Pictured above is one of the many works of Santiago Ramon y Cajal, an artist whose relentless focus on the nervous system both displayed unmatchable views inside of our brains and led to remarkable findings within this previously misunderstood anatomical region. In the above illustration, Cajal depicted a diagram of the spinal cord with both individual cells and entire nerve tracts. According to his sketch, motor commands travel down the spine from the left side of the brain, while sensory feedback travels up the spine to the right side of the brain.
See more of his works and read an in-depth biography at Discover Magazine.

Pictured above is one of the many works of Santiago Ramon y Cajal, an artist whose relentless focus on the nervous system both displayed unmatchable views inside of our brains and led to remarkable findings within this previously misunderstood anatomical region. In the above illustration, Cajal depicted a diagram of the spinal cord with both individual cells and entire nerve tracts. According to his sketch, motor commands travel down the spine from the left side of the brain, while sensory feedback travels up the spine to the right side of the brain.

See more of his works and read an in-depth biography at Discover Magazine.

A Blind Man Shocks Researchers with What He Sees

It is not uncommon for stroke patients to suffer brain damage, but the case of one patient was peculiar. This patient was, by his own account, completely blind. Two consecutive strokes had destroyed the visual cortex of his brain, and consequently, his ability to see. His first stroke had injured only one hemisphere of his visual cortex. About five weeks later, a second stroke damaged the other hemisphere. An assessment of his brain function revealed that after two strokes, the patient, who was in his 50s, was clinically blind. 
Known as selective bilateral occipital damage, this patients’s unusual injury made him the subject of much interest while recovering at a hospital in Geneva. Researchers began examining him and discovered that despite his blindness, he had maintained the ability to detect emotion on a person’s face. He responded appropriately— with emotions such as joy, fear, and anger— to a variety of facial expressions. Observed activity in his amygdala— the part of the brain responsible for processing emotions— confirmed the curious results.
His rare condition is known as blindsight. Because his stroke damaged only his visual cortex, his eyes remain functional and as a result can still gather information from his environment. He simply lacks the visual cortex to process and interpret it. Sight has changed from a conscious to a largely subconscious experience. He no longer has a definitive picture of his surroundings, but he has retained an innate awareness of his position in the world. He is, to some degree, able to see without being aware that he is seeing.

A Blind Man Shocks Researchers with What He Sees

It is not uncommon for stroke patients to suffer brain damage, but the case of one patient was peculiar. This patient was, by his own account, completely blind. Two consecutive strokes had destroyed the visual cortex of his brain, and consequently, his ability to see. His first stroke had injured only one hemisphere of his visual cortex. About five weeks later, a second stroke damaged the other hemisphere. An assessment of his brain function revealed that after two strokes, the patient, who was in his 50s, was clinically blind.

Known as selective bilateral occipital damage, this patients’s unusual injury made him the subject of much interest while recovering at a hospital in Geneva. Researchers began examining him and discovered that despite his blindness, he had maintained the ability to detect emotion on a person’s face. He responded appropriately— with emotions such as joy, fear, and anger— to a variety of facial expressions. Observed activity in his amygdala— the part of the brain responsible for processing emotions— confirmed the curious results.

His rare condition is known as blindsight. Because his stroke damaged only his visual cortex, his eyes remain functional and as a result can still gather information from his environment. He simply lacks the visual cortex to process and interpret it. Sight has changed from a conscious to a largely subconscious experience. He no longer has a definitive picture of his surroundings, but he has retained an innate awareness of his position in the world. He is, to some degree, able to see without being aware that he is seeing.

 
Since the 19th century people have speculated that the essence of human identity is stored in the connections between our neurons. Today we have the technology to find out if this is true.
Until now, most of what we know about the brain has been based on observations of what happens when different regions are damaged, or on imaging techniques like functional MRI that show which areas are active but tell you little about how they relate to one another. Not knowing how these different regions interact is like trying to work out how a telephone network works without knowing where all the wires go.
"You’re missing huge amounts of information if you don’t know which regions are connected to other regions," says Tim Behrens of the University of Oxford, who is a member of the Human Connectome Project. The HCP aims to map the large-scale connections of 1200 human brains and is expected to start delivering the goods in late 2012.
With 100 billion neurons, each with around 10,000 connections, mapping the human brain will be no easy feat, and charting every single connection could take decades. The HCP will tackle the lowest hanging fruit first: charting the major highways between different brain regions, and showing how these connections vary between individuals. To do this they will combine several imaging tools including something called diffusion MRI, which maps the structure of the white matter that insulates the “wires” of the brain, and also resting-state MRI, which measures how brain regions oscillate in unison as a result of shared connections.
Even this should produce a more complex structural anatomy of the brain than anything ever seen before, and provide tantalising insights into how personality, memory and even consciousness are formed.

