Posts

February 28, 2015

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10:12 AM | Actually, still no good explanation of ‘that dress’
The last time I almost went blind staring at “that dress” was thanks to Liz Hurley and on this occasion I find myself equally unsatisfied. I’ll spare you the introduction about the amazing blue/black or white/gold dress. But what’s left me rather disappointed are the numerous ‘science of the dress’ articles that have appeared everywhere […]
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9:34 AM | What are the Unsolved Problems of Neuroscience?
In an interesting short paper just published in Trends in Cognitive Science, Caltech neuroscientist Ralph Adolphs offers his thoughts on The Unsolved Problems of Neuroscience. Here's Adolphs' list of the top 23 questions (including 3 "meta" issues), which, he says, was inspired by Hilbert's famous set of 23 mathematical problems: Problems that are solved, or soon will be: I. How do single neurons compute? II. What is the connectome of a small nervous system, like that of Caenorhabi
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9:06 AM | Spike activity 28-02-2015
Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Nautilus magazine has a good piece on behavioural economics and rethinking ‘nudges’. Although the rethink is really just another form of standard ‘nudge’. The biggest hedge fund in the world, the $165 billion Bridgewater, starts an AI team to help give it the edge […]
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9:00 AM | Link feast
Our pick of the best psychology and neuroscience links from the past week or so:The Science of Why No One Agrees on the Colour of This DressThe internet is abuzz with talk of the dress that some people see as white and gold, others as blue and black. Adam Rogers at WIRED provides an explanation.Hard Feelings: Science’s Struggle to Define Emotions"While it's possible for researchers to study facial expressions, brain patterns, behavior, and more," writes Julie Beck at The Atlantic, […]
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7:49 AM | Our 10th Blogiversary!
The Neuroethics & Law Blog turns ten years old today. It was the first blog dedicated to the legal and ethical issues raised by advances in neuroscience (that I know of). Back then most people had never even heard of...
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5:01 AM | RNA-mediated repurposing in microbes and adapations in primate brains
Human-specific gene ARHGAP11B promotes basal progenitor amplification and neocortex expansion Excerpt: “…the C-terminal 47 amino-acids of ARHGAP11B (after lysine-220) constitute not only a unique sequence, resulting from a frameshifting deletion (fig. S10), but also are functionally distinct from their counterpart...Read more
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2:16 AM | Sixth Sense, the platypus
Consider our five senses of perception which allow us to interact and perceive our environment: smell, touch, hear, see, and taste.  But what about a six sense that would give us an extra range of perception, perhaps electroreception?  Groups of animals known to use electroperception, or the ability to perceive electric stimuli, include elasmobranches (sharks, […]

February 27, 2015

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10:35 PM | How Small Can Life Get? These Ultra-Small Bacteria May Be At The Limit
There is microbiology and then there is micro-micro-microbiology.The existence of ultra-small bacteria has been debated for decades, but now there is comprehensive electron microscopy and DNA-based evidence of the elusive microbes that are about as small as life can get. The cells have an average volume of 0.009 cubic microns (a micron is one millionth of a meter). About 150 of these bacteria could fit inside an Escherichia coli cell and more than 150,000 cells could fit onto the tip of a […]
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10:23 PM | New compounds protect nerves from the damage of MS
Autoimmune diseases are tough to live with, frankly we don’t really understand the reasons they start at all, how to treat them, or even where to start in forming a cure. Well there might be some good news — as far as a treatment goes anyway — a newly characterized group of pharmacological compounds block […]

Haines, J., Herbin, O., de la Hera, B., Vidaurre, O., Moy, G., Sun, Q., Fung, H., Albrecht, S., Alexandropoulos, K., McCauley, D. & Chook, Y. (2015). Nuclear export inhibitors avert progression in preclinical models of inflammatory demyelination, Nature Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1038/nn.3953

