Discover Magazine Present THE BRAIN: Part 1

April 14, 2010 - 2 Responses

I have been anticipating this special edition magazine release since February, and it’s finally here, though I had to search for it at twelve different Hudson Booksellers in airport terminals, and pay a hefty price of eight dollars plus tax. Over the next two weeks, I will highlight each article, many of which are excerpts from newly-released pop neuroscience books that way you don’t have to pay eight dollars and/or be subjected to additional impulse buys. The first article, is an excerpt from Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger by Jeff Wise, which dissects the flight, fright, fight,…..and sex syndrome using a water quality specialist’s confrontation with a mountain lion as a realistic (almost extremely realistic) example.

FREEZE/FRIGHT: Breathing and heart rate slow, deeply-rooted, archaic brain structures lying in or within proximity to the brainstem, the periaqueductal grey, superior colliculus, and amygdala are highly active, facilitating immobility, hyperattentiveness, and threat assessment, respectively. This was when the woman noticed a ravenous mountain lion staring at her a few hundred feet away.

FLIGHT: Epinephrine is immediately and globally released (the beauty of the hormonal response), mobilizing energy, desensitizing oneself to pain, and expediting pre-motor planning. This was when the mountain lion attacked.

FIGHT: Activation of the periaqueductal grey dually promotes aggression and analgesia, optimizing performance during pugilism. This was when the woman stabbed the cat with her surgical-steel hemostat.




Dormivigilia’s “Official” Website

November 18, 2009 - Leave a Response

A birthday present from

Bookmark it!:

Don’t Sleep Tonight. Go Outside.

November 17, 2009 - Leave a Response

For once, I am advocating for not sleeping, even if you have an exam tomorrow. Go outside in the wee hours of the morning, hence, missing precious REM sleep time. But seeing 30 to 300 comets whiz across the sky if you don’t live in suburbia and/or the city is well worth the skimping on sleep. Leonid’s Meteor Shower is tonight/tomorrow. Comets should appear between 2 and 4 am.


No Comment.

November 15, 2009 - Leave a Response

Oh, Lil Jon. You started your career by creating one of the finest dancing songs of all time, slowly progressed into having ridiculous, nonsensical songs like “Snap Yo Fangers,” but this? I can’t even comment.It certainly isn’t a public service announcement the National Institutes of Health would endorse.


Grrrr to the Library and Stage 1 Poetry

November 14, 2009 - Leave a Response

I encountered this sign in the library yesterday/today: “Insomnia? Don’t stare at the moon, come here to study!”

My readers should know what’s irritating about this “urban legend” by now. Not that I’m practicing what I preach, either. It’s now time for “Stage 1” poetry in honor of all-night 24 hour microdialysis sampling (for history of stage 1 poetry slam see this blog entry).

Stilletos, pumps, in the club, yeah

OOOOps, I think I’m done (J/k!).

(5 seconds to write).

Neury Thursday: Once Again, Glia Do It ALL

November 13, 2009 - Leave a Response

A few months ago, I reported about the role of glia on the mediation of the homeostatic drive for sleep/wake. Glia additionally mediate the neurochemical environment and the immune response after it’s primary purpose: structural support. According to a recent Journal of Neuroscience article, radial glia in the tectal visual areas mediate the visual experience; radial glia interact with synaptic activity during the activation of nitric oxide and other downstream N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors of the visual circuit. It’s no surprise that that activation of NMDA and NO are also critically important to shift behavioral sleep/wake rhythms through light.

Below is a psychedic photomicrograph capturing the activation of radial glia at three different time points, demarcated by color.Totally awesome, dude.

Radial Glial Respond to Neuronal Activity

Neuroscience Journal Club: Green Anole ER-alpha expression

November 10, 2009 - Leave a Response

In our bi-weekly Journal Club, soon-to-be Master Phillip Long presented an article on seasonal variation in ER alpha dimorphism in green anole. Estradiol (E2) binds to ER-alpha or estrogen receptor-alpha to mediate  male reproductive behaviors and female receptive (i.e. give it to me, baby) sexual behaviors. E2 is also responsible for brain masculination. Imagine how this information could change current and past male-female societal expectations! Anyways, back to science. In the paper discussed, male and female anoles were captured during their breeding and non-breeding seasons (May and October, respectively) and brought into the lab to assess ER-alpha expression in various brain regions. Regions of high ER-alpha expression include the ventromedial hypothalamus, medial preoptic area, and the ventromedial amygdala. This is no surprise give that these brain areas mediate sexual dimorphism of the brain and behavior. Other areas with marked ER-alpha expression include the septum which mediates aggression (is this the neurobiological etiology of S&M?!), the suprachiasmatic nucleus which I imagine regulates seasonal breeding, and the nucleus accumbens which mediates reward (again, again!).

Though there were many questionable methodologies within the paper, which led me to believe it was an undergraduate research project (no offense), it certainly is interesting to find differential expression of ER-alpha in a reptilian model that is comparable to ER-alpha expression in mammalian and avian models. Neuroscience rocks.

Below is a video of a male green anole courting a female. When anoles court, they distended their dulap (vibrant bright orange pouch below their jaw) and bob their head. I had the opportunity to see this while wandering around the Costa Rican cloud forests. It’s awesome.

Red Bull vs. Sleep

November 9, 2009 - Leave a Response

Sleep wins.

Sleep wins.

Taurine is a protective mechanism, however, against ethanol intoxication and ethanol-induced apoptosis.

Larry Kagan: The Steel Artist

November 9, 2009 - Leave a Response

It’s fitting for Youngstown, a post-steel apocalyptic city, to have an exhibit at the Butler Institute of American Art  with steel as a choice of medium…..and light. Larry Kagan is the artist, and Larry Kagan is a genius. He has crafted several hundred steel pieces that appear to be the work of a juvenile welder, until light becomes an additional medium. And voila! Airplanes, chairs, footballs, Lucky Strike cartons, bicycles, insects, and even three-dimensional planes emanate from the convoluted cluster of steel.


Neury Thursday/Friday: Coloring in V4

November 6, 2009 - Leave a Response

I apologize for the delay of Neury Thursday, but last night, I went to a Kent State Freethinkers meeting on the secrets/tricks/talent of mind reading. You can watch the six part series featuring Derren Brown, an English illusionist, and Richard Dawkins. The “artistic” camera shots are quite irritating, but it’s worth the content.

Back to neuroscience, in this week’s Journal of Neuroscience, scientists used functional magnetic resonance imaging to decode and reconstruct the perception of color within the visual cortex, specifically area V4. I’m not sure of the functional significance of the front cover illustration, but perhaps someone more versed in the visual system will tell. It reminds me of the color wheel posted on the blackboard in art class, illustrating that various perceived colors such as maroon, aquamarine, and even macaroni n’ cheese are simply synthesized from primary (blue, red, yellow) and secondary (green, purple, orange) colors.

It's the color wheel!