Candide

catholic by birth; scientist by choice; sinner by merit. gaidhlig-speaking neuroscience student at oxford. likes to question everything! @di_macd

So I spent today playing with human brains. The first time you hold someone’s loves, hopes and fears between your hands is really quite a numinous moment. It is just amazing to reflect that a person’s entire memory, their desires and hates, their quirks and oddities, are all written as a pattern of neural connections onto that orange-sized chunk of porridgy stuff. It makes me remember why I’m here, that in spite of how heavy and difficult the work load is, I really am in the privileged position of learning how our biology, our brains, our behavior, really works.

Just thought I’d like to share…


Brains in jars still remain in this abandoned Russian neuroscience laboratory
Once upon a time, these preserved human and animal brains were once lovingly studied by Soviet-era neuroscientists. But when the lab was abandoned — perhaps in a hurry — these lonely brains were left behind.
There are few details on this abandoned neuroscience lab, so we’ll have to take the photographer’s word that it’s the real deal. Supposedly, this former Soviet laboratory sits in Moscow, where it was operated by the army. Some time after the lab was hastily abandoned, it was sealed off. But civilians who venture inside will see skinned animal heads, slides depicting brain cross-sections, and lots and lots of actual brains amidst the more mundane dirty dishes and glassware. Head over to the Russian blog brusnichka for more macabre photos from the lab.

Brains in jars still remain in this abandoned Russian neuroscience laboratory

Once upon a time, these preserved human and animal brains were once lovingly studied by Soviet-era neuroscientists. But when the lab was abandoned — perhaps in a hurry — these lonely brains were left behind.

There are few details on this abandoned neuroscience lab, so we’ll have to take the photographer’s word that it’s the real deal. Supposedly, this former Soviet laboratory sits in Moscow, where it was operated by the army. Some time after the lab was hastily abandoned, it was sealed off. But civilians who venture inside will see skinned animal heads, slides depicting brain cross-sections, and lots and lots of actual brains amidst the more mundane dirty dishes and glassware. Head over to the Russian blog brusnichka for more macabre photos from the lab.

(via xmorbidcuriosityx)

xo-sz:

Meet Gunther. Isn’t he a babe?

xo-sz:

Meet Gunther. Isn’t he a babe?

ikenbot:

Why Should You Be Scientifically Literate?
Side Note: With all of these recent scientific discoveries and observations like the Higgs Boson particle being found, or the recent Venus transit that wont occur again until 2117, or fresh news of more evidence towards Dark Matter’s existence and its implications I thought it would be great timing to highlight the importance of science news, information, and being a part of the community as a citizen. Scientific literacy seems all the more important as our technologies become more advanced and scientists alongside their tools begin to find out new groundbreaking things. Provided below are my favorite excerpts from Robert M. Hazen’s ‘Why should you be scientifically literate?’. Give it a read, become aware of one of the duties we as citizens should have taken up long ago, becoming literate in the world of science.
Road to Discovery of Self & Reality
by Robert M. Hazen
Why should you care about being scientifically literate? It will help you
— Understand issues that you come across daily in news stories and government debates
— Appreciate how the natural laws of science influence your life
— Gain perspective on the intellectual climate of our time
We live in an age of constant scientific discovery — a world shaped by revolutionary new technologies. Just look at your favorite newspaper. The chances are pretty good that in the next few days you’ll see a headline about global warming, cloning, fossils in meteorites, or genetically engineered food. Other stories featuring exotic materials, medical advances, DNA evidence, and new drugs all deal with issues that directly affect your life. As a consumer, as a business professional, and as a citizen, you will have to form opinions about these and other science-based issues if you are to participate fully in modern society.
More and more, scientific and technological issues dominate national discourse, from environmental debates on ozone depletion and acid rain, to economic threats from climate change and invasive species. Understanding these debates has become as basic as reading. All citizens need to be scientifically literate to:
 — appreciate the world around them  — make informed personal choices
It is the responsibility of scientists and educators to provide everyone with the background knowledge to help us cope with the fast-paced changes of today and tomorrow. What is scientific literacy? Why is it important? And how can we achieve scientific literacy for all citizens?
What is scientific literacy?
Scientific literacy, quite simply, is a mix of concepts, history, and philosophy that help you understand the scientific issues of our time.
— Scientific literacy is not the specialized, jargon-filled esoteric lingo of the experts. You don’t have to be able to synthesize new drugs to appreciate the importance of medical advances, nor do you need to be able to calculate the orbit of the space station to understand its role in space exploration.
— Scientific literacy is rooted in the most general scientific principles and broad knowledge of science; the scientifically literate citizen possesses facts and vocabulary sufficient to comprehend the context of the daily news.
— If you can understand scientific issues in magazines and newspapers (if you can tackle articles about genetic engineering or the ozone hole with the same ease that you would sports, politics, or the arts) then you are scientifically literate.
Admittedly, this definition of scientific literacy does not satisfy everyone. Some academics argue that science education should expose students to mathematical rigor and complex vocabulary. They want everyone to experience this taste of “real” science. But my colleagues and I feel strongly that those who insist that everyone must understand science at a deep level are confusing two important but separate aspects of scientific knowledge. As in many other endeavors, doing science is obviously distinct from using science; and scientific literacy concerns only the latter.
Surprisingly, intense study of a particular field of science does not necessarily make one scientifically literate. Indeed, I’m often amazed at the degree to which working scientists are often woefully uninformed in scientific fields outside their own field of professional expertise. I once asked a group of twenty-four Ph.D. physicists and geologists to explain the difference between DNA and RNA — perhaps the most basic idea in modern molecular biology. I found only three colleagues who could do so, and all three of those individuals did research in areas where this knowledge was useful. And I’d probably find the same sort of discouraging result if I asked biologists to explain the difference between a semiconductor and a superconductor. The education of professional scientists is often just as narrowly focused as the education of any other group of professionals, so scientists are just as likely to be ignorant of scientific matters outside their own specialty as anyone else.
Why is scientific literacy important?
Why should we care whether our citizens are scientifically literate? Why should you care about your own understanding of science? Three different arguments might convince you why it is important:
 — from civics  — from aesthetics  — from intellectual coherence
Civics
The first argument from civics is the one I’ve used thus far. We’re all faced with public issues whose discussion requires some scientific background, and therefore we all should have some level of scientific literacy. Our democratic government, which supports science education, sponsors basic scientific research, manages natural resources, and protects the environment, can be thwarted by a scientifically illiterate citizenry. Without an informed electorate (not to mention a scientifically informed legislature) some of the most fundamental objectives of our nation may not be served.
Aesthetics
The argument from aesthetics is less concrete, but is closely related to principles that are often made to support liberal education. According to this view, our world operates according to a few over-arching natural laws. Everything you do, everything you experience from the moment you wake up in the morning to the moment you go to bed at night, conforms to these laws of nature. Our scientific vision of the universe is exceedingly beautiful and elegant and it represents a crowning achievement of human civilization. You can share in the intellectual and aesthetic satisfaction to be gained from appreciating the unity between a boiling pot of water on a stove and the slow march of the continents, between the iridescent colors of a butterfly’s wing and the behavior of the fundamental constituents of matter. A scientifically illiterate person is effectively cut off from an immensely enriching part of life, just as surely as a person who cannot read.
Intellectual Coherence
Finally, we come to the third argument — the idea of intellectual coherence. Our society is inextricably tied to the discoveries of science — so much so that they often play a crucial role in setting the intellectual climate of an era. For example, the Copernican concept of the heliocentric universe played an important role in sweeping away the old thinking of the Middle Ages and ushering in the Age of Enlightenment. Similarly, Charles Darwin’s discovery of the mechanism of natural selection at once made understanding nature easier. And in this century the work of Freud and the development of quantum mechanics have made our natural world seem (at least superficially) less rational. In all of these cases, the general intellectual tenor of the times — what Germans call the Zeitgeist — was influenced by developments in science. How can anyone hope to appreciate the deep underlying threads of intellectual life in his or her own time without understanding the science that goes with it?
Full Article

ikenbot:

Why Should You Be Scientifically Literate?