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10:21 PM | Arctic Apple Gets USDA Approval, Then Gets Acquired
The Intrexon synthetic biology company announced today that it is acquiring Okanagan Specialty Fruits, the science start-up behind the non-browning Arctic apple, for $31 million in Intrexon common stock and $10 million in cash. read more
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10:03 PM | Paternal stress outcomes in offspring-susceptibility and resilience
Some animal studies have provided evidence that stress early in life can be linked to negative behavioral consequences like depression and cognitive deficits while other studies suggest that stress early in life may bolster resilience to future stress. This article sought to find if this early stress or lack there of had to be experienced […]
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9:59 PM | Better Genes Mean Better Beans
New transcriptome data for underutilized legumes means underappreciated crops could soon become valuable tools in agriculture.Thousands of species belong to the legume family, the Fabaceae, yet only a few of them are used in mainstream agriculture. Dozens more are underutilized. Unlike soybean, peanut, chickpea, and other chart toppers, the underutilized species can grow in areas of very poor soil with limited water availability. This is because they are equipped with unique variations in plant […]
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9:28 PM | It's Life, Jim, But Not As We Know It
A new type of methane-based, oxygen-free life form can metabolize and reproduce similar to life on Earth.This hypothetical cell membrane, modeled by a team of researchers, is composed of small organic nitrogen compounds and capable of functioning in liquid methane temperatures of 292 degrees below zero - necessary for a harsh, cold world - specifically Titan, the giant moon of Saturn, a planetary body awash with seas not of water, but of liquid methane, Titan could harbor methane-based, […]
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9:08 PM | Integrated Annotation just added the 7-million-th record
Yes we do have annotations! What can we do with these annotations? * When you are reading a paper, would you like to know if the data you are looking at has been stored somewhere? * Would you like to know if someone figured out what antibody the authors used? * What about the mouse […]
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8:38 PM | Reviving drugs with anti-stroke potential, minus side effects
pH-dependent NMDA receptor antagonists -- more active in the injured areas of the brain The post Reviving drugs with anti-stroke potential, minus side effects appeared first on Lab Land.
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7:15 PM | The Blunt Facts About Blunts
Mixing tobacco with marijuana.People who smoke a combination of tobacco and marijuana, a common practice overseas for years, and increasingly popular here in the form of “blunts,” may be reacting to some unidentified mechanism that links the two drugs. Researchers believe such smokers would be well advised to consider giving up both drugs at once, rather than one at a time, according to an upcoming study in the journal Addiction.Clinical trials of adults with cannabis use disorders […]
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7:09 PM | The NIA Butler-Williams Scholars Program
The NIA Butler-Williams Scholars Program (formerly Summer Institute on Aging Research) is accepting applications for an intensive introduction to aging research. This program for investigators that are new to aging research is focused on the breadth of research supported by the National Institute on Aging, including basic biology, neuroscience, behavioral and social research, geriatrics and clinical […]
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6:19 PM | The Real Meaning Of The Blue Black White Gold Dress
A dress that seems to be different colors to different people has all the Internet intrigued - and that's a good thing. It's a good way to understand science and psychology.There are two hypotheses as to why people see dramatically different things; one is that our brains are constantly being bombarded by information and so we end up making a lot of assumptions and interpretations based on parameters. If you are looking up close at something and infer a blue background, you see the dress […]
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5:00 PM | Study Suggests Hippocampus Role In Unconscious Memory System
A new paper challenges a long-accepted hypothesis about the role the hippocampus plays in our unconscious memory. For decades, neuroscientists have believed that this part of the brain is not involved in processing unconscious memory, the type that allows us to do things like button a shirt without having to think about it, but research by University of Texas at Dallas lecturer Dr. Richard Addante raises doubts about that. Much of the knowledge about the hippocampus and how our brains […]
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4:53 PM | RNA-mediated “repurposing” is nutrient-dependent and pheromone-controlled
 Evolutionary resurrection of flagellar motility via rewiring of the nitrogen regulation system Excerpt: The fast-spreading strain AR2F had acquired an additional point mutation in the σ54-dependent EBP gene ntrC, which alters an amino acid (R442C) within the DNA binding domain...Read more
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4:30 PM | Pump More Oil, Save The Environment - Electric Fields Boost Keystone Pipeline Flow
A strong electric field applied to a section of the Keystone pipeline can smooth oil flow and yield significant pump energy savings, found a new study.The physics basis is to electrically align particles within the crude oil, which reduces viscosity (thickness) and turbulence. Traditionally, pipeline oil is heated over several miles in order to reduce the oil's viscosity, but this requires a large amount of energy and counter-productively increases turbulence within the flow. read mor
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4:22 PM | Statistical Mechanics Reveals The Ideal Hideout During A Zombie Takeover
Researchers focusing on a new way to discuss statistical mechanics have modeled "World War Z", an oral history of the first zombie war, to explore how an "actual" zombie outbreak might play out in the U.S.  read more
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4:17 PM | How Deep Mind learns to win
About a year ago, DeepMind was bought for half a billion dollars by Google for creating software that could learn to beat video games. Over the past year, DeepMind has detailed how they did it. Let us say that you were … Continue reading →

