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OptogeneticsOptogenetics: what is it, why use it, and how to use it. The ability for the precise temporal and spatial control of neurons has long been seen as a holy grail in neuroscience. Commonplace techniques, such as lesion studies or electrical stimulation, can introduce numerous confounds into the data by inadvertently affecting nearby cell populations. The overall result is a diminished explanatory power for experiments and an inability to make strong, causal claims. Optogenetics couples genetic...

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Parasites That Alter Host BehaviourHost-parasite relationships are ubiquitous throughout nature, but of curious interest are those parasites that induce behavioural changes in the host. Studies of this phenomenon began to emerge in the 1950s, beginning with the ethological analysis of the great cormorant (Phalacorcorax carbo), in which fish eaten by these birds were found to have a higher rate of infection by a cestode worm parasite.[1] The great cormorants are the definitive host in the lifecycle of the parasite species and the...

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Schizophrenia Characterized by hallucination and delusions, schizophrenia is a debilitating mental disorder affecting 0.5-1.5% of the world’s population. Symptoms first begin to present themselves in the late teens to mid thirties. Based on the presence of certain symptoms, patients are classified into one of five subtypes: paranoid, catatonic, disorganized, residual, or undifferentiated[1]. Though there have been documented cases dating from 1809,...

Sleep: The Great EnigmaSleep is a mysterious phenomenon that putatively occurs in all organisms with a complex nervous system. Despite its widespread conservation, sleep properties vary widely across organisms, even those that are closely related. Some animals seem to require long sleep periods, while others can get by with very little. Why this disparity exists remains a mystery. It is important to physiologically distinguish sleep from other similar physiological states. Firstly, sleep is characterized by immobility...

SynesthesiaA girl with grapheme-colour synesthesia tries to explain what she experiences when she sees numbers. Synesthesia is the phenomenon in which activation in one sensory area results in the activation of another sensory area. A classic example is the grapheme-colour synesthesia, in which seeing a letter (e.g., A) leads to also seeing a colour (e.g., red). Instances of synesthesia were reported as early as 200 years ago, but it did not receive substantial research interest until much later in time....

The ‘Sports Encephalon’: Exercise, Sports, and the BrainThe 'Sports Encephalon' Your brain loves to exercise! Learn more about how exercise affects the structure and function of the brain and how to protect it from injury. Image source: Although the importance of exercise for disease prevention and physical health are well-known, there is a growing body of evidence which suggests exercise may also have a significant effect on brain function and structure [1]....

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The Musical BrainSince ancient times, the human drive to create and listen to music has spanned cultures. Despite the fact that music is not considered an adaptive behaviour nor a second order conditioned stimulus many people consider it to be a significant part of their life. Music is a unique stimulus in that it activates almost every cognitive system in the brain [1]. After music is transduced by the ear and processed by the auditory cortex, signals are sent to multiple areas in the brain, such as the...

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Video Games and the BrainVideo Games’ effect on the brain is currently a controversial topic. In many ways, the general population believes that video games are negative. High screen-viewing times with video games are considered to cause health problems, social issues and so on. Presently, the focus is on the neurological effects of these video games and how it all link to people’s behaviours. Studies show that there are both harmful and beneficial results. [1] Games being evaluated are currently these action-oriented...

Vision Science and ProstheticsVisual perception is a highly-developed and complex sensory phenomenon in humans. It begins in the retina, an area at the back of the eyeball which is densely covered in photoreceptors.[1] Coded information about the visual world is transmitted along the geniculostriate pathway, passing the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) en route to the primary visual cortex (V1).[1] Visual information is sorted into its constituent components along the thalamus, striate and extrastriate cortex before being...

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