Since the 19th century people have speculated that the essence of human identity is stored in the connections between our neurons. Today we have the technology to find out if this is true.

Until now, most of what we know about the brain has been based on observations of what happens when different regions are damaged, or on imaging techniques like functional MRI that show which areas are active but tell you little about how they relate to one another. Not knowing how these different regions interact is like trying to work out how a telephone network works without knowing where all the wires go.

"You’re missing huge amounts of information if you don’t know which regions are connected to other regions," says Tim Behrens of the University of Oxford, who is a member of the Human Connectome Project. The HCP aims to map the large-scale connections of 1200 human brains and is expected to start delivering the goods in late 2012.

With 100 billion neurons, each with around 10,000 connections, mapping the human brain will be no easy feat, and charting every single connection could take decades. The HCP will tackle the lowest hanging fruit first: charting the major highways between different brain regions, and showing how these connections vary between individuals. To do this they will combine several imaging tools including something called diffusion MRI, which maps the structure of the white matter that insulates the “wires” of the brain, and also resting-state MRI, which measures how brain regions oscillate in unison as a result of shared connections.

Even this should produce a more complex structural anatomy of the brain than anything ever seen before, and provide tantalising insights into how personality, memory and even consciousness are formed.

 
Dead Sea Microbe’s Fluorescent Protein Sheds Light on Brain Activity
A fluorescent protein derived from a Dead Sea microbe could be a novel way to track electrical signals in the brain, researchers say. It’s noninvasive and nontoxic, so it could enable neuron tracking without harming the neurons.
Neurons communicate via chemical and electrical signals, and monitoring these channels could help neuroscientists understand brain function and degenerative diseases. But tracking electrical impulses is tricky. Molecular tags can be slow and even toxic to cells, which must be exposed to light for the fluorescence to work. And piercing a neuron with an electrode will damage and kill them. But a new fluorescent protein appears to track these synaptic action potentials without toxic side effects. It is derived from the Dead Sea bacteria Halorubrum sodomense.
The protein was previously used to dampen overly active neurons, but in a new study, researchers at Harvard used it as a super-fast voltage sensor, reports Technology Review. A team led by biophysicist Adam Cohen used archaerhodopsin-3, or Arch, as an electrical sensor. They determined that an electrical potential could change the protein’s color, which could then be detected, serving as an electricity monitor. 
The team used a virus to add the Arch protein into rat hippocampal neurons in a petri dish. Using laser light (and watching through a CCD), the researchers were able to map neuronal activities at sub-millisecond time scales, they write.
It worked faster and with a better resolution than sodium-ion monitoring, as well as other fluorescent compounds like jellyfish protein, they added. Next, they plan to use Arch to measure neuronal activity in live animals, starting with zebrafish and the worm C. elegans, Tech Review says.
“Microbial rhodopsin [protein]–based voltage indicators promise to enable optical interrogation of complex neural circuits and electrophysiology in systems for which electrode-based techniques are challenging,” the authors say.

Dead Sea Microbe’s Fluorescent Protein Sheds Light on Brain Activity

A fluorescent protein derived from a Dead Sea microbe could be a novel way to track electrical signals in the brain, researchers say. It’s noninvasive and nontoxic, so it could enable neuron tracking without harming the neurons.

Neurons communicate via chemical and electrical signals, and monitoring these channels could help neuroscientists understand brain function and degenerative diseases. But tracking electrical impulses is tricky. Molecular tags can be slow and even toxic to cells, which must be exposed to light for the fluorescence to work. And piercing a neuron with an electrode will damage and kill them. But a new fluorescent protein appears to track these synaptic action potentials without toxic side effects. It is derived from the Dead Sea bacteria Halorubrum sodomense.

The protein was previously used to dampen overly active neurons, but in a new study, researchers at Harvard used it as a super-fast voltage sensor, reports Technology Review. A team led by biophysicist Adam Cohen used archaerhodopsin-3, or Arch, as an electrical sensor. They determined that an electrical potential could change the protein’s color, which could then be detected, serving as an electricity monitor.

The team used a virus to add the Arch protein into rat hippocampal neurons in a petri dish. Using laser light (and watching through a CCD), the researchers were able to map neuronal activities at sub-millisecond time scales, they write.

It worked faster and with a better resolution than sodium-ion monitoring, as well as other fluorescent compounds like jellyfish protein, they added. Next, they plan to use Arch to measure neuronal activity in live animals, starting with zebrafish and the worm C. elegans, Tech Review says.

