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  • Reviews & Previews

    New book offers a peek into the mind of Oliver Sacks

    The River of ConsciousnessOliver SacksKnopf, $27

    The experience of reading the essays that make up The River of Consciousness is very much like peering into an ever-changing stream. Pebbles shift as the water courses by, revealing unexpected facets below.

    The essays, by neurologist Oliver Sacks and arranged into an anthology two weeks before his death in 2015, meander through such...

    10/06/2017 - 09:00 Neuroscience, History of Science, Human Evolution
  • Feature

    Kay Tye improvises to understand our inner lives

    Kay Tye, 36NeuroscientistMIT

    Here are some of the things Kay Tye relishes: break dancing, rock-climbing, snowboarding, poker, raising her young daughter and son. These adrenaline-fueled activities all require basic skills. But true mastery — and the joy Tye finds in them — comes from improvisation. She boldly steps into a void, a realm where she has to riff, and trusts that a flash of insight...

    10/04/2017 - 13:46 Neuroscience
  • News

    To test sleep, researchers don’t let sleeping jellyfish lie

    View the video

    The life of a jellyfish may seem like a real snooze, but until now biologists were never certain if the gelatinous blobs actually slept. Now it appears that at least one group of jellyfish needs its beauty sleep just like us.

    Some species of upside-down jellyfish (Cassiopea) meet all of the criteria for entering a “sleeplike state,” a group of Caltech researchers...

    09/26/2017 - 16:52 Animals, Neuroscience
  • News

    From day one, a frog’s developing brain is calling the shots

    Frog brains get busy long before they’re fully formed. Just a day after fertilization, embryonic brains begin sending signals to far-off places in the body, helping oversee the layout of complex patterns of muscles and nerve fibers. And when the brain is missing, bodily chaos ensues, researchers report online September 25 in Nature Communications.

    The results, from brainless embryos and...

    09/25/2017 - 05:00 Biomedicine, Animals, Neuroscience
  • News

    Gene variant linked to Alzheimer’s disease is a triple threat

    A genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is a double, make that triple, whammy.

    In addition to speeding up the development of brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s, a gene variant known as APOE4 also makes tau tangles — another signature of the disease — worse, researchers report online September 20 in Nature. APOE4 protein also ramps up brain inflammation that kills brain cells...

    09/22/2017 - 09:00 Neuroscience, Genetics, Cells
  • Feature

    Bat brain signals illuminate navigation in the dark

    Ninad Kothari’s workplace looks like something out of a sci-fi film. The graduate student at Johns Hopkins University works in a darkened, red-lit room, where he trains bats to fly through obstacle courses. Shielding within the walls keeps radio and other human-made signals from interfering with transmissions from the tiny electrical signals he’s recording from the bats’ brains as the animals...

    09/20/2017 - 12:30 Animals, Neuroscience
  • The Science Life

    A researcher reveals the shocking truth about electric eels

    View the video

    Kenneth Catania knows just how much it hurts to be zapped by an electric eel. For the first time, the biologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville has measured the strength of a defensive electrical attack on a real-life potential predator — himself.

    Catania placed his arm in a tank with a 40-centimeter-long electric eel (relatively small as eels go) and...

    09/14/2017 - 14:14 Animals, Neuroscience
  • Editor's Note

    Learning is a ubiquitous, mysterious phenomenon

    I’ll admit it. I’m addicted to learning. There’s nothing quite like the thrill that comes with finding out something new.

    It’s no surprise I ended up this way. My parents were public school teachers. They instilled in me the belief that education not only opens up new opportunities but also is enjoyable in itself. My parents regularly took my siblings and me to museums, encouraged us to...

    09/06/2017 - 13:15 Science & Society, Neuroscience
  • Feature

    Learning takes brain acrobatics

    Peer inside the brain of someone learning. You might be lucky enough to spy a synapse pop into existence. That physical bridge between two nerve cells seals new knowledge into the brain. As new information arrives, synapses form and strengthen, while others weaken, making way for new connections.

    You might see more subtle changes, too, like fluctuations in the levels of signaling...

    09/05/2017 - 11:00 Neuroscience
  • News

    How an itch hitches a ride to the brain

    Scientists have traced the sensation of itch to a place you can’t scratch.

    The discomfort of a mosquito bite or an allergic reaction activates itch-sensitive nerve cells in the spinal cord. Those neurons talk to a structure near the base of the brain called the parabrachial nucleus, researchers report in the Aug. 18 Science. It’s a region that’s known to receive information about other...

    08/17/2017 - 14:14 Neuroscience