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.
Audio: Listen to this story on our podcast, Three Minute Egghead.
Zebra stripes have fascinated people for millennia, and there are a number of different theories to explain why these wild horses should be so brightly marked. A handful of laboratories around the world – including one lead by UC Davis wildlife biologist Tim Caro – have been putting these theories to the test. A new paper from Caro’s group, led by Ken Britten at the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience, puts a hole in one idea: that the stripes confuse biting flies by breaking up polarized light.
Clinical trials are testing whether oxytocin, sometimes called the “love hormone” for its role in intimacy and social bonding, has potential as a treatment for anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. New research by behavioral neuroscientists Michael Steinman, Brian Trainor and colleagues at UC Davis suggests oxytocin may have different effects in men and women—and in certain circumstances the hormone may actually trigger anxiety.
In a series of experiments at the UC Davis Department of Psychology, the team administered doses of oxytocin with a nasal spray to male and female mice. Some of the mice were bullied by an aggressive mouse, an experience that reduces motivation to associate with unfamiliar mice. Consistent with previous studies, oxytocin increased the motivation for social interaction in stressed males.
“Nature versus Nurture” is an old debate. How much behavior do you inherit from your parents, and how much from the environment where you grow up? A new study from the University of California, Davis shows that the amount of parental care a prairie vole gives its offspring affects the youngster’s brain structure and connectivity – probably working by changing levels of gene expression. The work is published online in the Journal of Comparative Neurology and will appear in print in a forthcoming special issue of the journal.
The prairie vole is one of a few mammal species in which both parents care for the young. Credit: Adele Seelke
A snatch of music can evoke powerful memories. Now a team led by UC Davis psychologist Petr Janata is working to building a map of brain regions that react to music that triggers particular memories. The results will expand our knowledge on how the brain encodes memories. It could also provide a way to improve quality of life for those suffering debilitating conditions including Alzheimer’s disease.
Brain scans show how different regions light up in response to familiar (green), memory-evoking (red) or “pleasing” (blue) songs. (Janata lab, UC Davis)