A bit of a detour into neuroscience today with a look at the chemical structures of some of the major neurotransmitters in the brain. Inspired in part by this post on the chemicals related to various emotions.
All available to download as free A3 PDFs at the bottom of the accompanying post (http://wp.me/p4aPLT-6C).
A new University of British Columbia study identifies an important molecular change that occurs in the brain when we learn and remember.
Published this month in Nature Neuroscience, the research shows that learning stimulates our brain cells in a manner that causes a small fatty acid to attach to delta-catenin, a protein in the brain. This biochemical modification is essential in producing the changes in brain cell connectivity associated with learning, the study finds.
In animal models, the scientists found almost twice the amount of modified delta-catenin in the brain after learning about new environments. While delta-catenin has previously been linked to learning, this study is the first to describe the protein’s role in the molecular mechanism behind memory formation.
“More work is needed, but this discovery gives us a much better understanding of the tools our brains use to learn and remember, and provides insight into how these processes become disrupted in neurological diseases,” says co-author Shernaz Bamji, an associate professor in UBC’s Life Sciences Institute.
It may also provide an explanation for some mental disabilities, the researchers say. People born without the gene have a severe form of mental retardation called Cri-du-chat syndrome, a rare genetic disorder named for the high-pitched cat-like cry of affected infants. Disruption of the delta-catenin gene has also been observed in some patients with schizophrenia.
“Brain activity can change both the structure of this protein, as well as its function,” says Stefano Brigidi, first author of the article and a PhD candidate Bamji’s laboratory. “When we introduced a mutation that blocked the biochemical modification that occurs in healthy subjects, we abolished the structural changes in brain’s cells that are known to be important for memory formation.”
According to the researchers, more work is needed to fully establish the importance of delta-catenin in building the brain connectivity behind learning and memory. Disruptions to these nerve cell connections are also believed to cause neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington disease. Understanding the biochemical processes that are important for maintaining these connections may help address the abnormalities in nerve cells that occur in these disease states.
The Hubble telescope has just captured this image of a galaxy being violently ripped apart
a visualization of global weather conditions
forecast by supercomputers
updated every three hours
Entire interactive weather globe: http://earth.nullschool.net/
It’s a bit like something out of the famous sci-fi horror movie Alien.
Before they have even hatched, cuttlefish embryos can peer out of their eggs and spot potential prey.
It is the first time any animal has been shown to learn visual images before they are born.
Ludovic Dickel and his colleagues at the University of Caen Basse-Normandy, France, made the discovery by placing crabs alongside cuttlefish eggs in a series of laboratory tanks.
Those embryos exposed to crabs preferred them as prey later in life, the scientists report in the journal Animal Behaviour.
The young embryos must be able to see through their translucent egg case, the scientists believe, and learn which animals are worth hunting even before they have hatched.
"This is the first time there is evidence of visual learning by embryos," said Dr Dickel.
Embryos are known to able to pick up chemical and auditory cues - unborn gulls, for example, learn to recognise the alarm calls of their parents whilst still in the egg, while salmon and frog embryos can learn the chemical signatures of the surrounding water before they hatch.
But until now, no one has looked at whether unborn animals can also learn visual images. Dickel and his team decided to study embryos of the cuttlefish Sepia officinalis, a relatively advanced ocean-going mollusc closely related to squid and octopus.
Crabs, a common prey of adult cuttlefish, were also placed into the tanks, but enclosed in separate compartments. Crucially, the compartment sides were made of clear glass, so the crabs were in plain view of the eggs.They harvested wild eggs, and placed them in tanks filled with sea water.
But the embryos could not smell or hear the crabs. Once the cuttlefish embryos hatched, they were instantly moved, to ensure they could not glimpse the crabs, and were not exposed to any other prey until they were seven days old.
They were then set free in a lab tank full crabs and shrimp, another cuttlefish delicacy.
'Window of genius'
Remarkably, cuttlefish embryos not exposed to crabs preferred to hunt shrimp once they were born.
But those embryos exposed to crabs much preferred to hunt crabs after hatching. And the clearer the view of the crabs they were given, the greater their taste for it.
Dickel says that his team has recently discovered that extremely young cuttlefish have very good memories and are capable of astonishing feats of learning, despite their young age and tiny, immature brains.
But this “window of genius”, as he puts it, appears to open even before hatching.
Usually, cuttlefish eggs lie in an envelope full of black ink. But this clears as the embryos grow older, leaving them growing within translucent eggs.
These unborn cuttlefish also have fully developed eyes. That leads the researchers to conclude that the cuttlefish embryos must peer through their eggs, and learn to recognise their prey, a behaviour which will help give them a head-start in life.
It is less likely that birds, reptiles and, particularly, mammals - including humans - could recognise visual images in the womb.
But the cuttlefish discovery helps reinforce the idea that some animals at least can begin to learn before they are born.
all i need is for louis tomlinson to wear suspenders ONE last time
Anxiety isn’t a fashion statement it’s a miserable disorder with actual real uncontrollable symptoms that eat you alive and distance you from the people you love so stop making it “trendy”
when shots are fired but you have a good comeback
did he just airbend?
His teammate suddenly collapses in pure awe