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Author: Jordan Gaines | Views: 1411 | Comments: 0
For our first Valentine's Day a few years back, my boy got me chocolate brains! Not only does he know me extremely well, but he also had it right—love originates in the brain, not the heart.

But what exactly is going on between the ears when those warm and fuzzy feeling wash over us? A new study out just in time for Chocolate Day reveals that love actually acts like an addictive drug. Hmmm, it seems that Ke$ha also got it right...

Researchers at Stony Brook University in New York examined the neural correlates of intense, long-term love using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 10 women and 7 men. fMRI measures brain activity as a function of changes in blood flow. The participants, married an average of 21 years, underwent imaging while viewing either an image of their partner's face, or a familiar acquaintance.

Compared to viewing the acquaintance, areas specifically activated when viewing their spouse included:



• Regions of the dopamine-rich reward system, including the ventral teg . . . More
Author: Jordan Gaines | Views: 2437 | Comments: 0
But that can't be the case. Close your left eye. You can still see much of your left visual field, and you'd certainly smell any food placed under your nose. And what dog is one to walk away without finishing their food?

In fact, Barley is displaying signs of hemispatial neglect, a strange condition in which brain damage, despite normal vision, results in complete neglect of the left side of one's world. Barley had, in fact, suffered a stroke.



Hemispatial neglect most commonly occurs after injury to the right parietal lobe like, in Barley's case, stroke.

It is not as common with left parietal lobe damage—it is thought that the right hemisphere of the brain is generally more specialized for spatial memory, while the left side is better tuned for language.

The left side of a person's world is ignored, then—damage to the right side of the brain reduces the amount of neural activity that crosses over the left via the large fiber tract connecting the two halves, called the corpus collosum (right).

A number of strange symptoms can arise in a person suffering from hemispatia . . . More
Author: Jordan Gaines | Views: 1394 | Comments: 0
Apologies for the cheesy blog title. My brain for the past two weeks has been a whirlwind of—well, brains. I'm in a fairly intense five-week neuroanatomy class and my neurons have been abuzz with images of brain slice after brain slice—so much that transverse sections of the brainstem were beginning to resemble a pug's face. The wrinkly cerebellum was the forehead, and the pons stained darkly resembled the snout. But I digress.

Hallucinating said "pug," combined with me missing my 11-year old greyhound and best friend Patrick (above) back home and my upcoming orientation at the Harrisburg Humane Society (so excited!) prompted me to find out: what is it about pets that, simply put, makes us feel good?

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Author: Cynthia McKelvey | Views: 2859 | Comments: 0
The primary visual cortex (V1) highlighted in yellow. The bottom view is from a mid-section of the brain, the top view is from the outside. In both views, your eyes would be on the left. Source. . . . More
Author: Jordan Gaines | Views: 5559 | Comments: 2
Last by Jordan Gaines on Jan 09, 2012, 4:47pm
If you're within the 32% of Americans that made a resolution for 2012, chances are you're still going strong. Nearly a week in, you've been faced with the temptation, the test of willpower, and likely some teasing from loved ones. And you've only got 360 days left to call your resolution a success? Easy as pie...
Experimentally (and in real life), our species has consistently demonstrated unbridled optimism in the face of adversity. We've failed for the past 20 years'-worth of New Years resolutions—but no, 2012 will definitely be the year we lose weight. Plus, we're all going to quit the jobs we despise and find a better-paying, less stressful, more rewarding job. AND win the lottery (brilliant—we'll never have to go back to work in the first place!). A study by Tali Sharot and colleagues from New York University explored exactly why we can retain this buoyancy, thanks to insights in brain imaging.
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Author: Jordan Gaines | Views: 2166 | Comments: 4
Last by jimbot on Dec 28, 2011, 4:44pm
Gift-giving isn't easy—particularly during the holidays, when there are so many different people for whom to buy. It's overwhelming and stressful, and people cope with the burden in different ways. Some, like myself, begin lists in September, all the while picking up hints from others and taking note, then making my purchases before Thanksgiving. Others rush to the mall the weekend before—or of—Christmas, hoping something will catch their eye or they'll snag a great deal.

At one point or another, we've all been on the receiving end of a poor or ill-fitting gift. How did you react to it? Or, more importantly, what did it mean to you in terms of your relationship with the giver? A study in recent years has explored exactly how men and women react upon receiving good and bad gifts.

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Author: Cynthia McKelvey | Views: 1898 | Comments: 2
Last by Cynthia McKelvey on Dec 19, 2011, 9:50am
Yes, really. On the left is the skull of a woodpecker, where the hyoid can be seen extending up from behind the skull. On the right labeled (b) is the woodpecker hyoid bone by itself. . . . More
Author: Jordan Gaines | Views: 2753 | Comments: 1
Last by Chas on Dec 09, 2011, 9:36pm
Check out the woman on the left and try not to yawn. Go on, give her a good ten seconds of your time. In the spirit of A Christmas Story, I triple-dog dare you. Really—try your absolute hardest not think about yawning as you read this post! C'mon, you know you can do it—you've been dared before, and you always fail miserably. NO YAWNING!
Chances are you've already let out an extended, eye-moistening, feel-good yawn or two at this point. I've personally counted six of my own since starting this post.

