Breaks

Neurobiology

Number of breaks: 4

Our internal fight against loneliness

"A guy needs somebody -- to be near him... A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody."
Of Mice & Men, John Steinbeck.
As social creatures, all aspects of our daily lives are powerfully shaped by our social experiences. The social bonds that we nurture throughout our lives provide us with protection, support, companionship, and enjoyment: enabling the human race to survive and flourish. Our innate craving for social connection is plainly revealed by the intensely unpleasant experience of loneliness - a concept that the characters of John Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men' were only too familiar with. While, arguably, we all have an intuitive knowledge of what loneliness feels like, it can be defined as (...)

· Gillian Matthews | Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Simons Center for the Social Brain, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston, USA

Published on March 9, 2017Reading time: 4 min

The lifetime of memories

"Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future." Elie Wiesel

Memory is essential for animal survival and gives human beings the extraordinary ability to develop consciousness and ultimately the self. The brain mechanisms that allow us to store, elaborate and recall information from the outside world have been continuously enriched and refined throughout animal evolution. From classical greek philosophers to contemporary neuroscientists, memory has attracted attention because of its profound implications in all aspects of our life. How our lives would be if we could remember every little detail of them? Why do we forget people, places, things and events? Even if answering these questions still needs extensive research, scientists all (...)

· Thomas Stefanelli | PhD student at Department of Basic Neurosciences, University of Geneva, Switzerland

· Pablo Mendez | Senior Lecturer at Department of Basic Neurosciences, University of Geneva, Switzerland

Published on June 22, 2016Reading time: 3.5 min

Attempts to Forget the Past Make It Harder to Remember the Present

An old photograph, the smell of warm apple pie, or even a long-forgotten name overheard at a party all have the potential to unleash a flood of related memories. In many ways, our conscious experience is dictated by the reminders we encounter in daily life. Sometimes, however, we are motivated to exert conscious control over which thoughts are permitted to rise to awareness, either by actively seeking to remember particular instances or by suppressing inappropriate, unpleasant, or otherwise distracting thoughts. While everyday life presents numerous opportunities to engage in these control behaviors, individuals coping in the aftermath of a major life trauma may be especially likely to turn to memory suppression to curb flashbacks. Just how effective are these suppression (...)

· Justin C. Hulbert | Professor at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, USA

Published on April 8, 2016Reading time: 4 min

Where is the Engram?

The author Tonegawa won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1987.

The human brain is composed of over 100 billion electrically-active brain cells (called neurons), and what makes the neuron a special cell type is that it sends out extensions (known as axons) that form connections with other neurons. These connections are known as synapses, and allow for the direct communication of neurons with one another through the release of chemical substances called neurotransmitters. Populations of neurons form intricate wiring networks in the brain, resulting in trillions of different synapses. Intriguingly the structure and strength of synaptic connections can change with experience. Because of this plasticity, and the inherent complexity of synaptic networks, it has long been assumed that (...)

· Tomás Ryan | Research Scientist at Howard Hughes Medical Institute and RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics, Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

· Susumu Tonegawa | Professor at Howard Hughes Medical Institute and RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics, Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Published on December 14, 2015Reading time: 4 min