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Tag Archives: Brain
Rewiring Your Brain: Michael Weisend
Suzana Herculano-Houzel: What is so special about the human brain?
The human brain is puzzling — it is curiously large given the size of our bodies, uses a tremendous amount of energy for its weight and has a bizarrely dense cerebral cortex. But: why? Neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel puts on her detective’s cap and leads us through this mystery. By making “brain soup,” she arrives at a startling conclusion.
Suzana Herculano-Houzel shrunk the human brain by 14 billion neurons — by developing a new way to count them.
WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO HER?
How many neurons make a human brain? For years, the answer has been (give or take) 100 billion. But neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel decided to count them herself. Her research approach involved dissolving four human brains (donated to science) into a homogeneous mixture — in her lab at the Institute of Biomedical Sciences in Rio de Janeiro, they call it “brain soup.” She then took a sample of the mix, counted the number of cell nuclei belonging to neurons, and scaled that up. Result: the human brain has about 86 billion neurons, 14 billion fewer than assumed — but intriguingly, far more than other animals, relative to brain size.
She suggests that it was the invention of cooking by our ancestors — which makes food yield much more metabolic energy — that allowed humans to develop the largest primate brain. She’s now working on elephant and whale brains to test her hypothesis.
Rethinking the brain: Richard Faull
Richard Faull is professor and director of the Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland. Raised in a small Taranaki farming community, Richard discovered his passion for the human brain as a young medical student and has spent his life pursuing exciting, innovative and groundbreaking research in this field at the University of Auckland. Richard’s work has been widely recognised internationally and through appointments as Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Officer of the NZ Order of Merit, and receiving of many awards including New Zealand’s highest scientific award, the Royal Society Rutherford Medal.
Why Does My Brain Sleep?
We spend one third of our lives asleep, yet doctors and scientists still have no complete understanding as to why. It is one of the last great scientific mysteries. This talk will describe new discoveries suggesting that, far from being a time when the brain is dormant, sleep is a highly active process critical for a constellation of different functions. These include the importance of sleep for learning, memory and brain plasticity. Furthermore, a role for sleep in intelligently synthesizing new memories together will be examined, the result of which is next-day creative insights. Finally, a new role for sleep in regulating emotional brain networks will be discussed, optimally preparing us for next day social and psychological challenges.
Matthew Walker earned his PhD in neurophysiology from the Medical Research Council in London, UK, and subsequently became an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School in 2004. He is currently an Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of California Berkeley. He is the recipient of funding awards from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. In 2006 he became a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences. His research examines the impact of sleep on human brain function in healthy and disease populations.
How to manually change a memory: Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu
Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu shoot laser beams into the brains of living mice to activate and manipulate their memories. In a funny and — perhaps — unnerving talk from TEDxBoston, they explain the fundamental principles behind their experiments and broach the big questions that future advancements in this line of research may force us to answer.
When we close our eyes and think back to our childhood, to our first kiss, or to this morning’s breakfast, our brains perform the remarkable task of mental time travel and thereby enrich our lives with memories. How does neural machinery give rise to something as seemingly ephemeral as memory? Recently, Hollywood inspired our imaginations by proposing that memories could be artificially triggered (think Total Recall), erased (think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), or even implanted (think Inception). Now, neuroscience has plucked these ideas from the tree of science fiction and grounded them in experimental reality. The catch: our subjects are the movie stars of the laboratory setting–rodents. This talk will introduce how revolutionary techniques from our lab have made it possible to isolate and manipulate specific memories at the level of single brain cells with just flickers of light, as well as the societal ramifications of doing so.
How to look inside the brain – Carl Schoonover
There have been remarkable advances in understanding the brain, but how do you actually study the neurons inside it? Using gorgeous imagery, neuroscientist and TED Fellow Carl Schoonover shows the tools that let us see inside our brains.