We've all heard that "yawning is contagious"—but why? In this busy world, we don't sleep as much as we should. Gallup Polls in recent years have found that 56% of Americans report drowsiness as a daytime problem, and 34% of us are "dangerously sleepy." Does seeing someone yawn remind us that we, too, are exhausted are must follow suit?

That may be part of it, but the true reason may go much deeper. As it turns out, yawning may have ancient roots in social bonding.

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Author: Cynthia McKelvey | Views: 6324 | Comments: 2
Last by rich on Dec 31, 2011, 9:28pm
Happy holidays, everyone! It's a time of eating lots of delicious food, spending time with friends and family, and celebrating long-held traditions. For many, it's also a time of finding their way back home, whether it's in the town where they grew up, or in the company of loved ones (or both). This also means that for many, it's a time of airports and cars and lots of frustrating travel. For us humans, navigating home involves making reservations, getting on a plane in one city and landing in another. Or it means climbing into the car, punching in an address in the GPS, and hitting the gas. But what does getting home mean for other animals? They don't have a GPS with a vaguely snarky voice to tell them which way to turn, nor do they have massive(ly disorganized) transportation hubs in major cities that quickly shuttle them back and forth to destinations. So what happens when you take an animal, put it somewhere where it's never been, and let it try and find its way home?

That's actually a pretty big question when it comes to animal navigation. Different animals have very different ways to navigate--for example, some use the position of the sun to orient themselves. Others can see polarized light, and use that to navigate home . . . More
Author: Jordan Gaines | Views: 1898 | Comments: 2
Last by Jordan Gaines on Nov 18, 2011, 2:06pm
When I was in elementary school, my teacher told my class that the full moon makes people crazy. She said it was caused by the gravitational tug of the moon on the Earth—the same forces that cause high and low tides—the argument being that our bodies are more than 60% water. I was impressionable and fascinated by weird science—who isn't at that age?—and have long since stored that "fact"oid in my ever-developing hippocampus. The full moon last week (which, not to mention, was GINORMOUS—did anyone else notice?) reminded me of this theory and made me want to do a little research of my own. Does the full moon really do something to our brains?

Firstly, we must be on the same page as to what a "full moon" really means. The moon revolves around the Earth, and the Earth revolves around the sun. The phases of the moon simply represent the portions illuminated by the sun. All of this motion creates a very dynamic display for us earthlings. So when you see that little sliver in the sky, the rest of the moon is still there—the sun's rays just aren't reflected on the surface we're seeing.

That being said, why would an illuminated moon have some sort of effect (on tides, craziness, etc.), while a shadowed moon wouldn . . . More
Author: Cynthia McKelvey | Views: 1377 | Comments: 1
Last by Jordan Gaines on Nov 17, 2011, 8:54pm
:D . . . More
Author: Jordan Gaines | Views: 1286 | Comments: 3
Last by Jordan Gaines on Nov 28, 2011, 10:04pm

A very exciting event is happening as I type this: Neuroscience 2011, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. This nerd-tastic event attracts a bevy (over 30,000, to be more precise) of the best and brightest in brain research under one roof once a year. This year's meeting is in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately for me, I am not in attendance; but fortunately for myself and, hopefully, my readers, new research radiating from this meeting gives me some great material to share.

On Saturday, the first day of the meeting, a new study was described that involves tricking arthritis sufferers with mirrors to alleviate their pain. Wait—what? Mirrors?
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Author: Jordan Gaines | Views: 3025 | Comments: 0
I am always in awe of "unlikely animal friends," and there are plenty of these videos on YouTube from which to enjoy. This CBS Evening News Assignment America particularly interested me.

Steve Hartman has reported two follow-ups since this 2009 feature about an unlikely friendship between Tarra the elephant and Bella the dog. The latest, which I caught when aired two nights ago, was heartbreaking, but extraordinarily fascinating. Sadly, Bella was killed by what appeared to be a coyote attack on October 26. When the location of the attack was pinpointed, the blood on Tarra's trunk made it evident that the elephant had carried her friend a mile back to the house. Tarra is now showing all the signs of depression—her fellow elephant friends at the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, TN have been reaching out to her, spending more time with her and offering her their food. Nothing short of amazing, right?

Anybody with a pet wonders whether their animals can feel emotion. Scientific studies have reported signs of joy in rats, empathy in mice, and anger in baboons. We've all heard about pets who stand vigil over sick or dying owners, dogs who adopt extreme levels of responsibility for the blind or disabled, and my friend has a cat who is particularly affectionate when she isn't feeling well, physically or emotionally.



