“Brainy” Mice with Human Brain Cells: Chimeras of Mice and Men

Human brain cell transplantation makes mice smart.  The transplanted cells are not neurons and the cells communicate without using electricity. Continue reading

Posted in Animal Research, Brain Development, by Douglas Fields, Cell Communication, Evolution, Learning and Memory, Neural Network Function, Neuroanatomy, Uncategorized
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Human brain anatomy

Can brain functions be computed?

People are getting excited this month on the more-than-century-old debate about whether or not the brain is computable – whether we could make a computer or machine that simulates it. The recent debates were partly caused by the book published by Ray Kurzweil, How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed. Oppositions to the claims and contents of the book have been published by major scientists. One text by Christof Koch in Science1 covers very well the naive and misinformed aspects of this book concerning its statements on biology and intelligence and I will not go further into pinpointing the issues. Christof Koch also provides an accurate view of how complex the question is and how far we are from understanding any brain – let alone the human brain – to program it into a computer. Continue reading

Posted in Authors, Brain Basics, by Jean-Francois Gariepy, Cell Communication, Evolution, In Society, Language, Learning and Memory, Movement, Neural Network Function, Neuroanatomy, Neuroethics, Sensing, Thinking & Behaving
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Eurasian Jay from England

Jays adjust the food they share to partner’s preferences.

Cooperation between individuals is a rather common observation in the animal kingdom. Cooperation is likely favored by evolutionary pressures that provide an advantage to the cooperating partners. Love birds, for instance, regurgitate food to feed their partner. Bats have a similar behavior. One of the questions that psychologists and ethologists have been wondering about is whether the brain represents the preferences of others when performing these behaviors. The question has been framed as whether or not non-human animals have a theory of mind – whether they have neural circuits that represent the preferences, motivations, or goals of the other individual. Continue reading

Posted in Authors, Awareness and Attention, Brain Basics, by Jean-Francois Gariepy, Evolution, Learning and Memory, Sensing, Thinking & Behaving
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Ctenophore

Did the nervous system evolve twice?

There is a news article in Science about a talk made at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology by Leonid Moroz in which he reports results concerning the genome of a Ctenophore, commonly called comb jelly1. Here is one of those beasts. Continue reading

Posted in Authors, Brain Basics, by Jean-Francois Gariepy, Evolution, Genetics, Neuroanatomy
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Deep areas of the brain.

Where is fear?

Is the feeling of fear instantiated in some brain area or is fear just a word we use to describe a series events distributed across the brain which make us avoid things that are bad? Do other animal experience the same subjective state that we experience when we are afraid? Those are some of the questions that are asked in a recent review paper published by Ralph Adolphs in Current Biology. Continue reading

Posted in Across the Lifespan, Authors, Brain Basics, by Jean-Francois Gariepy, Diseases & Disorders, Evolution, Mood, Neuroanatomy, Psychiatric Disorders, Sensing, Thinking & Behaving, Stress and Anxiety
Posted by Jean-François Gariépy        2 Comments

Not about the bike, after all

We are suckers for Horatio Alger stories. We love it when the underdog defies the odds, pulls out the last minute jumper, or makes the save. It’s a surrogate for those times when we do the same thing. We know — on a lesser scale — what it’s like to be behind and losing, and to sometimes squeak one out when nobody expected it. Even when we can’t, we appreciate it when others do it. That’s one reason why the Lance Armstrong revelations hurt. They ram a stake in the heart of our childlike sense of what’s possible. Even with growing doubts, up until he confessed I wanted to believe Lance — didn’t you? Continue reading

Posted in Brain Basics, by Dwayne Godwin, Educators, Evolution, In Society, Neuroethics, Psychiatric Disorders, Sensing, Thinking & Behaving, Stress and Anxiety, Uncategorized
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Young chimpanzees playing.

Chimpanzees and fairness.

Sometimes, ethologists find behaviors in animals that evoke similarities with behaviors that were previously thought unique to humans. Those cases are interesting in two ways; they can show us that we underestimate what animals can do, and sometimes they also suggest that we might be overestimating the complexity of what we do as humans. Frans de Waal is one of the researchers who has pioneered the study of cooperation and aggressive behaviors in non-human animals. Continue reading

Posted in Authors, Brain Basics, by Jean-Francois Gariepy, Diseases & Disorders, Evolution, In Society, Language, Neuroeconomics, Psychiatric Disorders, Sensing, Thinking & Behaving
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