Archive for: May, 2011

SCIENCE 101: Cranial Nerves IV and VI, the Trochlear Nerve and Abducens Nerve

Today we continue ONWARD with the series on the Cranial Nerves. But we're doing something a little different. Because last time we covered the Oculomotor Nerve, which innervates FOUR of the SIX muscles which control the eye, today we're going to round out the eye (heh, round, eye, heh) and do the other TWO. But we're going to have to go out of order. The order of the Cranial Nerves (with convenient mnemonic!) goes like this:

Oh: Olfactory
Oh: Optic
Oh: Oculomotor
To: Trochlear
Touch: Trigeminal
And: Abducens
Feel: Facial
Virginia's: Vestibulocochlear
Gucci: Glossopharyngeal
Vest: Vagus
Heaven: Hypoglossal

We've been through the Oh, Oh, Oh (cranial nerves I, II, and III), but the two cranial nerves that control motor movements of the rest of the eye are NOT IV and V. Instead, they are IV and VI, the Trochlear Nerve and the Abducens. And we're going to cover them together, because each one is a motor nerve that moves exactly one muscle, and each one sends signals out from exactly one nucleus. Nice and relatively simple.

So here we go. And we'll start out seeing where they peek out from the brain:

You can see the trochlear nerve poking out, all thin, just to either side of the top of that rounded trapezoid that is the basal pons, while the abducens comes out of the bottom of the basal pons.

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Awesome New Trilobite Tshirt!!

May 28 2011 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

Check out Sci's new duds!

That's my new "Trilobite Boy Fan" t shirt from Glendon Mellow's collection. He's the guy who designed my WONDERFUL tattoo, which I love every bit as much as the day I got it.

As for this shirt, I love the cartoony little trilobite!!! He's so cute! I will be wearing it with pride!

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Friday Weird Science: Is that a Cell Phone in your Pocket or are you just happy to see me?

May 27 2011 Published by under Friday Weird Science, Uncategorized

Ever since doing a couple of pieces of cell phones and things like sperm, I've become curious about what other studies have been done on the effects of cell phone use and keeping a small, highly addictive electronic object on your person (even though, sometimes, I end up very wrong). Not surprisingly, there's a large number of studies out there (over 2700 come up on PubMed for the search term "cell phone", though not all of them are directly related), and many of them show really positive effects, things like using cell phones for keeping track of at-risk elderly persons, for mental health counseling, using text message based education systems for HIV testing and sexual health education, etc. Of course, many others look into fears of what all those little electromagnetic frequency waves might be doing to our gonads or our brains.

But what about what the cell phone might be doing to your PSYCHE?!!?!? Is it changing the way you think? The way you perceive? The way you...

...hold on, I think that's my phone vibrating...

...heh, oh well, wasn't anything, funny how that happens. You know, that happens to the clinical people in my department ALL the time, they keep thinking their cell phone or pager's going off...

...hey wait.

Rothberg, et al. "Phantom vibration syndrome among medical staff: a cross sectional survey" British Medical Journal, 2010.

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9 responses so far

In which Sci is WRONG, you guys. Follow up on bees and cell phones

So I posted something the other day on bees and cell phones. The science in the paper itself wasn't convincing to me, but the other references they pulled out in the discussion made me pull an about face. I thought, hey, maybe the electromagnetic field potentials from the cell phones ARE contributing to colony collapse disorder.

And thus I wrote my post.

And then came the morning, and Jonathan, on Twitter, who pointed out I was wrong (Credit to him and all the people at Ars Technica, for not only doing good writing, but for including links to papers at the end!!! WOO!!). And I looked, and asked, and then asked around.


I hate being wrong. I feel really dumb, and I feel like I've let you all down (all two of you who read the blog). I'm sorry, you guys. 🙁

SO. Like the good little scientist, I am going to revise my hypothesis. We're going to cover this paper again, with MOAR references, and MOAR research. And I'm going to get it RIGHT. Or as right as I can under the circumstances.

Favre, D. "Mobile phone-induced honeybee worker piping" Apidologie, 2011.

(This dog in a bee suit, however, is NEVER wrong and way too cute. Source via Creative Commons)

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19 responses so far

Are Cell Phones Killing the Bees?

IMPORTANT NOTE: Sci was too credulous when she wrote this post. I have since seen the error, written a correction, and the result is up here. PLEASE GO THERE for the real story on bees and cell phones. Thanks, y'all!
- a very ashamed Scicurious

Sci has been really interested in the latest literature on cell phones. Partially because some of it involves holding a cell phone over a petri dish filled with sperm, I will admit. 🙂 But it's also just one of those things that really interest people. We're using these super cool little gadgets that can access the internet anywhere...what ARE they doing to us? To our environments? Is it bad when you talk for a while and they get all warm and stuff? So I've begun digging through the lit. And just the other day, the brilliant and talented Desiree of Skeptically Speaking handed me this little gem.

