Archive for: February, 2012

What's fuel for the body is fuel for the brain: a story of glycogen

Feb 29 2012 Published by under Behavioral Neuro

It's kind of sad to me how slowly science can move from the laboratory to the classroom (perhaps less critically important than moving from the lab to the bedside, but still pretty critical). I'd like to think with the popularity of the internet and the spread of science communication direct to your screens (hello!), we'll be moving the latest science to the classroom, but when I was but a sprog, things were different. For example, I was raised in high school and college to think that we were born with all the neurons we would ever have. It turns out, all that time, science knew full well that wasn't the case.

And here's another. In college, heck, in grad school, I learned that neurons only eat glucose. Only glucose. Disdain all other molecules. But it turns out, that's not the case either, and we've known for more than a decade! Neurons aren't such picky eaters after all, they'll eat glycogen, the secondary form of energy storage which we usually think of as being used by muscle.

But it gets wilder than that. A reader pointed me to a recent column from Tara Parker Pope, showing that not only does the brain use glycogen as a source of energy during exercise, but that it can "train" to store more glycogen when the body receives exercise training! Being a running addict as I am (and taking a grudging day off right now for the sake of my knees), I wanted to take a look.

And the best part? Rats on treadmills.

(I should note they seem less than enthusiastic. Usually rats really enjoy running in things like wheels. Can't say as I blame them though, I hate treadmills too.)

Matsui et al. "Brain glycogen decreases during prolonged exercise" Journal of Physiology, 2011.
Matsui et al. "Brain glycogen supercompensation following exhaustive exercise"Journal of Physiology, 2012.

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19 responses so far

At #sciam Blogs today: do you love him for him? Or for his hot immune system?

Feb 27 2012 Published by under Behavioral Neuro

...or is it something else?

Sci is at SciAm blogs today taking on a paper that got some press last week, claiming a relationship between immune function, cortisol levels, testosterone, and attractiveness in men. Head over there to find out what I think of it.

3 responses so far

Friday Weird Science: On applying pot to your bull semen

Feb 23 2012 Published by under Friday Weird Science

You know, I tried to think up a clever title for this one, but I really think the straight talking just says it all. This really IS about applying pot (or at least, the active ingredient in pot) to bull semen. Ah, science.

Shahar and Bino. "In vitro effects of delta-9-tetrahgdrocannabinol (THC) on bull sperm" Biochemical pharmacology, 1974.

You're gonna do WHAT?


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7 responses so far

At SciAm Blogs today: You can tell everybody, this is your mouse song

Feb 22 2012 Published by under Evolution

...but it's not quite simple. 🙂

I'm at Scientific American blogs today discussing a recent paper recording mouse songs, and using them to find kinship patterns among mice. You can even listen to the mice sing to the their ladies! CUTE! Head over and check it out.

3 responses so far

Now on the Guest Blog: Rumblings of the Grumpy and Untenured

Feb 21 2012 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

It's been a while since I kept my lovely readers (all two of you! Hi Dad!) up to date on what's happening on our guest blog (blogge?). But if you haven't been reading along, please do! We just finished up an really interesting run with 27 and a PhD, who had some really interesting and thought provoking posts. I recommend you head over there and check out her work over the past two weeks.

And coming up for the next two weeks, we have Rumblings of the Grumpy and Untenured, who, judging from their intro post, are going to be HILARIOUS. Keep an eye on our guest blog, there's great things going on!

2 responses so far

At SciAm Blogs: using BDNF to predict antidepressant response

Feb 20 2012 Published by under Behavioral Neuro

Sci is at SciAm blogs today, talking about using blood levels of BDNF to predict whether or not patients will respond to antidepressants. It's a very preliminary study, but I think in the long run it could be very clinically useful. Head over and check it out.

