Category Archives: Synaptic Plasticity

December 09

Mal de Débarquement: The Science of Land Sickness

Recently I was lucky to spend seven days on a catamaran out at sea with a small group of (COVID-vaccinated) friends. We traveled around the Gulf of California, witnessing truly amazing sights like manta rays jumping out of the water, sea birds diving into the water, and turtles floating along in the swell. This was […]

September 17

Your brain is plastic!

Your brain is plastic! It has the remarkable ability to modify its connections and to be rewired as a result of your experiences and the neural activity generated by them. This ability is known as plasticity. Neurons in the central nervous system communicate across synapses, the small gaps between two adjacent neurons that allow the […]

February 20

Trying to Forget

It is difficult to overstate the importance of learning. Many consider lifelong learning to be one of their primary goals in life, education is one of the primary roles of government, and machine learning — an algorithmic approximation of learning applied to computers — is a hundred-million dollar business. It quite literally underlies everything we […]

August 16

The Plastic Brain: Neurotransmitter Switching

What comes to mind when you think of the word “plastic”? For me, this word conjures images of water bottles and tupperware. So in my high school psychology class, when we were told that our brains are “plastic”, I was pretty confused. However, we soon learned that the word “plastic” can be used to describe […]

March 16

Mind the Gap: Spaced Learning and Dendritic Spines

[En español] A lifetime ago, in another country, I had a middle school English teacher nicknamed “Mrs. Again”. She was plump and wrinkled, with the kind of wide-cheeked, broad-nosed face one could find on folksy condiment bottle labels, but nobody ever made fun of her. She was terror incarnate, being the only teacher who gave […]

April 01

The plastic brain

[En español] We are born with roughly 100 billion neurons, more neurons than we’ll ever have again. It’s still a ton of neurons; they could wrap around the earth 3-4 times. Plus, each of these 100 billion neurons has a couple hundred to thousand connections with other neurons. But as we age, our brains also change. Regions of the brain key for memory […]

June 12

Pattern separation gone awry: the dentate gyrus and schizophrenia

[Image Source: Sebastian Seung via http://connectomethebook.com/.] Since the discovery of patient H.M. in the 1950s (see this post from October 2013), scientists have known that the hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped structure located in the medial temporal lobe, is crucial for the successful formation of new memories. The mammalian hippocampus is characterized by several distinct regions, each with […]

October 20

Molecular routes of memory enhancement

Most students are no strangers to cognitive enhancers such as caffeine or Adderall. However, these and other cognitive enhancers tend to have non-specific effects on the nervous system (e.g., jitteriness), or are specifically formulated for a disease or disorder1. Drugs or treatments that specifically target some aspect of a cognitive behavior are lacking, and require […]

Carla Shatz: An Inspiration for Women in Neuroscience

Dr. Carla Shatz is a woman of many firsts. She began her career in neuroscience as the first undergraduate student of Drs. David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel of Harvard Medical School (yes, that Hubel and Wiesel who won the Nobel Prize for their work on the visual system in 1981).  After graduating from Radcliffe College […]

The Role of Major Histocompatability Complex Class I in Cortical Synapse Development & Function

Synapses are constantly changing in the human brain, especially during key developmental time points and often in response to activity. The mechanisms by which synapse formation, disintegration and pruning are managed are still not entirely clear. Kimberly McAllister’s lab works on this topic, seeking to identify and characterize the molecules involved in synaptic regulation. Among […]