SONG: "Jump, Jump, Jump."

SONG: “Jump, Jump, Jump”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “Fish and Adaptation: Mangrove Fish Jumps into Air in Warming Water”, Nature World News, 21 Oct 2015, as used in the post “Global warming might make the fish jump.”

ABSTRACT: First, let me say that this was done on time, even early. It started as a jokey thing I was singing to my son while he was watching me play guitar on the couch, and I decided what the hell. They call it “playing” music for a reason. (I guess if I spoke …

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SONG: All Praise Black Ice

SONG: “All Praise Black Ice”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “New Horizons Finds Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto”,, 8 Oct 2015, as used in the post “There’s water ice on another planet. Not Mars. Pluto.”


Laryngitis followed by a business trip and here I am, a couple weeks late. I hope the brass section makes up for that.

(Yes, there’s brass in there, somewhere. I really need help mastering these things, but one does what one can in between everything e…

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Science Art: Taf. V: Feuer-Salamander by Bruno Dürigen.


Fire salamanders.

They don’t look so hot.


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Science Art: Chemical Laboratory room. Experimental Research labs, Burroughs Wellcome and Co. Tuckahoe, New York

Click to embiggen

Welcome to Wellcome.

They’ve got all kinds of wonderful things in their image gallery, including this marvelous experimenter in an even more marvelous experimental lab.

In 1935, this was where the future was made.

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Science Art: Idolo de ignota localidad, Idolo de Arica, Idolo de ignota localidad.

Click to embiggen

Three idols, from the Anales del Museo Nacional de Chile, published between 1892 and 1910.

I found them in the Biodiversity Heritage Library, which is usually full of biological specimens.

These three, however, are a little different… even if no one knows where two of them came from. Arica is a port city near two valleys that divide the Atacama Desert in north Chile.

He (or more likely she, even though as described in the text, “no hai tetas” and “la barba es d…

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Depression could be an immune problem.

27 October 2015 // 0 Comments

Medical XPress examines a link between major depression and immune-system cells in the brain called “microglia”: In a groundbreaking theoretical review paper published in the peer-reviewed journal, Trends in Neurosciences, researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem suggest that “progress in the understanding of the biology of depression has been slow,” requiring expanding beyond the “abnormalities in the functioning of neurons.” The contribution of other brain cells—often neglected by researchers—may be more relevant in causing depression, according to psychobiology Prof. Raz Yirmiya, director of the Hebrew University’s Laboratory for PsychoNeuroImmunology, and senior author of the journal’s paper, titled “Depression as a microglial disease.” … In Trends in Neuroscience, the Hebrew University researchers claim that diseased microglia can cause depression and drugs that restore the normal functioning of these cells can be effective as fast-acting anti-depressants. Microglia, which comprise 10% of all brain cells, are the brain’s immune cells. They fight infectious bacteria and viruses in […]

Gene therapy rescues brain cells from Alzheimer’s

2 September 2015 // 0 Comments

The Guardian reports on a new therapy – nerve growth factor – that effectively saves dying brain cells: The new results are preliminary findings from the very first human trials designed to test the potential benefits of nerve growth factor (NGF) gene therapy for Alzheimer’s patients. NGF was discovered in the 1940s by Rita Levi-Montalcini, who convincingly demonstrated that the small protein promotes the survival of certain sub-types of sensory neurons during development of the nervous system. Since then, others have shown that it also promotes the survival of acetylcholine-producing cells in the basal forebrain, which die off in Alzheimer’s. In 2001, Mark Tuszynski and his colleagues at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine launched a clinical trial based on these findings. … In phase I of this trial, eight patients with mild Alzheimer’s Disease received ex vivo therapy to deliver the NGF gene directly into the brain. This involved first taking […]

Whistled language is right-brained.

19 August 2015 // 0 Comments

German researchers, as disclosed in Science Daily, have found a singularly creative language – a form of whistled Turkish that, unlike any other language on Earth, is not processed only on the left side of the brain: “We are unbelievably lucky that such a language indeed exists,” says Onur Güntürkün of Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany. “It is a true experiment of nature.” Whistled Turkish is exactly what it sounds like: Turkish that has been adapted into a series of whistles. This method of communicating was popular in the old days, before the advent of telephones, in small villages in Turkey as a means for long-distance communication. In comparison to spoken Turkish, whistled Turkish carries much farther. While whistled-Turkish speakers use “normal” Turkish at close range, they switch to the whistled form when at a distance of, say, 50 to 90 meters away. … Whistled Turkish isn’t a distinct language from Turkish, Güntürkün explains. It is […]

Emotions help you remember information

7 August 2015 // 0 Comments

Science Daily processes a University of Haifa finding about why first impressions are so important – and how *feeling* a thing helps you *know* a thing: Dr. Shlomo Wagner of the Sagol Department of Neurobiology at the University of Haifa, who undertook the study, explains: “It turns out that different emotions cause the brain to work differently and on distinct frequencies.” The main goal of the new study, which was published this February in the science journal eLife, was to identify the electrical activity that takes place in the brain during the formation of social memory. During the course of their work, the researchers — Dr. Wagner and Ph.D. Alex Tendler — discovered the scientific explanation behind the saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” … In the first part of the study the researchers examined the electrical activity in the brains of rats during social behavior. They discovered strong […]

Teens and two-year-olds: The ages most vulnerable to trauma.

