Tag Archives: Neuroscience

Science for the People: Understanding Neuroscience

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Blue Pyramidal Neuron - original watercolor painting on clayboard by Michele Banks (All Rights Reserved - Used with Permission)

Blue Pyramidal Neuron – original watercolor painting on clayboard by Michele Banks (All Rights Reserved – Used with Permission)

This week, Science for the People is we’re looking at the ways we try to understand the inner workings of the brain. They talk to University College London researcher Cliodhna O’Connor about patterns in the way the public interprets neuroscience news. And they’ll ask Duncan Astle, Program Leader at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, about “neuromyths,” popular misconceptions about the way the brain functions.

*Josh provides research help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.

Science for the People: High Price

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This week, Science for the People is looking at the science and policy of treating drug addiction. They’re joined by psychology professor and researcher Carl Hart to talk about his book “High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society.” And they’ll speak to Donald MacPherson, Director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, about harm reduction strategies to reduce the negative consequences of drug use.

*Josh provides research help to Science for the People and is, therefore, a completely biased and cooperative member of the team.

Narcolepsy update!

Last year, I wrote a post about the potential link between autoimmune dysfunction and narcolepsy. Today, a major study published in Science Translational Medicine linking narcolepsy and autoimmunity targeted at hypocretin expressing neurons has been retracted. Ed Yong wrote about the original study when it was released and posted this update on his blog at National Geographic.

Sometimes, even things in big journals (especially big journals?) turn out to be not quite true.

O(K Go)ptical Illusion


OK Go are known, in addition to their music, for their quirky videos, particularly a no-edit style that reduces “production values” (and costs) while making the whole thing that much more impressive. They’ve done a Rube Goldberg machine and a sound generating car-obstacle course combo. Now they have an entire video based on optical illusions.

One of my favorite things about optical illusions is not that they show that our brain can be tricked (which it can). It is that optical illusions are entertaining proof that the reality we perceive is a processed version of actual reality. Optical illusions represent a hack of that system.

Hat tip to Lauren Davis at io9.

Let’s Keep the Criticism (of Brain Imaging) Constructive

If you have interest in neuroscience and how developing brain imaging technology is influencing the field for better or for worse, you owe it to yourself to read Virginia Hughes’ “In Defense of Brain Imaging” at the Only Human blog at National Geographic’s Phenomena. Hughes applies an even hand to the issues confronting brain imaging, its public perception, and the times where the criticism may be too extreme. In the end, we are left with a picture of a field that continues to develop, much like any other field, with leaps forward and gross missteps:

…neuroscientist Martha Farah makes two compelling counterpoints. One is that brain imaging methods have improved a great deal since the technology’s inception. The second is that its drawbacks — statistical pitfalls, inappropriate interpretations, and the like — are not much different from those of other scientific fields. – Virginia Hughes