Bright Stars of the Brain Regulate Breathing

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This image of brainstem astrocytes was taken using a confocal microscope.

Astrocytes — brain cells named after their characteristic star-shape and previously thought to act only as the ‘glue’ between neurons, have a central role in the regulation of breathing, according to scientists.

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Fly’s Brain — A High-Speed Computer: Neurobiologists Use State-of-the-Art Methods to Decode the Basics of Motion Detection

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Seeing into a fly’s brain: Neurobiologists use state-of-the-art methods to observe the activity of nerve cells while the fly sees moving stripe patterns on a LED screen (left). This technique enables the scientists to observe the response of single cells in the brain area which processes motion information

What would be the point of holding a soccer world championship if we couldn’t distinguish the ball from its background? Simply unthinkable! But then again, wouldn’t it be fantastic if your favourite team’s striker could see the movements of the ball in slow motion! Unfortunately, this advantage only belongs to flies.

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Brain Naturally Follows Scientific Method? Less Effort to Register ‘Predictable’ Images

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The brain does not predict the unpredictable: The sight of bars apparently moving from bottom left to top right (dotted line) evokes activity in the primary visual cortex (V1).

It turns out that there is a striking similarity between how the human brain determines what is going on in the outside world and the job of scientists. Good science involves formulating a hypothesis and testing whether this hypothesis is compatible with the scientist’s observations. Researchers in the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt together with the University of Glasgow have shown that this is what the brain does as well. A study shows that it takes less effort for the brain to register predictable as compared to unpredictable images.

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Scientists Image Brain at Point When Vocal Learning Begins

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High resolution in vivo images of neurons and associated dendritic spines in the brain of a juvenile songbird during the initial stages of song learning. Images taken by Todd Roberts.

Duke University Medical Center scientists crowded around a laser-powered microscope in a darkened room to peer into the brain of an anesthetized juvenile songbird right after he heard an adult tutors’ song for the first time.

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Built-in Amps: How Subtle Head Motions, Quiet Sounds Are Reported to the Brain

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A single hair cell from a frog ear magnified by a scanning electron microscope.

The phrase “perk up your ears” made more sense last year after scientists discovered how the quietest sounds are amplified in the cochlea before being transmitted to the brain.

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Seeing the Brain Hear Reveals Surprises About How Sound Is Processed

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The left shows thousands of dye-loaded cells in the mouse auditory cortex over a large area. The right shows the preferred frequency of many cells, and shows that neighboring cells can have dramatically different frequency preference.

New research shows our brains are a lot more chaotic than previously thought, and that this might be a good thing. Neurobiologists at the University of Maryland have discovered information about how the brain processes sound that challenges previous understandings of the auditory cortex that suggested an organization based on precise neuronal maps. In the first study of the auditory cortex conducted using advanced imaging techniques, Patrick Kanold, Assistant Professor of Biology, Shihab Shamma, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Sharba Bandyopadhyay, post-doctoral.

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Is the Hobbit’s Brain Unfeasibly Small?

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These are the skulls of Homo floresiensis (left) and Homo sapiens (right).

Homo floresiensis, a pygmy-sized small-brained hominin popularly known as ‘the Hobbit’ was discovered five years ago, but controversy continues over whether the small brain is actually due to a pathological condition. How can its tiny brain size be explained? Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Biology have tackled this question in the context of a comprehensive assessment of the evolution of brain and body size throughout the larger primate family.

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Neurons Developed from Stem Cells Successfully Wired With Other Brain Regions in Animals

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This is a single stem cell-derived neuron that has migrated away from the transplantation site in the cortex and grown into a mature neuron.

Transplanted neurons grown from embryonic stem cells can fully integrate into the brains of young animals, according to new research in the Jan. 20 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

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Video Gamers: Size of Brain Structures Predicts Success

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Brain structures are a clear indicator of video game success

Researchers can predict your performance on a video game simply by measuring the volume of specific structures in your brain, a multi-institutional team reports this week.

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Face Recognition Ability Inherited Separately from IQ

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Recognizing faces is an important social skill, but not all of us are equally good at it.

Recognizing faces is an important social skill, but not all of us are equally good at it. Some people are unable to recognize even their closest friends (a condition called prosopagnosia), while others have a near-photographic memory for large numbers of faces. Now a twin study by collaborators at MIT and in Beijing shows that face recognition is heritable, and that it is inherited separately from general intelligence or IQ.

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How Music ‘Moves’ Us: Listeners’ Brains Second-Guess the Composer

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Our brains continuously predict what is going to happen next

New research predicts that expectations about what is going to happen next in a piece of music should be different for people with different musical experience and sheds light on the brain mechanisms involved.

Have you ever accidentally pulled your headphone socket out while listening to music? What happens when the music stops? Psychologists believe that our brains continuously predict what is going to happen next in a piece of music. So, when the music stops, your brain may still have expectations about what should happen next.

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