6 August 2015 // 0 Comments

Quartz opens a window on the two periods of brain development when traumatic events do the most damage: According to Tara Swart, a neuroscientist and senior lecturer at MIT, your “terrible twos” and those turbulent teen years are when the brain’s wiring is most malleable. … “We start to understand speech first, then we start to articulate speech ourselves and that’s a really complex thing that goes on in the brain,” Swart, who conducts ongoing research on the brain and how it affects how we become leaders, told Quartz. “Additionally, children start to walk — so from a physical point of view, that’s also a huge achievement for the brain. Learning and understanding a new language forces your brain to work in new ways, connecting neurons and forming new pathways. This is a mentally taxing process, which is why learning a new language or musical instrument often feels exhausting. With so many important changes happening […]

The Larkin Effect exposed: How parents pass anxiety on to their kids.

7 July 2015 // 0 Comments

Science Daily peers deep into our brains to reveal how exactly our parents messed us all up: The study is being published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). It shows that elevated activity in this prefrontal- limbic -midbrain circuit is likely involved in mediating the in-born risk for extreme anxiety, anxious temperament that can be observed in early childhood. “Over-activity of these three brain regions are inherited brain alterations that are directly linked to the later life risk to develop anxiety and depression,” says senior author Dr. Ned Kalin, chair of psychiatry at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. … Monkeys, like humans, can be temperamentally anxious and pass their anxiety-related genes on to the next generation. By studying nearly 600 young rhesus monkeys from a large multi-generational family, Drs. Andrew Fox, Kalin, and colleagues found that about 35 percent of variation in anxiety-like tendencies is explained […]

Memories are physical: they last as long as the nerve-cell connections that store them.

25 June 2015 // 0 Comments

So say Stanford University neurologists, who have actually seen memories under a microscope – and watched them vanish: Now Mark Schnitzer, an associate professor of biology and of applied physics, has leveraged microscopy tools developed in his lab and for the first time was able to monitor the connections, called synapses, between hippocampal neurons and confirm what neuroscientists thought might be happening. In the mice he and his team studied, the connections between neurons lasted about 30 days, roughly the duration over which episodic memories are believed to stay in the mouse hippocampus. The work was published on June 22 in Nature. … When mice experience a new episode or learn a new task that requires spatial navigation, the memory is stored for about a month in a structure at the center of the brain called the hippocampus (it is stored slightly longer in people). If mice have hippocampus-disrupting surgery within a month of forming […]

Let’s take a moment to consider the phrase “injectable brain implant.” Because it exists.

9 June 2015 // 0 Comments

Nature describes (and even has photos of) an electronic mesh that can be rolled up and squirted out of a syringe into a mouse brain where it can monitor (and stimulate) individual neurons: If eventually shown to be safe, the soft mesh might even be used in humans to treat conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, says Charles Lieber, a chemist at Harvard University on Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the team. The work was published in Nature Nanotechnology on 8 June. … So far, even the best technologies have been composed of relatively rigid electronics that act like sandpaper on delicate neurons. They also struggle to track the same neuron over a long period, because individual cells move when an animal breathes or its heart beats. The Harvard team solved these problems by using a mesh of conductive polymer threads with either nanoscale electrodes or transistors attached at their intersections. Each strand is as soft as […]

Forget your passwords; use your brainwaves.

8 June 2015 // 0 Comments

Science Daily takes security to a whole other level with a new system that relies on your brain’s responses to words as security instead of memorized passwords: In “Brainprint,” a newly published study in academic journal Neurocomputing, researchers from Binghamton University observed the brain signals of 45 volunteers as they read a list of 75 acronyms, such as FBI and DVD. They recorded the brain’s reaction to each group of letters, focusing on the part of the brain associated with reading and recognizing words, and found that participants’ brains reacted differently to each acronym, enough that a computer system was able to identify each volunteer with 94 percent accuracy. The results suggest that brainwaves could be used by security systems to verify a person’s identity. According to Sarah Laszlo, assistant professor of psychology and linguistics at Binghamton University and co-author of “Brainprint,” brain biometrics are appealing because they are cancelable and cannot be stolen by […]

We can watch your mind changing. This is what a decision looks like.

