We’re moving!

Hey loyal readers,

We know there are only a few of you, but we wanted to let you know that we’re officially shutting down this particular blog (and “website”). Alie has launched a new blog over at her personal website, http://www.alieastrocyte.com, and we will be launching http://www.neurotransmissions.science very soon!

Thanks for reading, and please come check out our new work!

Best wishes,

The Neuro Transmissions Team

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Glorious Glia: What Are Astrocytes?

When we talk about brain cells, most people think about neurons – these brain superstars do all of the important signaling to keep us up and running. But neurons aren’t the only cells in the brain; about half of the brain’s cells are glia, a word that literally translates to “glue”. For decades, scientists wrote all of these cells off as uninteresting, assuming that they were static cells that only existed to support, insulate, and provide nutrients to neurons – but since the mid 90’s, we’ve begun to uncover a lot of new roles for many of the different kinds of glial cells, showing that these underappreciated cells are more than meets the eye.

To use my favorite analogy: if neurons are the brain’s Beyoncé, the glia are her entourage. Obviously Queen Bey looks and sounds incredible on her own – but it takes a whole team of makeup artists, sound technicians, and personal assistants to shape her style and tailor her musical message to get things juuust right. Glia help with all of that fine tuning, shaping the brain’s connections and modulating signaling to keep everything working smoothly.

Over here at Neuro Transmissions, we love glia – a lot! So we’ve decided to create a mini-series of videos to highlight the three major glial cell types, starting with my favorite cell: the astrocyte. Check out this video to learn a little bit about how astrocytes influence the formation and development of synapses. While you’re at it, subscribe so you can catch our next two videos – join us on September 11 to learn about the brain’s immune cells, called microglia, and on September 25 to discover oligodendrocytes – the brain’s insulation.

 

If you’d like to learn more about astrocytes, check out these earlier posts from our blog –

Glia at the Synapse: Setting the stage
Three’s Company: The tripartite synapse
Astrocytes are like exes (they need their space): discovering astrocytic domains

Thanks for watching!

 

It’s right under your nose! Or rather…inside it.

The nose knows what’s up when it comes to odor. It leads us through the world around us and contributes to pleasure, memory, and even our long life! Join Alie as she sniffs out the complexities of the olfactory system.

This is the first time using our new camera for the channel, so we’re very excited with the increased quality! Leave a comment below to let us know what you think!

How do we see?

Our visual system is amazing, and it’s one of the brain systems we understand the best! Check out our most recent video over at Neuro Transmissions, all about how our brains see the world around us.

Thanks for watching! After a very eventful couple of months in our personal lives, we’re getting back on track. Keep an eye on our blog for more posts coming soon!

Real Jedi Mind Tricks: The Psychology of Mind Control

To go along with our video about Jedi Mind Tricks, check out this blog post I wrote for NeuWrite San Diego!

NeuWrite San Diego

Welcome, my young padawans, to Star Wars week. Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes out THIS Friday, and the neurds on our team decided that it was a perfect opportunity to do one of our favorite things: connect neuroscience with pop culture! First up: real-world Jedi Mind Tricks.

p9efg Luke receives his father’s lightsaber. Image from: http://www.scifi.stackexchange.com

In Star Wars: A New Hope, the Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi explains The Force to our young hero, Luke Skywalker, as “what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.” Jedi and Sith Lords alike are able to tap into this energy, enhancing their physical and mental abilities. The Force can provide its users with a plethora of powers, including super strength and agility, enhanced accuracy, telekinesis, telepathy, and levitation – just to name a few.

One…

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Science isn’t simple: how conflicting studies on the role of microglia in Rett Syndrome are changing medical treatments.

Though it might be surprising to hear a scientist say this, it’s important to know that science is an imperfect art. As researchers pick apart questions about the universe and mankind, it’s not that uncommon for disagreements to arise between different scientists about their favorite theories and the validity of results. Sometimes this is because there isn’t enough information available yet to confirm or refute particular ideas – but sometimes this arises because of concerns regarding the techniques and methods used by particular scientists when conducting their research. These arguments are especially important in biomedical research, because the outcomes of scientific studies often directly influence medical treatments. A paper recently published by a large group of scientists in Nature, a prominent scientific journal, emphasizes how serious the impact of these disagreements can be. Continue reading