Arhiv | februar, 2012

How to enjoy neuroscience?

29 Feb

Here it is. My first, and hopefully not last, post in English. During the last two or three weeks that I spent in my second home, the library, where I was studying for my exam in cognitive neuroscience, I collected some funny, nice, fantastic, useful, super, geek, nerd, cute, neurofanatic … quotes from the book on Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain.

“The brain has been called the most complex piece of matter in the universe. Brain matter consist of a fantastic variety of molecules, many of which are unique to the nervous system.” I really like complex things! Brain’s complexity is one of the reasons I decided to study Cognitive Science (University of Ljubljana) and also partly why I studied biology at bachelor degree. Here are some interesting links about complexity of sex determination in living organisms.

“If the brain were a chocolate-chip cookie dough and the neurons were chocolate chips, the glia would be cookie dough that fills all the other space and ensures that the chips are suspended in their appropriate location.” The name of my blog could be translated as cookieland to English. Besides I love chocolate-chip cookies. Yummy!

“Indeed, the term glia is derived from the Greek word for ‘glue’, giving the impression that the main function of these cells is to keep the brain running out of your ears!” Imagine, without glia cells, we would all have long ears and two long snots down from our nose and neurons would be firing and action potentials spiking all around us. Um… If it is like that, I would put genes for luciferin and luciferase in my neurons, so neurons would shine around me. My avatarian imagination…

“However, we still are confident that neurons perform the bulk of information processing in the brain. Therefore, we will focus 90% of our attention on 10% of brain cells: the neurons.” The special ones …

“Ion pumps are the unsung heroes of the cellular neurophysiology.” Poor ion pumps.

“Normal flies, like humans, can be put to sleep with ether vapours.” Muhuhahahaha!

“… The search was conducted using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. While these insects may be annoying in the kitchen, they are extremely valuable in the lab, because their genes can be studied and manipulated in ways that are not possible in mammals.” Thumbs up for Drosophila!

“Action potentials have certain universal properties, features that are shared by axons in the nervous systems of every beast, from squid to a college student.” I am the beauty, who is the beast?

Chapter about The Effects of Toxins on the Sodium Channel
“The third and most important lesson from studying toxins? Be careful what you put in your mouth.” At least one thing will stay with me forever.

“And among the motor neurons in the medulla are cells that control the tongue muscles via cranial nerve XII. (So think of the medulla the next time you stick your tongue!)” Will you? I don’t think so.

“Figure 7.25 shows a Nissl-stained coronal section through the caudal telencephalon of a rat brain. You don’t need to be Cajal to see that different types of cortex can also be discerned based on cytoarchitecture.” I gives you hope that you may become neuroscientist some day.

“The immense chemical complexity of synaptic transmission makes it especially susceptible to the medical corollary of Murphy’s law, which states that if a physiological process can go wrong, it will go wrong.” True story!

“Evolution is conservative and opportunistic, and it often puts common and familiar things to new uses.” Evolution is the master of The Greatest Show on Earth (a must read).

“For the most part, they are similar or identical to the basic chemicals of life, the same substances that cells in all species, from bacteria to giraffes, use for metabolism.” So … If it is in giraffes, then it is also in me (6.0’)?

“Therefore, remarkably, in one chemical step, the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain is converted into the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain!” Be careful! It’s a thin line … between love and hate.

“Enzymes called protein phosphatase save the day, because they act rapidly to remove phosphate groups.” Thumbs up for phosphatase!

“Neurons integrate divergent and convergent signaling systems, resulting in a complex map of chemical effects. The wonder is that it even works; the challenge is to understand how.” I don’t want to be sentimental, but I am glad it works.

“Signals regulate signals, chemical changes can leave lasting traces of their history, drugs can shift the balance of signaling power – and, in a literal sense, the brain and its chemicals are one.” How poetic!

“For now, remember that when one speaks of an emotional reaction that is beyond voluntary control-like “butterflies in the stomach” or blushing-it usually is mediated by the visceral PNS (the ANS).” The thing that I cannot control in my body.

“Thus, when we said previously that the cerebral cortex has expanded over the course of human evolution, we really meant that the neocortex had expanded. Similarly, when we said that the thalamus is the gateway to the cortex, we meant that it id the gateway to the neocortex. Most neuroscientists are such neocortical chauvinists (ourselves included) that the term cortex, if left unqualified, is usually intended to refer to the cerebral neocortex.” Chauvinists!

After first two parts of the book. “It should be obvious by now that knowing the organisation of synaptic connections is essential to understanding how the brain works. It’s not from love of Greek and Latin that we belabor the neuroanatomy!” Are you sure?!? I thought authors are just plain evil.

“Behavior happens. But why?” I am glad it happens, what about you?

“Motivation can be thought of as driving force of behaviour. By analogy, consider the driving force on sodium ions to cross the neuronal membrane (an odd analogy, perhaps, but not for a neuroscience text). … Of course, human behavior will never be described by anything as simple as Ohm’s law.” Authors almost got me, for a moment there, I thought it is that simple.

“To appreciate the significance of emotions, just imagine life without them. Instead of the daily highs and lows we all experience, life would be a great empty plain of existence with no significance.” Just like zombies. Sometimes I would actually like that and here is a guide for you, what to do, when we all, except you, become zombies.

“But why do we sleep? What purpose does it serve? Despite many years of research, the joke remains that the only thing we are sure of it is that sleep overcomes sleepiness.” After I read that, I became really sleepy … thank you caffeine.

“A chemoattractant is a diffusible molecule that acts over a distance to attract growing axons toward their targets, like the aroma of freshly brewed java might attract a coffee lover.” Mmmmm, smell of the morning coffee, it is like semaphorin for me, signaling it is time to get up.

Overall I had fun studying from the neuroscience book. My (library) friends told me, it is nice to see somebody who really enjoys, what he/she is learning about. It is probably the first study book that I read from the very first page to the last. Maybe I also read the book for Organic Chemistry in the first year of biology. So Bear’s Neuroscience is in good company.

Just a brief thought about exam anxiety. Today I was really nervous, so here is a tip for all of female neuroscience fanatics and fans of Ryan Gosling. What I did in the morning? I checked my cool saved Internet pages on Gimmebar (btw, great on-line app for saving great pages, blog posts, news…) profile and I finally found the one: Neuroscientist Ryan Gosling, I understood all of the pictures, which gave me faith that I have some knowledge. 🙂

Last but not least, a picture for all cognitive neuroscientists out there and also for the ones that have no idea what cognitive neuroscience is. By the way, my mum thinks i do, what society thinks I do, and what I actually do is this; which will hopefully get me to become neuroscientist someday in the future.

That’s it!



29 Feb

The name of my blog means something like Cookieland in English. Due to the knowledge and the stuff I am posting is like a cookie for me (and hopefully also for you.) Although it doesn’t help me to resist actual cookies … So my decision for cookies goes like this …

… until there is no cookies anymore.

That’s it!