Side Note: With all of these recent scientific discoveries and observations like the Higgs Boson particle being found, or the recent Venus transit that wont occur again until 2117, or fresh news of more evidence towards Dark Matter’s existence and its implications I thought it would be great timing to highlight the importance of science news, information, and being a part of the community as a citizen. Scientific literacy seems all the more important as our technologies become more advanced and scientists alongside their tools begin to find out new groundbreaking things. Provided below are my favorite excerpts from Robert M. Hazen’s ‘Why should you be scientifically literate?’. Give it a read, become aware of one of the duties we as citizens should have taken up long ago, becoming literate in the world of science.

Road to Discovery of Self & Reality

by Robert M. Hazen

Why should you care about being scientifically literate? It will help you

Understand issues that you come across daily in news stories and government debates

Appreciate how the natural laws of science influence your life

Gain perspective on the intellectual climate of our time

We live in an age of constant scientific discovery — a world shaped by revolutionary new technologies. Just look at your favorite newspaper. The chances are pretty good that in the next few days you’ll see a headline about global warming, cloning, fossils in meteorites, or genetically engineered food. Other stories featuring exotic materials, medical advances, DNA evidence, and new drugs all deal with issues that directly affect your life. As a consumer, as a business professional, and as a citizen, you will have to form opinions about these and other science-based issues if you are to participate fully in modern society.

More and more, scientific and technological issues dominate national discourse, from environmental debates on ozone depletion and acid rain, to economic threats from climate change and invasive species. Understanding these debates has become as basic as reading. All citizens need to be scientifically literate to:

— appreciate the world around them — make informed personal choices

It is the responsibility of scientists and educators to provide everyone with the background knowledge to help us cope with the fast-paced changes of today and tomorrow. What is scientific literacy? Why is it important? And how can we achieve scientific literacy for all citizens?

What is scientific literacy?

Scientific literacy, quite simply, is a mix of concepts, history, and philosophy that help you understand the scientific issues of our time.

— Scientific literacy is not the specialized, jargon-filled esoteric lingo of the experts. You don’t have to be able to synthesize new drugs to appreciate the importance of medical advances, nor do you need to be able to calculate the orbit of the space station to understand its role in space exploration.

— Scientific literacy is rooted in the most general scientific principles and broad knowledge of science; the scientifically literate citizen possesses facts and vocabulary sufficient to comprehend the context of the daily news.

— If you can understand scientific issues in magazines and newspapers (if you can tackle articles about genetic engineering or the ozone hole with the same ease that you would sports, politics, or the arts) then you are scientifically literate.

Admittedly, this definition of scientific literacy does not satisfy everyone. Some academics argue that science education should expose students to mathematical rigor and complex vocabulary. They want everyone to experience this taste of “real” science. But my colleagues and I feel strongly that those who insist that everyone must understand science at a deep level are confusing two important but separate aspects of scientific knowledge. As in many other endeavors, doing science is obviously distinct from using science; and scientific literacy concerns only the latter.

Surprisingly, intense study of a particular field of science does not necessarily make one scientifically literate. Indeed, I’m often amazed at the degree to which working scientists are often woefully uninformed in scientific fields outside their own field of professional expertise. I once asked a group of twenty-four Ph.D. physicists and geologists to explain the difference between DNA and RNA — perhaps the most basic idea in modern molecular biology. I found only three colleagues who could do so, and all three of those individuals did research in areas where this knowledge was useful. And I’d probably find the same sort of discouraging result if I asked biologists to explain the difference between a semiconductor and a superconductor. The education of professional scientists is often just as narrowly focused as the education of any other group of professionals, so scientists are just as likely to be ignorant of scientific matters outside their own specialty as anyone else.

