Archive for: June, 2011

SCIENCE 101: Cranial Nerve VIII, part one, can you hear me now?

Jun 15 2011 Published by under Behavioral Neuro, Neuroanatomy, Uncategorized

Today we move on in our tour of the cranial nerves to another nerve that is basically responsible for an entire system. In fact, it's an overachiever...and does TWO. We've had the olfactory and the optic, and now, we welcome the vestibulocochlear, which does both auditory AND your sense of balance.

The auditory system is one of my favorites (I've always had a soft spot for the trochlear nerve, I don't know why, but this is the other favorite), because the interior of the ear is just so PRETTY. It's full of caverns and arches, delicate hairs and membranes. It really is very pretty.


I have to warn you, this is a really large and complicated system, right up there with the eye. So we're going to start with just the auditory portion of the vestibulocochlear nerve, and we'll cover the vestibular portion next time.

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5 responses so far

Three Quarks Daily Finalists, Yay!

Jun 14 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Thanks SO much to everyone who voted Sci into the semifinals! I have made it to the finals with my post for the Scientific American Guest Blog "Serotonin and Sexual Preference: Is it really that simple?" (Though in the finalists post, serotonin is misspelled...oh well). Just wanted to say thank you to everyone, it's so thrilling! And congratulations to the other great finalists and semifinalists, there's some really killer posts in there!!! If you haven't had a chance, definitely read them all!

One response so far

If you walk over a bed of hot coals, your mom might be worried about you. It’s science.

Sci has to say she’d have LOVED to take the data for this study. Get to go to Spain, hang out, put some heart monitors on people and watch some fire walking…sounds like a good time. Much more glamorous than my own daily life in the lab. Can I get a little glamour around here? The spiffy starched lab coat just isn’t doing it.

Anyway, while this paper involved fire walking, what it’s actually about is the idea of collective rituals, and how they affect the people involved in them. When most people think of collective rituals, they often think of ancient tribes dancing in a circle or something else exotic. But in fact, modern societies engage in just as many collective rituals as we did back when we were all hunter gatherers.

Like that.

(hey, y'all put it on Youtube... and why are all of these in weddings?)

Or that. Collective rituals are things that we do together, whether it’s choreographed dance moves or experiencing a sport. Collective rituals are found in every single society on the planet, and anthropologists think that they are used to foster social assimilation and reinforce a feeling of belonging to the group. The obvious ones that come to mind are things like marching in step, singing, chanting, dancing…and you know, walking on hot coals together.

What? You don’t think that makes you feel closer to people?

Konvalinka et al. "Synchronized arousal between performers and related spectators in a fire-walking ritual" PNAS, 2011

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4 responses so far

Friday Weird Science's Fightin' Fish: Is an antidepressant making your grumpy guppies zen?

Jun 10 2011 Published by under Friday Weird Science, Uncategorized

I thought of making this a normal science, but really it's just too weird for that.

I mean, what happens when you combine this:

and this? far, probably nothing. But wouldn't it be fun to watch them fight...

Holmberg et al. "Does waterborne citalopram affect the aggressive and sexual behaviour of
rainbow trout and guppy?" Journal of Hazardous Materials, 2011.

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5 responses so far

Vote for Sci???

Jun 08 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Sci got nominated (ok, I was a loser and nominated myself) for the 3 Quarks Daily Prize in Science. Voting is now open until June 11, and if you like Sci's post, I surely would appreciate a little voting love! The post is a guest post I wrote at the Scientific American Guest Blog on Serotonin and Sexual Preference: Is It Really That Simple? (Amusingly spelled wrong in the nomination...boooo). Answer? NOPE. Go and check it out, and if you think other people did better (and I would wager they did), go ahead and give them the vote. No matter what, go vote for your favorite science writers!!!

2 responses so far

Does all that coffee really make you hear Bing Crosby sing?

Jun 08 2011 Published by under Behavioral Neuro

Sigh. When the media runs away with a science story, it really goes whole hog.

Coffee’s Bonus Side Effect: Hours Of Hallucinogenic Fun

Jezebel. I generally really like your site, and you often look at mainstream science reporting with a suitably skeptical eye. I'm going to assume this was covered ironically. It certainly wouldn't surprise me if it was.

And, I mean, the article itself was from the Daily Mail! Oh my.

But, you know. It's coffee. And we all love coffee. Or at least, I certainly do. And it's HALLUCINATIONS! All CRAZY LIKE! Coffee, it's just like LSD! Only it really, really isn't.

