brain science

Acoustic biologists who have learned to tune their ears to the sounds of life know there's a lot more to animal communication than just, "Hey, here I am!" or "I need a mate."

From insects to elephants to people, we animals all use sound to function and converse in social groups — especially when the environment is dark, or underwater or heavily forested.

A promising technique for making brain tumors glow so they'll be easier for surgeons to remove is now being tested in cancer patients.

Since his birth 33 years ago, Jonathan Keleher has been living without a cerebellum, a structure that usually contains about half the brain's neurons.

This exceedingly rare condition has left Jonathan with a distinctive way of speaking and a walk that is slightly awkward. He also lacks the balance to ride a bicycle.

But all that hasn't kept him from living on his own, holding down an office job and charming pretty much every person he meets.

Courtesy Jason Yeatman

Two years ago Jason Yeatman, a researcher at the University of Washington, stumbled into a secret corridor of the mind.

Flickr Photo/Chuck Coker (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Washington state lawmakers have a lot on their plates this legislative session: everything from how to fully fund basic education to a debate over how to control pollution. But some legislators also put medical marijuana regulation on their priority list.

File photo: brain
Flickr Photo/Saad Faruque (CC BY-SA 2.0)

An Oxford University researcher will soon test whether applying an electric current to part of the brain can help children learn math — an effect previously demonstrated in adults. And some parents are eager to gain access to the device.

Brain scans may soon be able to help predict a person's future — some aspects of it, anyway.

Information from these scans increasingly is able to suggest whether a child will have trouble with math, say, or whether someone with mental illness is going to respond to a particular treatment, according to a review of dozens of studies published Wednesday in the journal Neuron.

Steven Pinker's book "The Sense of Style."

Ross Reynolds speaks with cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, who is both a fan and critic of writing style guides. He’s now written his own: “The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century!” He says many authors of style guides don’t understand the cognitive biases that lead to us write poorly.

The heavyset man with a bandage on his throat is having trouble repeating a phrase. "No ifs ..." he says to the medical students and doctors around his bed at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

"Can I hear you say no ifs, ands or buts?" says Dr. Allan Ropper, the Harvard neurologist in charge. The patient tries again. "No ifs, buts, ands or," he says.

Four years ago, Angela Stimpson agreed to donate a kidney to a complete stranger.

"The only thing I knew about my recipient was that she was a female and she lived in Bakersfield, Calif.," Stimpson says.

It was a true act of altruism — Stimpson risked pain and suffering to help another. So why did she do it? It involved major surgery, her donation was anonymous, and she wasn't paid.

"At that time in my life, I was 42 years old. I was single, I had no children," Stimpson says. "I loved my life, but I would often question what my purpose is."

Everyone points to the Wright Brothers as the inventors of human flight. But centuries earlier, it was Leonardo da Vinci who imagined human flight, recognizing how birds used concepts like lift and wing shape to glide high above us.

Flickr Photo/Giulia Forsythe

Human beings have wondered how our brains work for millennia. And we haven’t been afraid to knock about in there to find out. There is evidence that trepanation, the surgical practice of drilling a hole into the skull in order to cure headaches or mental disorders, was performed in Neolithic times, just at the tail end of the Stone Age. Ouch!

According to author Sam Kean, the stories of people who survived terrible brain disease and injury are at the heart of how modern neuroscience advanced. Kean spoke at Town Hall Seattle on May 20.

From Wikipedia

Here’s the plot: A man suffering from dystonia – a neurological disorder that causes twisting and abnormal postures – goes to a doctor. The doctor gives the man local anesthesia, drills into his head, inserts spaghetti-like electrodes and then hooks him up to a pacemaker to send electrical currents into his brain.

Even if you can't keep a beat, your brain can. "The brain absolutely has rhythm," says Nathan Urban, a neuroscientist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

When you concentrate, Urban says, your brain produces rapid, rhythmic electrical impulses called gamma waves. When you relax, it generates much slower alpha waves.

Blame Your Brain: The Fault Lies Somewhere Within

Jun 17, 2014

Science doesn't just further technology and help us predict and control our environment. It also changes the way we understand ourselves and our place in the natural world. This understanding can inspire awe and a sense of grandeur.