Karen Moxon, professor of biomedical engineering, in her lab at UC Davis. Photo by Reeta Asmai/UC Davis.
By Aditi Risbud Bartl
In the last decade, researchers in academia and the technology sector have been racing to unlock the potential of artificial intelligence. In parallel with federally-funded efforts from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, heavy-hitters such as Microsoft, Facebook and Google are deeply invested in artificial intelligence.
As part of the BRAIN Initiative, many UC Davis investigators are studying the nervous system and developing new technologies to investigate brain function.
Telomeres are repetitive nucleotide sequences that act as protective “caps” at the end of DNA strands. As cells age, either as a function of time or as a result of stress and poor health, telomeres tend to shorten. As such, telomere lengthcan be used as a crude biological marker of health and well-being.
Telomeres are caps at the end of a chromosome. They become shorter with aging. (Getty Images)
A recent study by researchers at the University of California Davis, Center for Mind and Brain, measured changes in telomere length, telomerase (the enzyme which replenishes telomeres), and telomere-regulating genes in a group of individuals who participated in a month-long Insight meditation retreat.
A gene implicated in affecting speech and language, FOXP2, is held up as a “textbook” example of positive selection on a human-specific trait. But in a paper in the journal Cell on Aug. 2, researchers challenge this finding. Their analysis of genetic data from a diverse sample of modern people and Neanderthals saw no evidence for recent, human-specific selection of FOXP2 and revises the history of how we think humans acquired language.
What makes us human? The FOXP2 gene has been associated with uniquely human language abilities. But a new study with a wider variety of people shows no evidence of selection for FOXP2 in modern humans. (Image by Brenna Henn, UC Davis)
From moment to moment, the brain processes millions of pieces of information. When people need to focus on a critical task, special circuits in the brain’s attention network kick in to filter the information firehose.
A new project with UC Davis neuroscientists and bioengineers from the University of Florida will explore the brain circuits that allow us to focus our attention.
When we create a memory, a pattern of connections forms between neurons in the brain. New work from UC Davis shows how these connections can be strengthened or weakened at a molecular level. The study is published Feb. 27 in the journal Cell Reports.
AMPA-type glutamate receptors are responsible for fast synaptic transmission in the brain. (Wikipedia image)
Neurons branch into many small fibers, called dendrites, that connect to other neurons across tiny gaps called synapses. Messages travel across synapses as chemical signals: A molecule, or neurotransmitter, is released on one side of the synapse and connects with a receptor on the other side, a bit like tossing a ball and a fielder catching it in a mitt.
Fluoxetine (Prozac) is widely prescribed for depression, anxiety and other behavioral and psychiatric disorders and is approved for use in children. But little is known about the side effects of fluoxetine, part of a class of drugs called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) in pre-teen children.
Rhesus macacque monkeys have a relatively long period of development before they reach sexual maturity. That makes them a useful model to study the possible side effects of Fluoxetine (Prozac) in children. (Photo by K. West, CNPRC)
Why study the brains of birds? Do birds even have brains worth talking about? In fact, birds can show complex behavior and mental function. We can learn a lot from studying the neuroscience of birds — knowledge that we can relate to how human brains function in health and disease. In this video, Rebecca Calisi Rodriguez, assistant professor of neurobiology, physiology and behavior in the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences, introduces her own work on bird brains and talks to some prominent neuroscientists about their work.
In this episode of the Three Minute Egghead podcast, I talk to John Henderson of the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain about a new paper from his lab that overturns current thinking about visual attention.
It’s usually thought that our eyes are drawn to objects that are salient or “stand out” from the background. But this “magpie theory” of attention is wrong, Henderson says. He and postdoc Taylor Hayes show instead that our eyes are drawn by parts of a scene that have “meaning.”
Children imitate our every action- from their very first words to even the most miniscule of habits they acquire from their parents. Children are a firsthand example of how human learning often takes place by observing other individuals, a term referred to as observational learning. From a young age human brains associate observed actions with the rewards and consequences that follow, to subsequently “learn by watching” and change behavior.
By Linda Vu, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Getting a better picture of connections between brain areas is the goal of a new tool developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC Davis. Their “Brain Modulyzer” software allows researchers to visualize and explore brain activity, either while a subject is performing tasks or at rest.