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Author: Jordan Gaines | Views: 1037 | Comments: 4
Last by Jordan Gaines on Nov 16, 2011, 10:24am


Welcome to my new blog, neuroBLOGical! My name is Jordan, and I'm a 22-year old graduate student in the Neuroscience program at Penn State Hershey. I'm a native of the Baltimore area, and graduated from the beautiful St. Mary's College of Maryland in May with my Bachelor's in Biology and Neuroscience.

I have had an interest in neuroscience since 8th grade—that's possibly before I even knew what "neuroscience" meant. The brain fascinated me, and I wanted to learn everything that I could about the mysterious 3-lb. organ that simultaneously controlled my thoughts, speech, and movement.

I've worked in a number of labs, from cellular (a model of Huntington's disease) to organismal (salamander limb regeneration), from chemical (measuring vitamin D levels) to behavioral (RATS!). Conducting scientific research is fascinating, but can also be extraordinarily tedious. I can't tell you how many times I used to nod off in the dark microscopy room after being awake since 5 AM for my college rowing practices.

To protect myself from the occasional disappointment that sometimes accompanies failed experiments, I've always enjoyed reading about a wide variety of scientific topics, usually in popular science magaz . . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 1250 | Comments: 0
In my book, Ben Franklin is the man. An expert swimmer, self-taught pentaglot, and inventor of the "glass harmonica," he was also among the first to suggest the notion of Daylight Savings Time. A 1784 essay by Franklin suggested that an extra hour of daylight in the evening would save on candles.

I love that extra hour. As a kid during the summertime, it meant my brother and I could play our aptly-named "Kick the Ball" game in the yard after dinner. Nowadays, it means I can see where I'm going when I walk home from an afternoon in lab.

The end of Daylight Savings Time (which occurs at 2 a.m. this Sunday) means an end to all that, and the beginning of—well, winter. And winter is...cold. So very cold...

For most of us, changing our clocks back an hour is no big deal—in fact, it has its perks over "spring forward" in that we get an extra hour of sleep. But for others, changing the time can have a big impact on our circadian rhythm.
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Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 2542 | Comments: 2
Last by Cynthia McKelvey on Oct 31, 2011, 5:50pm
Happy Halloween! It's a time of costumes, candy, and for those more thrill-seeking types, horror movies.
Personally, I'm a total wimp when it comes to scary movies. Show me anything that's even trying and failing to be scary, and it will still scare me. So that got me thinking, why is it you can walk into a movie feeling like this:
See this:
And suddenly feel like this:
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Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 1505 | Comments: 0
You know what they say about people with big brains...

Big Facebook friends lists.

That's not entirely true. But a new study in Proceedings of the Royal Society B has neuroscience junkies abuzz this week: the number of Facebook friends we have may be linked to certain brain structures.

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Author: Brian Krueger, PhD | Views: 2918 | Comments: 0
In the current political climate it has become clear that science is a major target of Republican directed budget cuts. However, the soundbytes of politics do not represent the importance of science in our lives. Because of this, I think it's extremely important that we explain why some of our model systems are so important for understanding how viruses and ultimately human disease work.

In the lab that I run, we currently work on mutating two different herpesviruses. One of these is Kaposi's Sarcoma Herpesvirus (KSHV) and the other is Murid Herpesvirus 68 (MHV68). Both of these viruses are gammaherpesviruses. In humans, KSHV only really ever becomes a problem in individuals who have a compromised immune system such as those infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). KSHV is an interesting virus because its default program is latency, meaning that once it gets into your cells, it turns itself off and waits for conditions which allow it to grow and take over. This is akin to a bear hibernating in the winter. We do not understand how or w . . . More
Author: JaniceF | Views: 351 | Comments: 0


This lovely image is from here.

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Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 10819 | Comments: 2
Last by Jeremy Leipzig on Aug 01, 2011, 10:05am
One of the most anticipated events in bioinformatics is the annual Nucleic Acids Research Web Server Issue, an edition that inevitably leads to a cyclic rise in the number of “terminal masters” awarded and gives veterans in the field a chance to type into their browser various exotic foreign top level domains like .sg, .tw, .il, and .org

Web servers, perhaps more commonly understood today as web applications, are a preferred platform for providing analysis and visualization to end-users. The key difference between the web sites featured in this issue and those in NAR’s popular “Database Issue” is that these have to actually do something along the lines of computations with user-uploaded data.



NAR has published a dedicated web server issue every year since 2003 - over 1100 applications have been introduced, though some are repeatedly featured as improvements arise. Perhaps the best way to peruse these sites is through the Bioinformatics Links Directory, a curated index of tools and databases developed by Fra . . . More
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