9 responses so far

Word of the week: transcription

Feb 18 2012 Published by under Uncategorized, Word of the Week

Today's word of the week is transcription, in the biological sense. Not the process of converting speech into a written document (though I know a lot of science writers who spend a lot of time doing that, so I suppose it could count as part of the biological definition), but the part of the central dogma that is incredibly important to molecular biology. The process of information flow is this:

DNA -> RNA -> protein

This represents the flow of information in a cell at its most basic level. DNA is transcribed to RNA, RNA is translated to protein. We used to think that this flow only went in one direction. We now know (thanks to retroviruses like HIV) that RNA can transcribe back to DNA. We also know that proteins can influence DNA transcription, though whether proteins can translate back to RNA is not known (it seems like a big leap to me, but a lot of this stuff seemed like big leaps to a lot of people, only a few years ago).

And in all this, there is transcription.

Transcription describes the process of DNA -> RNA, the process performed by RNA polymerase and other enzymes, which break up the bonds between two DNA strands, make a new RNA pair to one of them (RNA nucleotides are just like DNA nucleotides, with the exception of Uracil for Thymine and ribose for deoxyribose), and allow the DNA to be attached to its original pair strand, ready to be transcribed again or put away for another time. Transcription is the first step of what will become gene expression, and things that affect it affect what proteins are made, and in the end, the function of the cell as a whole.

4 responses so far

Friday Weird Science: Millipedes "talking" dirty

Feb 17 2012 Published by under Friday Weird Science, Uncategorized

This paper is one of those papers that gives official science manuscript writing a bad name. It's not that the paper is badly written, nor is it that the science is bad (in fact it's pretty cool). No, it's the JARGON.

"...posterior surface of the posterior telopod, which is actively moved over a field of sclerotized nubs on the inner margin of..."

"seems to prevent the female from volvating..."

"...and seems to be species-specific, arguing for a species recognition function of the stridulation during courtship..."

You know what this all translates as? Millipedes. Making sexy noises for the ladies.

With their BUTTS.

But I guess reviewers wouldn't be thrilled at that kind of description.

This is the creepiest thing I've seen today.


But they DID go most of the way with the title.

Wesener et al. "How to uncoil your partner—“mating songs” in giant pill-millipedes (Diplopoda: Sphaerotheriida)" Neturwissenschaften, 2011.

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3 responses so far


Feb 16 2012 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

Sci doesn't celebrate Valentine's Day much. Rather, I celebrate the day POST-Valentine's when all the candy becomes a delicious 50-75% off.

But this has become harder since I moved to a large city. In the suburbs, buying cheap candy was a breeze. Huge grocery stores were overstocked with the stuff and desperate to move merchandise. You had your pick of all the delicious sales.

But the city is another story. The small local markets and chains (usually pharmacies) can't have as much stock, and even the evening of Valentine's day it looked like a tornado had gone through. Nothing was on sale because nothing NEEDED to be on sale. Disappointing to say the least. I noticed that in particular, Reese's and peanut butter M&Ms were not on sale, and still completely sold out. We know what's popular, and what's popular is peanut butter and chocolate.

Still, by superior effort at several stores I managed a respectable haul.

You can see that the bars were on sale, a Cadbury sale in the US should never be passed up. I also obtained some Nestle, Dove, Ghiradelli, Lindt, and a few boxes of truffles. Not too bad, but nothing like the awesomeness that was the suburb chocolate sale. So if you are in suburbs, go NOW! You may even find a deal on Reese's. Sweet, sweet Reese's.

4 responses so far

Major Depressive Disorder and...Hypotension?

Feb 15 2012 Published by under Behavioral Neuro, Uncategorized

I got a reader question in my inbox recently which caused me to go on an instant pubmed hunt: is there a link between hypotension and major depressive disorder, and if so, does increasing blood pressure help? And the more I dug, the more I realized that the answer is both very complicated...and pretty unknown. So today I'm going to talk a bit about hypotension and major depressive disorder. I've got a few papers in mind, but I'm not going to focus on a specific one. And if anyone has any better insights or information, please do chime in in the comments! This is an area to which Sci is not accustomed.

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17 responses so far

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