To Flee or Freeze? Neural Circuits of Threat Detection Identified

Suddenly something streaks into your peripheral vision.  Instantly, you jump back and raise your arms defensively.  “What was that!” You exclaim in shock.   Only then do you realize that the blurred streak you just dodged was a wayward basketball zinging like a missile on a collision course for your face.  A rush of adrenaline flushes through your blood setting your heart pounding and muscles twitching, but there is nothing left to do.  Your brain’s rapid response defense system has already detected the threat and avoided it before your conscious mind is even engaged.  How is that possible, scientist, Peng Cao and colleagues of the Chinese Academy of Sciences wondered?

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Posted in Animal Research, Awareness and Attention, by Douglas Fields, Cell Communication, Neuroanatomy, Psychiatric Disorders, Senses and Perception, Stress and Anxiety, Uncategorized
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Snakes on the Brain

After repeated encounters with a friendly rattlesnake last week I have snakes on the brain.  Serpents are a storehouse of fascinating neuroscience.  Infrared vision, venom, fast-twitch muscles to energize its “warning buzzer,” and more… Continue reading

Posted in About Neuroscience, Animal Research, by Douglas Fields, Cell Communication, Evolution, Neuroanatomy, Senses and Perception, Uncategorized
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Poisoned Synapses not Crocodile Bile the Likely Killer of Mozambique Beer Drinkers

On January 11, 2015 news swept the globe reporting that scores of people died and 200 were sickened by drinking beer poisoned with crocodile bile in Mozambique.  Thinking is now shifting to the possibility of poisoned synapses, not reptilian bile as the cause of these deaths.

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Posted in About Neuroscience, by Douglas Fields, Cell Communication, Chemicals, Childhood, Childhood Disorders, Diet and Exercise, Injury, Pregnancy and Parenting
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The Absurdity of “Medical Marijuana”

Marijuana use is legal in many states for medical purposes, most of them dealing with neurological conditions (pain, epilepsy, tremor, multiple sclerosis, and many others).  From the perspective of a neuroscientist researcher, the situation with respect to “medical marijuana” is absurd.  Continue reading

Posted in Addiction, Animal Research, Brain Development, by Douglas Fields, Cell Communication, Chemicals, Degenerative Disorders, Diseases & Disorders, Epilepsy, Immune System Disorders, Movement Disorders, Neural Network Function, Neuroethics, Neurolaw, Policymakers, Psychiatric Disorders, Technologies, Uncategorized
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How is the brain like a guitar? Hint: It is all about rhythm

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.

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Posted in About Neuroscience, by Douglas Fields, Cell Communication, Educators, Epilepsy, Learning and Memory, Neural Network Function, Psychiatric Disorders, Senses and Perception, Sleep, Technologies, Uncategorized
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The Brain’s White Matter–Learning beyond Synapses

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.

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Posted in Aging, Brain Development, by Douglas Fields, Cell Communication, Diet and Exercise, Learning and Memory, Neural Network Function, Uncategorized
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NEURO.tv Episode 12 – Optogenetics and anxiety-related behaviors, with Kay Tye.

What is optogenetics and how is it used to determine the contribution of brain areas to normal and dysfunctional behaviors? We discuss with Kay Tye, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at MIT. Continue reading

Posted in About Neuroscience, Across the Lifespan, Authors, Brain Basics, by Steven Miller, Cell Communication, Mood, Neural Network Function, Neuroanatomy, Sensing, Thinking & Behaving, Stress and Anxiety, Technologies
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