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Biology

Animation of one icon tracing a wave pattern over a brain, followed by another icon that erases the pattern.
neuroscience

Dueling Brain Waves Anchor or Erase Learning During Sleep

October 24, 2019

While we sleep, one kind of slow brain wave helps to reinforce memories, but a competing wave weakens them.

A fractal pattern.
neuroscience

A Power Law Keeps the Brain’s Perceptions Balanced

October 22, 2019

Researchers have discovered a surprising mathematical relationship in the brain’s representations of sensory information, with possible applications to AI research.

Illustration of two strips of movie film coiled around each other in a double helix.
behavior

Inherited Learning? It Happens, but How Is Uncertain

October 16, 2019

Studies suggest that epigenetics allows some learned adaptive responses to be passed down to new generations. The question is how.

Climbing up the side of a high mountain peak.
Abstractions blog

Nobel Prize Awarded for Discoveries on How Cells Adapt to Oxygen

October 7, 2019

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine honored William Kaelin Jr., Peter Ratcliffe and Gregg Semenza for their work on elucidating how cells adjust to low oxygen levels.

Illustration of DNA that combines elements of mealybug and bacterial imagery.
evolution

Cell-Bacteria Mergers Offer Clues to How Organelles Evolved

October 3, 2019

Cells in symbiotic partnership, sometimes nested one within the other and functioning like organelles, can borrow from their host’s genes to complete their own metabolic pathways.

Scanning electron micrograph of a cluster of coccolithophores.
ecology

How Jurassic Plankton Stole Control of the Ocean’s Chemistry

October 1, 2019

Only 170 million years ago, new plankton evolved. Their demand for carbon and calcium permanently transformed the seas as homes for life.

An osprey flying low over a river holds a trout in its claws.
Abstractions blog

Your Brain Chooses What to Let You See

September 30, 2019

Beneath our awareness, the brain lets certain kinds of stimuli automatically capture our attention by lowering the priority of the rest.

The illustration shows ghostly hands partially obstructing a person’s sight and hearing.
neuroscience

To Pay Attention, the Brain Uses Filters, Not a Spotlight

September 24, 2019

A brain circuit that suppresses distracting sensory information holds important clues about attention and other cognitive processes.

An illustration that shows a fanciful view of cells in terms of electrical circuitry.
synthetic biology

Math Reveals the Secrets of Cells’ Feedback Circuitry

September 18, 2019

Maintaining perfect stability through negative feedback is a basic element of electrical circuitry, but it’s been a mystery how cells could do it — until now.