“Microbial rhodopsin [protein]–based voltage indicators promise to enable optical interrogation of complex neural circuits and electrophysiology in systems for which electrode-based techniques are challenging,” the authors say.

Some People Can Hallucinate Colors at Will
Scientists at the University of Hull have found that some people have the ability to hallucinate colours at will — even without the help of hypnosis.
 The study, published this week in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, was carried out in the Department of Psychology at the University of Hull. It focused on a group of people that had shown themselves to be ‘highly suggestible’ in hypnosis. 
The subjects were asked to look at a series of monochrome patterns and to see colour in them. They were tested under hypnosis and without hypnosis and both times reported that they were able to see colours.
Individuals’ reactions to the patterns were also captured using an MRI scanner, which enabled the researchers to monitor differences in brain activity between the suggestible and non-suggestible subjects. The results of the research, showed significant changes in brain activity in areas of the brain responsible for visual perception among the suggestible subjects only.
Professor Giuliana Mazzoni, lead researcher on the project says: “These are very talented people. They can change their perception and experience of the world in ways that the rest of us cannot.”
The ability to change experience at will can be very useful. Research has shown that hypnotic suggestions can be used to block pain and increase the effectiveness of psychotherapy.
Read More

Some People Can Hallucinate Colors at Will

Scientists at the University of Hull have found that some people have the ability to hallucinate colours at will — even without the help of hypnosis.

 The study, published this week in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, was carried out in the Department of Psychology at the University of Hull. It focused on a group of people that had shown themselves to be ‘highly suggestible’ in hypnosis.

The subjects were asked to look at a series of monochrome patterns and to see colour in them. They were tested under hypnosis and without hypnosis and both times reported that they were able to see colours.

Individuals’ reactions to the patterns were also captured using an MRI scanner, which enabled the researchers to monitor differences in brain activity between the suggestible and non-suggestible subjects. The results of the research, showed significant changes in brain activity in areas of the brain responsible for visual perception among the suggestible subjects only.

Professor Giuliana Mazzoni, lead researcher on the project says: “These are very talented people. They can change their perception and experience of the world in ways that the rest of us cannot.”

The ability to change experience at will can be very useful. Research has shown that hypnotic suggestions can be used to block pain and increase the effectiveness of psychotherapy.

Read More

Prenatal Exposure to Antidepressants Makes Rats Act Autistic
Rats exposed to antidepressants just before and after birth show brain abnormalities and strange behaviors reminiscent of autism, a new study finds.
Although the research is in animals, the study provides experimental evidence for a previously reported link between antidepressant use during pregnancy and autism in children. The study in rats found that when the developing animals were exposed to the serotonin-selective reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) citalopram during the critical period around the time they were born, they became excessively fearful when faced with new situations and failed to play normally with peers.
"Our findings underscore the importance of balanced serotonin levels — not too high or too low — for proper brain maturation," study researcher Rick Lin of the University of Mississippi Medical Center said in a statement.Read More

Prenatal Exposure to Antidepressants Makes Rats Act Autistic

Rats exposed to antidepressants just before and after birth show brain abnormalities and strange behaviors reminiscent of autism, a new study finds.

Although the research is in animals, the study provides experimental evidence for a previously reported link between antidepressant use during pregnancy and autism in children. The study in rats found that when the developing animals were exposed to the serotonin-selective reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) citalopram during the critical period around the time they were born, they became excessively fearful when faced with new situations and failed to play normally with peers.

"Our findings underscore the importance of balanced serotonin levels — not too high or too low — for proper brain maturation," study researcher Rick Lin of the University of Mississippi Medical Center said in a statement.

Read More

ohscience:

from wikipedia:
Neuron from Chicken embryo photographed with confocal microscope after being dyed.

ohscience:

from wikipedia:

Neuron from Chicken embryo photographed with confocal microscope after being dyed.

evanthehawk:

The human brain has a huge number of synapses. Each of the 1011 (one hundred billion) neurons has on average 7,000 synaptic connections to other neurons. It has been estimated that the brain of a three-year-old child has about 1015 synapses (1 quadrillion). This number declines with age, stabilizing by adulthood. Estimates vary for an adult, ranging from 1014 to 5 x 1014 synapses (100 to 500 trillion).[11]

evanthehawk:

The human brain has a huge number of synapses. Each of the 1011 (one hundred billion) neurons has on average 7,000 synaptic connections to other neurons. It has been estimated that the brain of a three-year-old child has about 1015 synapses (1 quadrillion). This number declines with age, stabilizing by adulthood. Estimates vary for an adult, ranging from 1014 to 5 x 1014 synapses (100 to 500 trillion).[11]