Timing is Everything –  How Your Brain Stores Memories

Timing is Everything – How Your Brain Stores Memories

“I am hopelessly in love with a memory. An echo from another time, another place.” ―Michel Foucault Humans are obsessed with memory. There are references to memory and how we remember things throughout history—in film, music, art, science, and philosophy. Humans have a wistful affection for the past and we often spend time replaying vignettes from our lives. Philosophers and scientists began searching for a place in the brain that stores memory, which was referred to as the “engram.” In the 1920s, Karl Lashley performed memory experiments on animals in search of this elusive engram.1 But it wasn’t until the 1950s that researchers were given the first real glimpse into the the neuroscience of memory.2 A Brief History of Memory Research Henry Molaison (known as H.M. until his death in 2008) underwent a resection of his temporal lobe in order to lessen the burden of his epilepsy. Shortly following this surgery, he became unable to create and store new memories.2 Thousands of studies later, neuroscientists have accumulated mounting evidence pointing to the hippocampus as the seat of episodic memory in the brain.3 The hippocampus, which is Greek for seahorse, is a bilateral curve-shaped structure located deep in the brain. Almost all of H.M.’s hippocampus was removed during this surgery, which resulted in his prominent short-term memory loss.2 H.M.’s hippocampal memory loss has been replicated in animal studies in which the hippocampus is damaged or removed and in human studies using fMRI, where hippocampal activity was shown to be associated with memory events.3 Since then, neuroscientists have used more powerful techniques to study memory. Different regions of the brain can be analyzed by measuring gene expression, and electrical activity that is emitted... read more

Let’s Talk About Sex….The Science Of It

By Charlotte Wincott, PhD Most researchers agree that drug addiction is a disease of the brain that occurs as the result of environmental factors and genetic predisposition.  However, there is no general consensus on whether sex addiction should be perceived in the same way as heroin or cocaine addiction. Researchers and clinicians alike have been struggling for years to reduce the stigma associated with drug addiction with some success.  On the other hand, questions about sex-related behaviors are answered in hushed tones at the end of scientific talks on drug addiction. Why are we as a society so afraid to talk about sex addiction when so many individuals suffer from its consequences?  Perhaps similar efforts should be made to understand the behaviors associated with sex addiction, which may be driven by some of the same brain circuits that control drug-related behavior.  The pleasant feelings that are experienced by users of cocaine, for instance, are caused by activity in our brain’s reward center.  This brain region is called the nucleus accumbens.  Our brains are extremely complicated but to make it simple, the nucleus accumbens receives information in the form of a molecule called dopamine.  Dopamine allows us to learn that something is pleasurable.  When the nucleus accumbens receives dopamine signals, it tells other brain regions what to do in order to get more of the drug or whatever it was that caused the pleasant feeling. Rats, like humans, also have this reward center which undergoes changes when animals eat sugar1; sexual behavior is also driven by some of the same molecules and brain structures.  Scientists at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine showed that when rats have sex or are presented with sex-related cues, dopamine messages are sent to the nucleus accumbens2, and rats are not... read more
Global Warming or Global Weirding?

Global Warming or Global Weirding?

Expect Extreme Weather To Continue as Greenhouse Gas Hits A New Threshold. The World Meteorological Organization said on Monday that greenhouse gas levels hit a record high for the 30th year in a row. “It means hotter global temperatures, more extreme weather events like heat waves and floods, melting ice, rising sea levels, and increased acidity of the oceans. This is happening now and we are moving into uncharted territory at a frightening speed,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a statement. Carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, has been climbing steadily towards the 400-parts-per-million level, a new threshold. Jarraud  made his annual plea to address the following main contributors: Burning of fossil fuels Agriculture Cement production Deforestation Later in November, negotiators from over 150 countries will convene in Paris to try to agree a new U.N. climate deal. China and the United States are the top greenhouse gas emitters.   Please follow and like... read more

Codifying Critical Thinking By Niki Athanasiadou, PhD

Wednesday Dec. 2 7:00-9:00 p.m. Rockefeller University 38th floor Solarium   In her first talk for Know Science, Dr. Niki Athanasiadou will set out to give you the critical thinking tools you need to answer important questions for yourself. “The scientific method has been a driving force in shaping human history…Using knowledge gained from science, we will attempt to codify this set of cognitive skills so that everyone has the tools to address these important questions.” Niki Athanasiadou, PhD, is a research scientist at New York University. Athanasiadou graduated from the School of Biology at Aristotle’s University of Thessaloniki (Greece), was awarded a Master of Research with distinction from the University of York (UK), received The Young Biochemist Award from the British Biochemical Society and received her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Edinburgh (UK).  . Please follow and like... read more