It's Official: Cell Phones are Killing Bees.

My first thought was...well KILLING seems an awfully strong word, especially if you're not smashing a bee with your cell phone. So I had to read the paper. And now...I think I might be convinced.

Favre, D. "Mobile phone-induced honeybee worker piping" Apidologie, 2011.

So today we are taking a break from the cranial nerves (hey, I never said I would do them all straight through!) and delving into this. Everyone, put on your bee suits.

(Source via Creative Commons)

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8 responses so far

SCIENCE 101: Cranial Nerve III, the Oculomotor Nerve

May 23 2011 Published by under Basic Science Posts, Neuroanatomy, Neuroscience

In the last few posts we've covered the first two cranial nerves, the Olfactory and the Optic nerves (remember our mnemonic: Oh, Oh, Oh, To Touch And Feel Virginia's Gucci Vest, Ah Heaven). Both of these cranial nerves carry sensory information IN to the brain for processing, and don't really control motion. For nerves like the olfactory, you wouldn't expect much motion (can't really move our nose around very well), but for the visual system, eye movements are extremely important, allowing you to focus the eye on the things that are most important in the visual field. Being able to do this accurately and at speed is extremely for complete processing of our visual field.

So today is for the third "Oh", the oculomotor nerve. Move those eyeballs!

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6 responses so far

Friday Weird Science: Horsing Around and the Sexual Behavior of Stallions

May 20 2011 Published by under Friday Weird Science, Uncategorized

It all started with an innocent Tweet. Jennifer Ouellette (of the very fine Cocktail Party Physics blog and The Calculus Diaries fame), tweeted a link to this, a blog doing the history of electricity via inventions. The link was for the following device:

That, my friends, is an electrical device designed to prevent horses from MASTURBATING. And of course, this prompted Jennifer to note that she didn't know horses could DO that. I didn't know it either, though I would imagine that people who spend a lot of time around horses are pretty well aware.

Well of course, I looked it up. And I learned HOW horses masturbate (I mean, no hands!). And I often. Welcome to the sexual behavior of domestic stallions!

McDonnell et al. "Spontaneous erection and masturbation in equids." Journals of Reproduction and Fertility, 1991
McDonnell, S. "Stallion Sexual Behavior" (Chapter)
(And now we know why you may want to give Black Beauty some "private time" once in a while)

And if you either are an expert in this topic (ahem) or have other knowledge on this, please include in the comments. All I've got I've gotten from reading.

And from the videos below the fold. OH YES. You might not want to watch those while at work...yeah.

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12 responses so far

Sci is at the Guardian!

May 19 2011 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

Go and check me out. I'm writing about the relatively new phenomenon of the migraine postdrome, something which I actually suffer from and which is, so far, really understudied. Go read!

6 responses so far

SCIENCE 101: Cranial Nerve II: The Optic Nerve, Part 2.

May 18 2011 Published by under Basic Science Posts, Neuroanatomy, Neuroscience

Last time we talked about the very basic anatomy of the eye. It was a lot of material. It's too much. For you, I will sum up.

Light and images come through the cornea and hit the lens. The lens flips the image backward. The light continues to the back of the eye, often to your area of best focus called the fovea, where it filters through the layers of cells to hit your rods and cones. The rods and cones send signals to bipolar cells, which send signals to ganglion cells. The axons of the ganglion cells mass up at the back of eye and head off as your OPTIC NERVE!

Got it? Good. 🙂 If you want more, please head over to Monday's post!

So, an image comes in. It will get flipped BACKWARD. It will hit the first cells LAST (the rods and cones are actually buried beneath several other layers). From here, we will go along to the back of the brain, and on the way the information will get flipped upside down. And then our brain processes it, and everything's all right.

So, the image has come through. We're past the lens, and everything is backward.

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7 responses so far

Behold! My Coffee Brain!

May 17 2011 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

When @Artologica mentioned on Twitter that she'd put a new "coffee brain" picture on her Etsy, well of COURSE I had to look at it. I mean, DUH.

And of course then I had to buy one. 🙂 Mine is is a nice coralish color for the background, and I like how the coffee rings are concentrated on the left side of the brain.

Check it out!

It's going to be proudly displayed in my office along with other bits of my science gear. And she's got loads more up for sale, including a super lovely one in blues and greens, and one that is (I think) even more dramatic in dark brown. And loads of other sciencey stuff, like MITOSIS!!!

Go look at her stuff for some fun sciencey art in you day.

7 responses so far

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