This is Your Brain On Awesome Thoughts on the world from a student of the mind


More Memristor Action

Wow, many apologies for cutting off the (relatively) constant drip of science goodness I've had going on for the last few months.  The past few weeks have been super hectic (I just got back from an interview in Seattle).

I've had to spend all of my writing time working on an article on memristors for the upcoming edition of the Berkeley Science Review.  To that extent, I thought I'd share this interesting lecture by one Leon Chua, the original mind behind memristors and a huge supporter of their emergence into the scientific world today.

I'm not going to go into a ton of detail (you'll have to wait for the article for that!), but this is a general lecture on the ways in which memristors might be applied to physical models of the human brain.

(for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, check out this post on a team that is creating software to be used with memristor circuits)

Essentially, Chua is arguing that brains are already made up of memristors (though obviously not in the same sense that our circuit boards are).  He points to the well-known behavior of synapses as strengthening/weakening their connection depending on whether the two neurons involved fire at the same time.  This is a process called Hebbian learning, and Chua suspects memristors are just right for this job.

It's a bit long, so feel free to skip around to the parts that seem more interesting to you, but well worth the watch if you like thinking about how other physical systems might do things similar to natures method of biological computation.

Either way, I promise more regular posts from now on...that is, until my next interview period 🙂

via (detailing a conference on memristors last February)


The Brain from Top to Bottom, an amazing interactive guide

One of the biggest issues with neuroscience is that it is an incredibly diverse field with all kinds of ways you can approach the brain.  Sometimes, this makes it very difficult to put everything together and see how everything is interconnected.

Another problem arises when people from various educational backgrounds attempt to understand the brain.  It can be very difficult to tailor information to satisfy an audience with many different levels of intelligence, interest, and knowledge.

This website does a great job of dealing with both of these.  It comes out of the fantastic neuroscience program at McGill University, and presents the user with a wide range of information about the nervous system.  Moreover, you can choose what "level of expertise" you would like to see regarding the various things you'll be learning about.

This is an incredibly cool website with a great mission, and I think you should all give it a go, and then thank McGill for being so awesome!



The crazy story of Einstein’s crazy brain

I just ran across this old article from NPR News covering a harrowing tale of treachery, thievery, and brain-researchery: the quest to study Einstein's brain after he passed away in Princeton, NJ.

I don't want to ruin the story, but apparently one Thomas Harvey, the man who surgically removed Einstein's skull posthumously, decided that he'd like to do a bit more with the genius' brain than donate it to a gravesite somewhere - he made off with it!

Harvey insisted that such a brain needed to be studied and examined using the most cutting-edge scientific techniques and minds.  In order to ensure this, he made his way across the country, secretly concealing the great thinker's brain, and sending bits and pieces to researchers who caught wind of his efforts.

Ultimately, they weren't able to say exactly why Einstein was able to do such remarkable things with his brain, but it did give us an important insight into the role of Glia, a second type of cell found in the human brain (as opposed to neurons).

Anyways, you can read the rest.  It's a really interesting never know what us scientists will do in the name of research and enlightenment!

via NPR News