of the brain that has been relatively unexplored in learning–white matter, comprising half of the human brain. Here new research is detecting cellular changes during learning that are entirely different from the synaptic changes between neurons in gray matter. A new study shows that learning a new motor skill requires generation of new myelin, the electrical insulation on nerve axons.
On September 23, 1976, while the nation’s attention was focused on the battle between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter for President of the United States, a 42-year-old woman half way around the world was engaged in a personal battle. Outside the limelight of world view, her struggle for life in a remote third world country marked the crossing of a threshold for our species. Continue reading
As the water warms in summer, beachgoers flock to the ocean and thoughts of “jaws” inevitably surface. A shark’s ability to home in on the scent of blood is legendary, but many people are surprised to learn that sharks have a stealthy sixth sense to find prey and explore the world around them. Sharks have the ability to sense an electric aura that surrounds all creatures in seawater–including people. Continue reading
She’s checking out your on-line profile.
“I am a scientist who enjoys bird watching and canoeing.”
“Interesting!” she thinks.
Then she scrolls to the next profile; also a scientist:
“I enjoy white water kayaking, and I study alligators in the wild.”
She passes on you with your canoe, and in eager anticipation sends the kayaker an electronic “wink.”
This, according to a study by psychologist John Petraitis, is what most women will do, but why?
Anguish grips the country with news of another horrific mass murder. From local police to the Secret Service, law enforcement worry about the “lone wolf.” These are individuals with no criminal record, feeling alienated and angry, plotting spectacular murder and violence in secret. “Experts” lament that there is no way to track lone wolf killers, but nothing could be farther from the truth. The lone wolf is perhaps the easiest of all potential murderers to identify and stop before they act. Continue reading