The Plastic Brain

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Mmmm, neural circuitry.


Cognitive consilience

More than a century ago, a Spanish pathologist named Santiago Ramon y Cajal produced a series of highly detailed drawings of the microscopic structures of the human brain. It marked the beginning of modern neuroanatomy and ultimately helped earn Cajal a share of the 1906 Nobel Prize for medicine (with Italian anatomist Camillo Golgi.

Cajal’s drawings remain a marvel and are still widely used, but advances in neuroscience demand new ways to look at – and understand – how the human brain is structured and how it functions.

A recent PhD graduate and a post-doc at the University of California San Diego – Soren Solari in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Rich Stoner in the Department of Neurosciences – have created a modern take on Cajal’s pioneering work.

Publishing in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, Solari and Stoner have created a detailed review of cortical circuitry, along with a first-of-a-kind interactive website and an iPhone/iPad application that allows scientists to navigate aspects of the human brain.

“We wanted to create an interactive Figure 1,” said Stoner, who currently conducts research at the UC San Diego Autism Center of Excellence. “Readers of the review are able to click on a circuit and quickly find an accompanying reference.”

To build the tool, Solari and Stoner synthesized seven hypothetical circuits of the brain from scores of published neuroanatomy papers into a single interactive map that depicts consolidated long-term declarative memory, short-term declarative memory, working memory/information processing, behavioral memory selection, behavioral memory output, cognitive control and cortical information flow regulation. The map is built on data derived from multiple mammalian models.

“It’s the first coherent view of cortical circuits across different scales from different sources,” said Stoner. “We use the term ‘cognitive consilience’ because it’s about bringing together a lot of different information to form a coherent picture. It’s the unity of knowledge.”

By clicking on different links within each depicted circuit, users can read brief descriptions of the visualized cells and structures. The information is not definitive, of course.  Solari and Stoner say they have erected this first iteration as a model for future researchers to add new information. “We’d like to see this become a viable tool for scientists to describe their work,” said Stoner.

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And They’re OFF!

As part of the World Cell Race at the American Society for Cell Biology meeting last week, teams from around the world raced cells in a petri dish to claim the title of “fastest cells in the world”.

I’m sure there’s some wonderful insights into cell motility here, but you probably just want to know who won … it was a bone marrow cell from Singapore, and it clocked in at 0.000000312 kilometers per hour.

Sperm cells were obviously disqualified.

(via Nature)

Via jtotheizzoe

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Move aside electrically conducting play-doh – here comes conductive paint!


Bare Paint Conductive Paint

New product from ThinkGeek could potentially have more creative uses, certainly for artists – a material in paint form that is conductive:

Ok, no long stories or goofy anythings. Makers out there – you need to get some of this Bare Paint Conductive Paint right now. It’s that important. Why? Because it will revolutionize how you design circuits. Well, not how you design them, but what you put them on. Huh? We’ll explain. Read on.

Bare Paint Conductive Paint is just what the name implies: conductive paint. You can paint it onto walls, floors, any surface (except skin) and it will conduct electricity. From there, your imagination is the limit for what you can make. And get this: you can (once it’s dry) paint over Bare Paint Conductive Paint to help it blend in to the surface it’s on. AND, you can then add a new layer of Bare Paint Conductive Paint and the two layers won’t interact (giving you the power of overlapping circuits). Get some now and start creating. Just don’t forget to send us pictures, ‘cause we want to be proud of all you make with your Bare Paint Conductive Paint.

Bare Paint Conductive Paint

  • Electrically conductive paint for painting circuits onto things.
  • Yeah, you read that right: the paint becomes part of the circuit.
  • Water based, nontoxic, and dries at room temperature.
  • Perfect for painting onto any surface (except skin).
  • Repeat: Not for use on skin.
  • Washes off with water – for easy clean up and correction.
  • Includes an instruction/tip booklet on the top of the jar.
  • Net Wt.: 50ml

Product page on ThinkGeek can be found here

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This is an old trick for finding the centre of a circle (this particular example being drawn from a Russian book, published in 1986).

How does it work? It’s based on Thales’ Theorem, which states that if points A and C (below) are the ends of a diameter, then joining them to a third point on the circle, B, will always form a right angled triangle, no matter where B lies.

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