Why is scientific literacy important?

Why should we care whether our citizens are scientifically literate? Why should you care about your own understanding of science? Three different arguments might convince you why it is important:

— from civics — from aesthetics — from intellectual coherence

Civics

The first argument from civics is the one I’ve used thus far. We’re all faced with public issues whose discussion requires some scientific background, and therefore we all should have some level of scientific literacy. Our democratic government, which supports science education, sponsors basic scientific research, manages natural resources, and protects the environment, can be thwarted by a scientifically illiterate citizenry. Without an informed electorate (not to mention a scientifically informed legislature) some of the most fundamental objectives of our nation may not be served.

Aesthetics

The argument from aesthetics is less concrete, but is closely related to principles that are often made to support liberal education. According to this view, our world operates according to a few over-arching natural laws. Everything you do, everything you experience from the moment you wake up in the morning to the moment you go to bed at night, conforms to these laws of nature. Our scientific vision of the universe is exceedingly beautiful and elegant and it represents a crowning achievement of human civilization. You can share in the intellectual and aesthetic satisfaction to be gained from appreciating the unity between a boiling pot of water on a stove and the slow march of the continents, between the iridescent colors of a butterfly’s wing and the behavior of the fundamental constituents of matter. A scientifically illiterate person is effectively cut off from an immensely enriching part of life, just as surely as a person who cannot read.

Intellectual Coherence

Finally, we come to the third argument — the idea of intellectual coherence. Our society is inextricably tied to the discoveries of science — so much so that they often play a crucial role in setting the intellectual climate of an era. For example, the Copernican concept of the heliocentric universe played an important role in sweeping away the old thinking of the Middle Ages and ushering in the Age of Enlightenment. Similarly, Charles Darwin’s discovery of the mechanism of natural selection at once made understanding nature easier. And in this century the work of Freud and the development of quantum mechanics have made our natural world seem (at least superficially) less rational. In all of these cases, the general intellectual tenor of the times — what Germans call the Zeitgeist — was influenced by developments in science. How can anyone hope to appreciate the deep underlying threads of intellectual life in his or her own time without understanding the science that goes with it?

Full Article

(Source: kenobi-wan-obi, via earthandscience)

tarartara:

Art inspired by Neuroscience. Cajal.

tarartara:

Art inspired by Neuroscience. Cajal.

Brain clocks. Just add sunlight.

deoxyribolove:

Batteries power the clock in your living room. Sunlight powers the one in your brain—or at least keeps it accurate. That jet lag you feel when you step off a plane after an epic trip is caused by a brain clock, or circadian rhythm, out of sync with the world. Therefore, the best thing you can do after such a trip? Is go out into the sunlight, and stay in it long enough for the sun and the brain clock to synchronize.   

Sunlight is absorbed by special cells in the eye called intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs). These cells do not need the rods and cones in the eye responsible for vision. Instead, they contain the pigment melanopsin that absorbs the sunlight directly. The ipRGCs then project to the superchiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which contains the “clock cells.” Levels of PER and CRY proteins in these cells increase and decrease on a regular time schedule, marking the 24 hours of the day (more or less), and tell the brain what time it is. [If you want more detail on that, let me know. It’s pretty amazing].

At least, that’s the classic model. 

But what’s this? New research is saying that we don’t need the ipRGCs for our circadian rhythms either. The rods and cones of the retina can do a fine job setting the brain clock without these special melanopsin-containing cells. Surprisingly, The retina seems to have a rhythm of its own! In fact, if you take a retina, put it in a petri dish, and then sync it to light, you can sync the clock of SCN cells by just plopping them into the same petri dish! No projections necessary!

