Neuroscience

Once again neuroscientists and physicists have teamed up to take brain imaging to a new level -- Supraresolution imaging.  This has the making of a great SciFi movie -- A team of researchers at Harvard University, led by Dr Bernardo Sabatini, combine laser imaging techniques, two-photon laser scanning microscopy (2PLSM) and continuous wave stimulated emission depletion (STED), to go where no human has gone before, peering deep into living brain slices to see nanoscale features of functioning neurons.

The magic of brain imaging has allowed researchers to correlate a thicker cortex in Tetris players with increased brain efficiency due to ... playing Tetris.   The researchers from Mind Research Network in Albuquerque writing in BMC Research Notes used brain imaging and Tetris to investigate whether practice makes the brain efficient because it increases gray matter.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a technique widely used tdoay in studying the human brain but its actual value in correlation is unclear.   No one knows exactly how fMRI signals are generated at brain cell level but it is crucially important to interpreting these imaging signals.

Scientists from the Academy of Finland's Neuroscience Research Programme (NEURO) say they have discovered that astrocytes, support cells in brain tissue, play a key role in the generation of fMRI signals.
You may recall the “China Brain” thought experiment about consciousness, which goes something like this: if each person in China were to mimic the activity of a neuron using cell phones to communicate with one another, would this China-sized brain like Chinese food? I may be missing some of the philosophical nuances in the question, but as a one-time philosopher, I know enough about consciousness to know I have nothing remotely worthwhile to say about it.
One of the cool things about neuroscience is that its validating some theories of psychology and even psychoanalysis.

When I wrote The Chemistry of Connection in 2007 and 2008, I made some leaps, tying together psychology and sociology, which are based on observation, with animal studies showing that mothering helps determine the distribution and sensitivity of oxytocin receptors in the brain. For one thing, I tied the oxytocin response -- the release of oxytocin in the brain in response to positive social interactions -- to attachment styles.

A new study from Baylor College of Medicine validates this link.
Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles in various biological processes like core body temperature, melatonin synthesis and sleep–wake behavior.   They are synchronized most strongly by the light–dark cycle in the environment.

Bright light is known to increase alertness at night, but it has never been completely clear whether this light-induced alertness can arise from neural pathways other than those involved in the circadian system.

Research described in the BMC Neuroscience (open access!) says the circadian system is not the only pathway involved in determining alertness at night. showed that red light, which does not stimulate the circadian system, is just as effective at increasing night-time alertness as blue light, which does.
A sense of pleasure generated by the brain’s hedonic neural systems is fundamental to daily life and it's been essential for evolution and the survival of humans and most animals, say Morten Kringelbach and Kent Berridge, editors of a new book to be published by Oxford University Press in October 2009 called Pleasures of the Brain.
We humans spend roughly one-third of our lives asleep but researchers don't know why. 

Science magazine listed the function of sleep is one of the 125 greatest unsolved mysteries in science and we've seen theories range from brain 'maintenance', including memory consolidation and pruning, to reversing damage from oxidative stress suffered while awake, to promoting longevity. None of these theories are well established, and many are mutually exclusive. 
Tomorrow, we are attending a mixer called The Science of Fine Wines.  This is a seminar/fundraiser for the Discovery Museum Science&Space Center in Sacramento so we're there to help with the science.  Sure, you can tell by the title the science is not the paramount issue, the wine is, but I'm always going to take the opportunity to get a little smarter and if other people listen, that's great too.
Science fact or urban legend?   If you get lost, you will walk in circles, just like you have seen in too many movies and TV shows to count.

Fact, say researchers from the Multisensory Perception and Action Group at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen writing in Current Biology, though there was no scientific evidence to back that up until now.

And those circular paths are rarely systematic, the researchers say. The same person may sometimes veer to the left, then again to the right, before ending up back where they started from, which rules out one potential explanation for the phenomenon, namely that circle-walking stems from some systematic bias to turn in one direction, such as differences in leg length or strength.