Category Archives: Animals

January 14

Do pets understand our language?

Humans are unique in our use of sophisticated spoken language to communicate. While other animals use communicative calls and sounds, human language features complex grammar and structure that allows us to convey a nearly infinite number of ideas. Homo sapiens, the species name for modern humans, appears to have been far superior to other hominid […]

December 17

The Big Sleep: How We Hibernate

As December deepens, we rapidly find ourselves coming up on the first day of winter. Though winter officially begins on the 21st, many animals began their preparations for the season far earlier this year. Any birdwatcher could easily tell you that most birds migrated south a long while ago, and any hiker could tell you […]

June 18

Left over right: Communicative auditory processing from mice to men

The terms “left” and “right”, if not used to give directions, are often evoked to describe a preference. You might prefer to kick with your right leg, or throw with your right arm, or lead with your right foot on your skateboard or surfboard. Political convictions often lean left or right. And then there’s handedness, […]

May 07

Like reality TV? You might be a neuroscientist

Imagine … a lush, tropical island with carefully controlled temperature and humidity, where the lights come on and off at regular intervals, where its inhabitants consume dinner in unison from predetermined food sources….   Believe it or not, this paradise exists!  It’s called Love Island.  And for the many millions of viewers that tune into Love […]

April 23

I Can See it in Your Face: Facial Expressions in Mice

How do you know what an animal is feeling? Unfortunately, you can’t ask a dog, mouse, or fly how they are feeling or what they are thinking. This is one of the chief problems in animal research – we just don’t have ready access to their internal thoughts and feelings. This inability to access the […]

April 09

Why do many pandemics start with bats?

We are in the midst of an unprecedented global health crisis. The new disease COVID-19 has changed many aspects of how we can lead safe and healthy lives. COVID-19 is caused by the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2, a novel coronavirus previously unknown to humans. As health scientists race to find the best testing and preventative strategies, […]

January 30

Love in the Time of PCR

(Image credit: CellPress)  Renowned geneticist George Church caused a stir last month with his idea for a brand new dating app, in which users submit their DNA for sequencing as a critical part of their profile.  Church’s app, “digiD8”, doesn’t connect tech-savvy singles who love all-things-90’s, as the name implies, but rather matches users based […]

January 02

The Blob

Beware! The Blob   Imagine you are on a trip to Paris. There is so much to see and do, but you decide to go to the local zoo. You are walking around, admiring all the interesting animals. There are beautiful big cats lounging about. There are enormous giraffes feeding on plants. You feast your […]

November 07

Knowing when to hold and fold ’em: the explore/exploit dilemma

I’ve been staring at the menu for over 10 minutes. I can feel the server’s eyes boring holes into the back of my head, urging me to hurry up and pick something. Still I sit and ponder; should I get my old favorite, the California burrito? Or maybe I should try something new like a […]

October 10

Why do neuroscientists study weird animals?: A primer on neuroethology

Why do neuroscientists study weird animals? And I don’t mean borderline weird; I mean the kind of extraordinary animals that can create electric fields and lift 100 times their body weight. The sort of animals that can camouflage despite being colorblind and can capture flying prey in fractions of a second. The kind of creatures […]