Somehow, the retina is sending out signals that can synchronize the SCN. What it is sending out? Hormones? Neurotransmitters? Magic powers? No one knows. 

For now, though, it might be best to just keep syncing with sunlight. >_<

Teaching - Year Ten - Analogies

jiyoungle:

I’m Facebook chatting with a former student because her stupid college Psychology textbook uses analogies to explain stuff before even posting a diagram of a concept and explaining it in a straightforward, scientific manner. I understand that American people are achieving less and less academically as the years go by, but maybe it has something to do with the fact that we need to have our hands held because our seemingly feeble minds can’t handle straight-up science.

Seriously, this book, which I’m looking at right now online, decides to explain action potentials of the neuron with a baseball stadium analogy before even attempting to show a picture of what’s going on with the scientific explanation written out. And the analogy isn’t even very good because a baseball stadium is generally circular in shape. I can see this actually confusing some of the students even more.

This is why I barely use a textbook with my Psychology students. We’ll refer to it here and there in class when certain diagrams need to be looked at. But I would much rather have them make connections to the real world while outside of the classroom after having had the core concepts explained and discussed together at school (via many, many custom handouts that I’ve made over the years).

Learning is about connecting new ideas to ones that you already know, and making sure that these connections are meaningful is the best way to help people learn those things for life. That’s why analogies are helpful. But they better be good ones that don’t break down with the tiniest bit of scrutiny. And teachers need to remember that some people learn best when information is presented confidently, clearly, and in the most straightforward manner. You can’t ignore the tendencies of the more “traditional” learners (I know, that’s a loaded term) to only satisfy the needs of the ones who learn very differently. Lately, I see a strong trend towards meeting the needs of that latter group at the expense of the former.

It’s all about balance. But in order to do that, teachers need to be balanced, well-rounded individuals who can think in many different modes and empathize with all types of teenagers. Maybe that should be our first goal.

All I can think off is the chemistry popular science book that likened the electrons in the respiratory chain to a stolen handbag being passed along a line of criminals. There was not a single chemical formula or cell schematic in this book and these analogies just made the whole thing even more confusing!

This post is a worthwhile read.

am9210:

Brain comparisons.

When you see real-life brains from different animals, probably the most striking thing is how titchy rat, mouse, bird, cat and even horse brains are compared to our own.

am9210:

Brain comparisons.

When you see real-life brains from different animals, probably the most striking thing is how titchy rat, mouse, bird, cat and even horse brains are compared to our own.

(via am9210-deactivated20121005)

biocanvas:

The brain of a neonatal mouse at 10-times magnification.
Image by Dr. Bradley Molyneaux, Harvard University.

biocanvas:

The brain of a neonatal mouse at 10-times magnification.

Image by Dr. Bradley Molyneaux, Harvard University.

Candide: Thoughts

syntactician:

mistahrpeabody:

You know, it’s rather odd how some things work out the way they do. The reason why I love studying Neuroscience (and why I’ll love practicing medicine) is because it’s simply fascinating and mysterious that we are assembled the way we are.

For instance, we have neurons that…

Huh. I was reading this as a ‘this is why I don’t believe in a higher power’ post right up until it said ‘this is why I believe in a higher power’. 

Wow, I didn’t even notice that last line… I was just wowing at the cool science and lack of knowledge (more discoveries left for me!). They haven’t explained why it makes them believe in a higher power, unless its nothing more than an argument from irreducible complexity - the brain is so complex, it needed a designer. Also, on rereading I’m noticing that they’re using our present lack of knowledge on these topics as evidence of some mysterious power. 

I find it interesting that, reading and reblogging quickly, I focussed on interesting science facts and didn’t even notice the argument behind the post. I didn’t even notice the last line. That probably says something about how when we read, we let what we take in and remember be influenced by our prior expectations as to what a post in the neuroscience tag is gonna be about…