What's up in

biology

Illustration
neuroscience

How Microbiomes Affect Fear

December 4, 2019

New studies help to explain how microbes in the gut can shape a host’s fear responses.

Illustration of pathogens, vaccines, and other necessary factors for eradicating a disease.
Quantized Columns

How to Permanently End Diseases

December 3, 2019

Smallpox was eradicated relatively quickly, but other diseases have proved harder to eliminate. The reasons are a mix of biology and psychology.

A brain full of “explosive” activity may lead to an earlier death than one with steadier “candles” of activity.
aging

Longevity Linked to Proteins That Calm Overexcited Neurons

November 26, 2019

New research makes a molecular connection between the brain and aging — and shows that overactive neurons can shorten life span.

Lungs made from a collection of “tasting” tongues.
immunology

Cells That ‘Taste’ Danger Set Off Immune Responses

November 15, 2019

Taste and smell receptors in unexpected organs monitor the state of the body’s natural microbial health and raise an alarm over invading parasites.

Illustration of a woman with “hands” behind her eyes and “eyes” in her hands, showing how the brain integrates its sense of the world with the actions to be taken in response.
neuroscience

‘Noise’ in the Brain Encodes Surprisingly Important Signals

November 7, 2019

Activity in the visual cortex and other sensory areas is dominated by signals about body movements, down to little tics and twitches. Scientists are now rethinking how they study and conceive of perception.

A Tsimané man plays an instrument resembling a violin.
Abstractions blog

Perceptions of Musical Octaves Are Learned, Not Wired in the Brain

October 30, 2019

Singing experiments with residents of the Bolivian rainforest demonstrate how biology and experience shape the way we hear music.

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.