Mnih V, Kavukcuoglu K, Silver D, Rusu AA, Veness J, Bellemare MG, Graves A, Riedmiller M, Fidjeland AK, Ostrovski G & Petersen S (2015). Human-level control through deep reinforcement learning., Nature, 518 (7540) 529-533. PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25719670

Volodymyr Mnih, Koray Kavukcuoglu, David Silver, Alex Graves, Ioannis Antonoglou, Daan Wierstra & Martin Riedmiller (2013). Playing Atari with Deep Reinforcement Learning, arXiv, arXiv: http://arxiv.org/abs/1312.5602v1

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4:10 PM | Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson Awarded National Academy Of Sciences Public Welfare Medal
The National Academy of Sciences is presenting its 2015 Public Welfare Medal to astrophysicist Dr.Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium of the American Museum of Natural History, in recognition of his "extraordinary role in exciting the public about the wonders of science, from atoms to the Universe.”  read more
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3:44 PM | Breaking Research: Separable short- and long-term memories can form after a momentous occasion
When was your first kiss? What were you doing the last time you heard life-changing news? After only a single experience, your brain was somehow able to form a long-term memory of these events. This phenomenon has baffled neuroscientists for decades, but in a recent paper published in PNAS, Yamagata et al. report a surprising […]

Yamagata N., Yoshinori Aso, Pierre-Yves Plaçais, Anja B. Friedrich, Richard J. Sima, Thomas Preat, Gerald M. Rubin & Hiromu Tanimoto (2014). Distinct dopamine neurons mediate reward signals for short- and long-term memories, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112 (2) 578-583. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1421930112

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3:41 PM | Whole Food Diet Linked To Greater Cognitive Dysfunction In Alzheimer’s
Though adopting a whole-food diet has become popular in some circles, is it really going to help you? Perhaps, perhaps not. One reason to err on the side of caution and not chase diet fads is that fads tend to be expensive and their benefit is unknown. A gluten-free diet, for example, will be 242 percent higher cost and the extra sugar, extra fat, hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose and xanthan gum in gluten-free foods are not a health positive.What about the whole food diet? read more
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3:30 PM | Is it white and gold? Is it blue and black?
By now, I am sure that you have seen this picture. Some people see it as blue and black and some people see it as white and gold. Two people can be sitting right next to each other and see … Continue reading →
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3:00 PM | Adult Stem Cell Transplants Reach 1 Million Worldwide - And Are Still Underused
It's been over 50 years since the first experimental use of adult stem cells - bone marrow transplants - began, and in that time over 1,000,000 hematopoietic stem cell (HSCT - cells isolated from the blood or bone marrow that can renew themselves and differentiate to a variety of specialized cells) transplantations (have been performed in 75 countries, but there are striking variations between countries and regions in the use of this lifesaving procedure and high unmet need due to a […]
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3:00 PM | Feast And Famine Is A Pretty Good Diet For Longevity
Nature is all about booms and busts - it is common for species to grow too large to be sustainable. Humans were once that way too, but science has now made it possible for even the poorest people to be fat. We no longer have a feast or famine existence.And the worst thing you can do to lose weight is go on a 'crash' diet, according to modern nutritional thinking - your body quickly goes into starvation mode. But that is in the short term, clearly if you were to go on a starvation diet for any […]
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2:45 PM | Recovery is Recovery is Recovery?
Cross fertilisation among Recovery Fellowships I have unfortunately heard sometimes not very complimentary remarks about different recovery groups and fellowships which I have never found particularly helpful or useful in attracting the alcoholic or addict who is still suffering. The … Continue reading →
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