Earth Day 2015 Green Tips

Brought to you by the Know Science Team Last week, a friend of mine shared this on Facebook. Yes, the situation on planet Earth looks bleak. And, yes, whichever way you look at it, it is our fault. One important aspect of this statement, however, is that being responsible for the destruction of our planet, we also have the power to reverse this worrying trend and make the world a better, greener, healthier place. Starting with only a few key daily actions. Here are Know Science’s favorites picked from the web, especially for you on Earth Day 2015.   Save Water While brushing our teeth, each one of uses more than 600 gallons of water. Here is an easy solution: use water collected in a glass to rinse and close the tap while brushing.   Eat Responsibly Food we eat usually travels hundreds of miles before getting to our table. Choosing locally grown produce, whenever possible, greatly helps reduce your carbon footprint. To find regional farmers, visit localharvest.org.   Go Green Traveling by plane and private vehicles carries a much higher carbon footprint than traveling by bus or train. A train can carry 200 car loads and a single bus carries 55 fewer single passenger cars on the road. Consider carpooling whenever possible. If you must travel by plane, flying direct reduces your carbon footprint. When driving, make sure tire pressure is optimal to cut fuel consumption.   Recycle Every second, more than a thousand bottles of water are consumed in the US alone. A key reason to buy bottled water is that it is cleaner than tap water; however, regulations do not require companies to list the source... read more

Scientists That Died in the Pursuit of Great Discoveries

Paving the way for great discoveries and inventions is one of the biggest achievements for a scientist. The endeavor, however, comes with the risk that the journey into the unknown could be a deadly one. Here are 11 examples of scientists who sacrificed their lives in the pursuit of acquiring new knowledge for us all. 1. Carl Scheele (1742-1786) Scheele was a chemist who discovered several elements, including oxygen, molybdenum, tungsten, manganese and chlorine. He used toxic substances for his experiments and many of the elements he identified were also later found to be harmful. In addition, he had the habit of tasting any new substance he discovered! Long-term exposure to arsenic, mercury, lead, and tasting of compounds he discovered, like hydrofluoric acid, eventually led to his death by poisoning and kidney failure by age 43. 2. Elizabeth Ascheim (1859-1905) A young bookkeeper from San Francisco, Elizabeth Fleischman Ascheim quit her job to study electrical science upon learning of the discovery of X-rays. She soon opened the first X-ray studio in the city and began to obsessively self-experiment in the name of science. She gained a reputation as a pioneer in the field and a remarkable radiologist. However, unaware of the deadly consequences of radiation exposure, she died of an extremely widespread and violent cancer, and is remembered as one of the “martyrs of radiology.” 3. Alexander Bogdanov (1873-1928) A Russian physician, philosopher, economist, and a science fiction writer, Bogdanov was a pioneer in hematology and founder of an Institution for blood transfusions. He performed eleven transfusions himself, which he stated cured his balding and improved his eyesight. Unfortunately, in 1928, Bogdanov... read more
American Museum of Natural History | Shelf Life

American Museum of Natural History | Shelf Life

The American Museum of Natural History invites you to dive deep inside its collection to discover the past, present, and future of approximately 33 million artifacts and specimens in this new series with original monthly videos. Head over to amnh.org/shelflife, where you can watch the first three episodes and learn more about the project. You can also follow the Museum on Tumblr and Twitter, where they’re constantly adding new Shelf Life content. EPISODE FOUR | PREMIERES FEBRUARY 17, 2015.   Please follow and like... read more

Giving Tuesday 2014

Dear Know Science Supporters, Did you know that giving money to a worthwhile cause can make you happier? Make Know Science your worthwhile cause this year! As 2014 draws to a close, we can look back on a successful year of Know Science growth. A great series of talks at Genspace, the birth of Know Science Kids, and an active Mythbusters Blog dispelling, or confirming, those old wives’ tales. . To all who have attended talks and events have helped keep us going with your enthusiasm, support, and smiles, we thank you and look forward to seeing you again in the future!   We rely on volunteers and your generosity to keep growing and developing on the path we have thus far travelled. So, why not take the opportunity and show your support of Know Science with a donation and help us continue to bring you the knowledge you didn’t know you needed! Please follow and like... read more
Girl’s Own Immune System Engineered to Fight Leukemia

Girl’s Own Immune System Engineered to Fight Leukemia

GIRL IS CANCER-FREE THANKS TO A NEW IMMUNOTHERAPY FOR CHILDHOOD ACUTE LYMPHOBLASTIC LEUKEMIA: EMILY’S STORY 9-year-old Emily Whitehead is the first girl to be cured, as of 2012, of a highly aggressive form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) via a novel form of immunotherapy against leukemia. Emily did not respond successfully to chemotherapy before she entered a new trial led by Stephan A. Grupp, M.D., Ph.D., a pediatric oncologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Grupp’s team bio-engineered T-cells to work not against pathogens, viruses, or bacteria but to recognize and kill the leukemic cells that normally evade regular T-cell surveillance.   What is a T-cell? T-cells are a type of white blood cells that circulate around our bodies, scanning for cellular abnormalities and infections.   Adding a receptor on T-cells allows them to recognize the target cell (in this case the cancer cell) and kill it. Our immune system often struggles to recognize cancer cells as foreign because cancer cells are very similar to many other cells in our body.   Researchers first extracted the patient’s own T-cells and added a receptor to the cells that recognize antigens, an antenna that specifically mark these cancer cells. Once the T-cell receptor binds to the cancer cell antigen, the T-cell is able to kill the cancer cell as effectively as our immune system kills other viruses and bacteria. This is a powerful method that uses the patient’s own immune system against cancer.   This past July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration designated this so called “CTL019 approach” as a... read more
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