14 May 2015 // 0 Comments

Science Daily goes deep, deep into our innermost selves and reveals what a brain looks like the moment a mind changes: The findings result from experiments led by electrical engineering Professor Krishna Shenoy, whose Stanford lab focuses on movement control and neural prostheses — such as artificial arms — controlled by the user’s brain. “This basic neuroscience discovery will help create neural prostheses that can withhold moving a prosthetic arm until the user is certain of their decision, thereby averting premature or inopportune movements,” Shenoy said. The experiments are described in the journal eLife. They were performed by neuroscientist Matthew Kaufman while he was a graduate student in Shenoy’s lab. Kaufman taught laboratory monkeys to perform a decision-making task. He then developed a technique to track the brain signals that occur during a single decision with split-second accuracy. … During the experiments, 192 electrodes in each monkey’s motor and premotor cortex began measuring brain activity […]

Poverty shrinks kids’ brains.

8 May 2015 // 0 Comments

Nature measures the price of poverty, and the effect it has on children. A bi-coastal study has found that poverty shrinks kids’ brains from birth: …A team led by neuroscientists Kimberly Noble from Columbia University in New York City and Elizabeth Sowell from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, California… imaged the brains of 1,099 children, adolescents and young adults in several US cities. Because people with lower incomes in the United States are more likely to be from minority ethnic groups, the team mapped each child’s genetic ancestry and then adjusted the calculations so that the effects of poverty would not be skewed by the small differences in brain structure between ethnic groups. The brains of children from the lowest income bracket — less than US$25,000 — had up to 6% less surface area than did those of children from families making more than US$150,000, the researchers found. In children from the poorest families, income disparities […]

Using tDCS – mild electric jolts to stimulate your brain – actually hurts your IQ score.

6 May 2015 // 0 Comments

Science Daily reports on University of North Carolina research that shows transcranial stimulation, the fascinating new tech that uses mild DC current to “switch on” parts of your brain, might really be lowering people’s intelligence: Published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research, the study adds to the increasing amount of literature showing that transcranial direct current stimulation — tDCS — has mixed results when it comes to cognitive enhancement. “It would be wonderful if we could use tDCS to enhance cognition because then we could potentially use it to treat cognitive impairment in psychiatric illnesses,” said Flavio Frohlich, PhD, study senior author and assistant professor of psychiatry, cell biology and physiology, biomedical engineering, and neurology. “So, this study is bad news. Yet, the finding makes sense. It means that some of the most sophisticated things the brain can do, in terms of cognition, can’t necessarily be altered with just a constant electric current.” Frohlich, though, […]

New Alzheimer’s hope?

15 April 2015 // 0 Comments

The Independent reports on Duke University researchers who think they’ve figured out how Alzheimer’s happens… and how to stop it: Researchers at Duke announced that their studies of Alzheimer’s in mice had thrown up a new process they believe contributes to the disease’s development. They observed that in Alzheimer’s, immune cells that normally protect the brain instead begin to consume a vital nutrient called arginine. By blocking this process with a drug, they were able to prevent the formation of ‘plaques’ in the brain that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, and also halted memory loss in the mice. … The drug that was used to block the body’s immune response to arginine – known as difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) – is already being investigated in drug trials for certain types of cancer and may be suitable for testing as a potential Alzheimer’s therapy.

Obesity contra dementia. (How the extra pounds protect your brain.)

10 April 2015 // 0 Comments

Popular Science plunges into a study in The Lancet examining the possible neurological benefit of being obese: The team of British researchers looked at records of almost two million patients with an average age of 55. The data has been collected since 1992, and the researchers correlated patients’ body mass index (BMI) with diagnosis of dementia. They found that people who were underweight had a 35 percent higher risk of developing dementia than people of normal weight, and people who were very obese (with a BMI greater than 40 kg/m2) were 29 percent less likely to be diagnosed with the condition than people of normal weight. The reason why the obese are less likely to develop dementia is still unknown, though the researchers hypothesize that the obese may be absorbing more of particular kinds of vitamins or nutrients that could stave off the condition. The researchers were surprised by the results because their work overturns […]

The ethics of altering your children’s brains.

7 April 2015 // 0 Comments

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience is asking the tough questions about what… and when… we should be doing to kids’ brains with electromagnetism: As the intervention moves away from being a treatment toward being an enhancement—and thus toward a more uncertain weighing of the benefits, risks, and costs—considerations of the child’s best interests (as judged by the parents) diminish, and the need to protect the child’s (future) autonomy looms larger. NIBS [(Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation)] for enhancement involving trade-offs should therefore be delayed, if possible, until the child reaches a state of maturity and can make an informed, personal decision. NIBS for treatment, by contrast, is permissible insofar as it can be shown to be at least as safe and effective as currently approved treatments, which are themselves justified on a best interests standard. … To frame our discussion, we draw a distinction between the use of NIBS… as a form of treatment for a recognized neurological […]

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