October 23rd, 2020 | By Elise Wachspress
In the human brain, there are approximately eighty billion neurons, all different, yet destined to operate in connection with others. They all come from the same single source: one combination of ovum and sperm. And there is, perhaps not surprisingly, a molecular version of “parents” to guide their growth, development, connection, and function—proteins called terminal selectors.
October 16th, 2020 | By Elise Wachspress
Do we really want to change the “rules” to increase diversity? For now, yes. Passive approaches, such as double- blind review, may not be enough. By choosing to make women visible in science, the idea of who is or can be a scientist changes. Science itself evolves with diverse perspectives that open new avenues for understanding.
September 18th, 2020 | By Alison Caldwell, PhD
How do our brains translate the signals of millions of neurons into meaningful perceptions of our environment and help guide our behavior? Attempting to answer this question is no small task, but understanding the connection between spiking neurons and our behavior will not only provide insights into the human brain but also will be the key for developing new and innovative neuroprosthetic devices.
September 23rd, 2020 | By Helen Robertson, PhD
In many cases, mouse models have proven informative for our understanding of symptoms, risk factors, and treatments. However, for autism spectrum disorders (ASD), their relevance is far less certain. This concern has recently prompted a group of UChicago neuroscience researchers, led by Peggy Mason, PhD and Christian Hansel, PhD to delve into the validity of current mouse research on ASD. But perhaps more importantly, their work has drawn attention to potentially more informative ways to use mice to understand ASD in humans.
September 9th, 2020 | By Elise Wachspress
Because birds share our talent for nuanced vocal communication, they make excellent models for helping us understand verbal learning and memory. Dan Margoliash has been studying the neurobiology of how birds learn and remember their songs for much of his long, productive career. What he’s learned provides critical clues to understanding our own brains, from how sleep influences learning to how problems like stuttering can arise.
September 9th, 2020 | By Matt Wood
Recent rapid advances in neuroprosthetics—robotic prosthetic limbs that connect directly to the nervous system—suggest that it’s only a matter of time before bionic arms are commonplace. University of Chicago neuroscientist Sliman Bensmaia, whose research on how the brain processes sensations of touch has been incorporated into many of these projects, says each advance reveals more about what these prosthetics can and cannot achieve.
August 21st, 2020 | By Elise Wachspress
Peggy Mason, PhD, known especially for her work on the remarkable empathy demonstrated by rats, has been interested in how access to scientific training plays out in the field of neuroscience. Shouldn’t investigating the brain and behavior from many viewpoints and cultural backgrounds be critical to understanding how this most consequential organ works?
August 7th, 2020 | By Elise Wachspress
Jeff Johnston, a newer graduate student in David Freedman’s lab at The University of Chicago, became interested in how our brains maintain reliable perception and behavior despite the obvious variability in individual neurons. If all processing were linear—a superhighway from one specific neuron to another—then wouldn’t one neuron misfiring cause the whole system to fall apart?
June 26th, 2020 | By Elise Wachspress
Understanding how decisions are made—and where they are happening in the brain—can tell us a lot about how to maximize development, learning, and eventual success as thinking beings. David Freedman, PhD, and his team are working to figure out how what we are looking for—our internal models of the world—colors what we look at, to help us make moment-to-moment decision.
June 5th, 2020 | By Elise Wachspress
Among the areas of neuroscience in which Grossman Institute scientists aim to make the greatest contribution is figuring out how the brain’s neural circuits process sensory data into perceptions and behavior. How does one parse out the roles of millions of neurons, connected in unseen ways within our most vital organ? According to Wei Wei, PhD, one of the best places to study neural circuits is the retina.
June 2nd, 2020 | Helen Robertson, PhD
What does the term microdosing mean to you? Harriet de Wit, PhD, head of the Human Behavioral Pharmacology lab at UChicago, is one of the scientists at the forefront of understanding the possible benefits and implications of microdosing psychedelic drugs.
