The Fugue of Life: Why Complexity Matters in Physiology and Neuroscience
Brain Basics / Did You Know? / Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders

The Fugue of Life: Why Complexity Matters in Physiology and Neuroscience

People like simplicity. Each decade, corporate logos grow progressively minimalistic, pop songs use ever simpler melodies, and visual art embraces simpler compositions, as Monet gives way to Picasso and Picasso gives way Rothko.  This zeitgeist, summarized as “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” shapes our perceptions of physiology in interesting ways.  The thumping of a beating … Continue reading

Seeing Invisible Colors: Part II
Brain Basics / Sensation and Perception

Seeing Invisible Colors: Part II

In a recent Knowing Neurons piece, we explored the exotic visual abilities of other animals, while lamenting the limitations of human color vision.  In this article, we stretch those limits and celebrate some peculiarities of trichromatic color vision. Recall that a typical person has color receptors (cone cells) for red, green, and blue wavelengths of … Continue reading

Scale Invariance: A Cautionary Tale Against Reductionism
Brain Basics / Did You Know? / Popular Articles

Scale Invariance: A Cautionary Tale Against Reductionism

How long is the coast of Britain?  It doesn’t matter how good your geography is — the answer depends on the size of your measuring stick.  The coast of Britain has twists and turns at all spatial scales, from kilometers to millimeters.  And the smaller the measuring stick used, the longer the measured length of … Continue reading

Seeing Invisible Colors
Brain Basics / Popular Articles / Sensation and Perception

Seeing Invisible Colors

What would the world be like without color?  Imagine you are a neurophysiologist, who studies color perception.  You know that light is a wave and that humans perceive color according to differential activation of color receptors, known as cones, in the retina.  You know that red cones are sensitive to long wavelengths, green cones are … Continue reading

Ghost in the Machine: The Neuroscience of Consciousness
Brain Basics / Did You Know? / Popular Articles

Ghost in the Machine: The Neuroscience of Consciousness

Some questions cannot be addressed by science.  Like parallel universes, the consciousness of others is not something that can be directly observed, measured, or experienced.  Rene Descartes famously said, “I think, therefore I am.“ a declaration that only knowledge of one’s own consciousness is absolute.  You assume that friends and neighbors have subjective, internal experiences … Continue reading

Surfing Brainwaves with EEG: A Classic Tool for Recording Temporal Brain Dynamics
Brain Basics / Did You Know? / Neuroscience Technologies

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

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 … Continue reading

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Neural Stem Cells
Brain Basics / Brain Development / Did You Know? / SfN 2014

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Neural Stem Cells

Stem cells have two characteristic and essential properties: Self-renewal. They can divide to give rise to another stem cell. Potency. They are capable of differentiating into specialized cells. Totipotent cells are stem cells that are capable of differentiating into all cell types in the entire organism. Pluripotent cells are descendant of totipotent cells, and are … Continue reading