Le sigh. Le twitch.

And then, I read the article itself. And I gotta put on my ranty pants. This paper was rage inducing in a way that I don't get very often. You ready? Much capitalization for emphasis ahead.

Crowe, et al. "The effect of caffeine and stress on auditory hallucinations in a non-clinical sample" Personality and Individual Differences, 2011.

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11 responses so far

Plz welcome Nat Blair to the Guest Blogge!

Jun 07 2011 Published by under Synaptic Misfires, Uncategorized

Our latest Guest Blogge...guest, is one Nat Blair, of the blog Junction Potential, one of those older, crotchety, get offa my lawn kind of post-docs that Sci desires to be someday. An electrophysiologist and everything! And most of the time, he still even LIKES his life!!! Unheard of! 🙂 He'll be there for the next two weeks, so make sure that you go over there and check him out!

One response so far

SCIENCE 101: Cranial Nerve VII, The Facial Nerve

Ok, I had a lot of fun writing about the Trigeminal. Making it all about a Bollywood movie makes EVERYTHING better. Unfortunately, Bollywood movies do not apply to everything (but they DO apply to most things).

So now, we move on to Cranial Nerve VII, the Facial nerve. Why, you say, WHERE was Cranial Nerve VI? I covered it with cranial nerve IV, actually, the trochlear and abducens together, since both innervate very similar muscles in the eye.

And so now we move onward to cranial nerve VII, the facial nerve. This is another mixed nerve, one that does BOTH sensory and motor functions. And being the facial nerve, it's ALL about the FACE.

The question becomes: can I illustrate this ENTIRE post using nothing but pictures of different facial expressions?
(This is an example of an internet meme known as rage comics. They are user made and thus only sometimes funny, but i discovered them via this, which is both funny and horribly, horribly true. Basically, you have a limited number of faces, male or female, and you make comics out of them, and they all look a little like this guy. And I hope whoever invented them (I think it's Reddit) doesn't hurt me, cause I love Reddit. If you think these are funny, you can build them yourself, using the memebuilder, which is what I used for all of these).

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12 responses so far

Friday Weird Science: Forget cancer, what are cell phones doing to your SPERM!?

Jun 03 2011 Published by under Friday Weird Science, Uncategorized

You know, we keep hearing about things that cell phones may or may not do things. To the bees. To the risks of brain cancer. To your perceptions. To I don't know what. But it's time we focused on the IMPORTANT things, my friends.

What does a cell phone do to your SEMEN?

I mean, we know what really matters.

Your junk.

We've got lots of things we could blame for the current decrease* in male fertility. Environmental estrogens. Laptops. Porn. Cycling. I could go on. But have you looked at your...cell phone lately?

Gutschi, et al. "Impact of cell phone use on men's semen parameters" Andrologica, 2010.

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3 responses so far

SCIENCE 101: Cranial Nerve V, the Trigeminal

Jun 01 2011 Published by under Basic Science Posts, Neuroanatomy, Uncategorized

You know, doing a series on the Cranial Nerves can get you down sometimes. I know this thing is going to be MAD useful for everyone (and may already be useful to many of you!) when it's done. But right now, it's "blah de blah nerve goes to the herp derp nucleus located in the blort de blort and innervates the doodads...". It's all a little formulaic and can get kind of...old. And Sci don't DO old.

So I was reading all about the Trigeminal, and trying to think of a way to spice it up a little. And then it occurred to me. The trigeminal nerve and what it innervates can be ENTIRELY explained with the major plot points of a Bollywood movie.

If you don't know what Bollywood is, well you're missing out.

(Completely random time periods? Check. Highly suggestive moves without ANY KISSING EVAR? Check. Entirely random plot points? Check. Folks, we have BOLLYWOOD!)

Bollywood refers to a very specific kind of movie in the Hindi language, produced in India, and specific (often) to Mumbai. It's got some very specific themes: Wildly incongruous, high energy song and dance numbers (Bollywood movies are ALWAYS musicals), highly melodramatic plot points (an evil villain tying a girl up on the train tracks is par for the course here), and the "almost kiss" which is about the sexiest thing you can get away with when making movies in India. And wildly entertaining. Seriously. If you ever want to sit back with some popcorn and some seriously entertaining movies, I totally recommend Bollywood.

But melodrama. Let's talk about melodrama. Because if there's any nerve that does drama, it's the trigeminal. Here we go.

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9 responses so far

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