Why the brain?

You have an entire galaxy suspended within your skull, this galaxy is largely made of active little units known as neurons. You have as inconceivable a number of these neuronal “brain cells” as there are stars in the milkyway and as many connections between them as there are stars in the known universe. Your brains’ neurons and their supporting cells-their glia and astrocytes- continuously interact and integrate, passing neural information through complex sequences of connections in order to form the polyphony of activity that brings about your being. This cranial galaxy is your brain, the realm of your intellect, your imagination and creativity, the kingdom of your consciousness.
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Injecting electronics into the brain

Biotechin.Asia

Invented by Harvard and Chinese scientists, the new method could treat a range of diseases from neurodegenerative disorders to paralysis. 

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In a first-of-its-kind attempt, U.S. and Chinese scientists have developed a new method to inject microelectronic devices such as wires and transistors directly into the brain (or other body parts), that could lead to sophisticated new ways to treat conditions ranging from neurodegenerative disorders to paralysis.

Researchers have developed stretchy, bendy electronics that are so thin that they can be rolled up and jammed into a small needle with a 0.1-millimeter diameter. These electronics are then injected into living tissue using syringes. The research involved injecting the electronics into the brains of live mice. Within an hour of being injected, the electronics unfurled and began monitoring biological activity.

Previous research revealed that electronics like these can be surgically implanted, but so far, it hasn’t been possible to precisely control their delivery to non-invasive target…

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June 18, 2015 · 3:40 pm

The Embodied Brain

Though the title of this very blog may lead one to suppose that the processes of human thought, feeling and behaviour are “All in Our Heimgresad” this, in fact, couldn’t be further from the case. The human brain is directly and intimately connected with the body of the human organism. We think what we think, feel what we feel, we are who we are and do what we do both because our brains are wired up in a particular way and because our bodies are configured and composed in a unique manner.

The recent discovery of direct, previously undetected connections between the human brain and the immune system is just one example of the reciprocal relationship between the mind and the body, suggesting the significance of the concept of the “embodied brain”…an idea that will be explored in much more depth in a series of upcoming posts…

SyesWideShut

Courtesy of University of Virginia:

In a stunning discovery that overturns decades of textbook teaching, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have determined that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist.

That such vessels could have escaped detection when the lymphatic system has been so thoroughly mapped throughout the body is surprising on its own, but the true significance of the discovery lies in the effects it could have on the study and treatment of neurological diseases ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s disease to multiple sclerosis.

“Instead of asking, ‘How do we study the immune response of the brain?,’ ‘Why do multiple sclerosis patients have the immune attacks?,’ now we can approach this mechanistically – because the brain is like every other tissue connected to the peripheral immune system through meningeal lymphatic vessels,” said Jonathan Kipnis, a professor…

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In Our Head Facts- Fatty Fatty Brain

Consisting of at least 60% fat, the human brain is the fattest organ in the whole body.

What’s more, the fat cimgresontained in the brain cannot be metabolised for energy. The brain does not contain “fat cells”, such as those in our belly that mercifully shrink when energy is scarce, but rather fatty acids known as “lipids”.

Lipids form the “myelin sheath” which insulates the wires leading to and from neurons. In this way “brain fat” functions to insulate brain wiring allowing electrical messages to be carried effectively and efficiently throughout the nervous system.

So next time you’re having a good think, you can thank fat for that.

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Blind-Sighted

The human brain is a sneaky little organ. It is constantly carrying out processes relevant for both perception and function without letting you know a thing.

In the 1930s Sigmund Freud popularized the notion of the conscious versus the unconscious mind. According to Freud the conscious mind consists of all the mental processes within our awareness. The unconscious mind on the other hand, houses all sorts of things that we have no conscious awareness of.

Freud’s work on the unconscious mind was primarily based on patient analysis and personal insights and, as such, had no true empirical foundation. Flashing forward to the technological and methodological advances of contemporary neuroscience however and much evidence has been produced revealing silent workings of unconscious processing.

Just one example of the unconscious mind at work is seen in cases of blindsight. Blindsight refers to the capacity of certain blind individuals to accurately guess the identity, movement and location of visual stimuli even though they cannot consciously see anything at all.

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Surfing Brainwaves with EEG: A Classic Tool for Recording Temporal Brain Dynamics

Knowing Neurons

Pictures are powerful tools for illustrating quantitative data and capturing public interest.  Each year, NASA releases many beautiful images of Martian dunes and distant nebulae which help win public funding.  Likewise, when it comes to grabbing headlines and commanding public attention, noninvasive studies of functional brain activity often do best when they beautifully illustrate said activity as colorful pixels dancing on the convoluted surface of the cerebral cortex.

EEG_750

However, these images are missing a critical dimension: time.  Brain activity takes place on a millisecond timescale, yet functional MRI captures this activity at a rate of about one full brain scan per second.  This is rather akin to watching a movie filmed at a rate of one frame per second.

Joel is wearing an EEG cap. Joel is wearing an EEG cap.

EEG, short for electroencephalogram, is a comparatively old technology, first introduced by Hans Berger in 1929, in which electrodes placed on the scalp record…

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