May 28th, 2020 | Jack Wang
A new study co-authored by a University of Chicago neuroscientist identifies neural networks, particularly the areas of the brain that encode the colors we actually see. "We've been able to show where it happens in the visual pathway, which is relatively early," said Prof. Steven Shevell, a leading scholar of color and brightness perception. "It's like a road map that shows where to look for the neural circuits that cause the transition from the earliest neural representations of the physical world to our mental world."
May 8th, 2020 | Polsky Center
The Bionic Breast Project is an interdisciplinary research program applying bionic technologies to restore post-mastectomy breast function. Using some of the concepts developed for the bionic hand, the researchers, including Sliman Bensmaia, PhD, James and Karen Frank Family Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, plan to embed a flexible sensor array under the skin of mastectomy patients.
May 8th, 2020 | By Elise Wachspress
We’ve heard that demand—maybe not in so many words—from everyone from parents, teachers, and bosses to the ad hucksters that permeate every environment.
But just what exactly does “attention” mean?
April 24th 2020 | By Elise Wachspress
All of us age, and as we do, myelin, the protective covering around the nerve cells in our brain, starts to deteriorate. This is like losing the insulation around an electrical wire. It causes nerve impulses to slow or even stop, and affects a range of bodily functions from thinking, memory, and behavior to balance and coordination. But this does not have to be the case.
April 14th, 2020 | By Kelly-Leigh Cooper
There is plenty of research to suggest our social relationships can be as important to our physical health as our mental one. Research links pervasive loneliness to higher mortality rates and other health complications. Professor Stephanie Cacioppo, an expert in behavioural neuroscience and psychiatry at the University of Chicago, is full of practical tips for those living alone.
April 10th 2020 | By Elise Wachspress
Established faculty may have mountains of data to analyze and papers they can write up while working remotely, but younger investigators are suffering. To jump-start productivity and their new careers, many launch multiple big projects at once. COVID-19 forced them to decide which among their intellectual “children” they can save.
April 6th, 2020 | By Jack Wang
As state and local officials pleaded for residents to stay at home in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many included a caveat: You can still enjoy the outdoors, as long as you can maintain a safe social distance. But the recent closures did not disperse crowds so much as move them outside. And when people flocked instead to beaches, parks and hiking trails, officials began to shut those places down too.
For one University of Chicago psychologist, those measures underscore a widespread urban problem.
March 13th, 2020 | By Helen Robertson, PhD
We don’t know exactly why stuttering happens. In fact, there’s a lot we still don’t know about the biology of normal speech, a complex behavior that requires precise coordination between the brain and the organs necessary for making sound. At UChicago, neuroscientists are using the birdsong of the zebra finch to understand the underlying mechanisms of speech.
February 28th, 2020 | By Elise Wachspress
Last summer, the media was abuzz with apparent progress in developing a reliable blood test for Alzheimer’s disease. With this potential breakthrough—after decades of research to find a biomarker that could clearly diagnosis Alzheimer’s—researchers now may finally have a tool for measuring the effectiveness of drugs and other treatment interventions.
February 20th, 2020 | By Jack Wang
How much of this page will you read? How much will you remember? And does it make a difference when you’re reading, or where? Those are the sorts of questions that a University of Chicago neuroscientist asks in an innovative new study—one that examines brain scans to uncover how attention is sustained over time, and when it might fluctuate.
February 11th, 2020 | By Elise Wachspress
How, exactly, do the massive numbers of neurons in our brains and the connections between them allow us to recognize our own living rooms or remember the conversations that happened there last year? We know this involves cells, molecules, ions, and electrical pulses—but just exactly how does that work?
January 13th, 2020 | By Matt Wood
The DNA of an animal contains the instructions for creating every type of cell in its body. During development, the generation of different cell types (e.g., neurons, blood cells, muscle cells) depends on different sets of genes for each cell type to be expressed at the right time. But what determines which genes are switched on and which genes are turned off or ignored?