After providing all the funding for The Brain from Top to Bottom for over 10 years, the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction informed us that because of budget cuts, they were going to be forced to stop sponsoring us as of March 31st, 2013.

We have approached a number of organizations, all of which have recognized the value of our work. But we have not managed to find the funding we need. We must therefore ask our readers for donations so that we can continue updating and adding new content to The Brain from Top to Bottom web site and blog.

Please, rest assured that we are doing our utmost to continue our mission of providing the general public with the best possible information about the brain and neuroscience in the original spirit of the Internet: the desire to share information free of charge and with no adverstising.

Whether your support is moral, financial, or both, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Bruno Dubuc, Patrick Robert, Denis Paquet, and Al Daigen

Monday, 1 October 2012
Like Strangers in Their Own Land

Fewer than 100 cases of foreign accent syndrome, have been identified worldwide, but it is certainly one of the strangest things that can happen to anyone. From one day to the next, a person wakes up speaking with what sounds like an accent from another country.

But in fact, this similarity is merely random. Scientists now know that foreign accent syndrome is actually a particular kind of aphasia that produces slight alterations in the  prosody of language. Listeners then perceive these unusual variations in the rhythm and meolody of the person’s speech as a foreign accent. (more…)

From Thought to Language | No comments

Saturday, 22 September 2012
The 1001 Faces of the Neuron

 The kind of diagram used to represent a typical neuron with its specialized extensions (axon and dendrites) can make us forget the unbelievable variety of shapes that these nerve cells can actuslly have. If you don’t believe it, go take a look at the web site NeuroMorpho.Org (click the link below).

This site contains a database of more than 6600 digitally reconstructed images of neurons and their complex branching structures, and even lets you view them in 3D. This image database was compiled from contributions from over 60 laboratories worldwide that use a variety of methods of staining and neuronal tracing in their experiments. (more…)

From the Simple to the Complex | No comments

Monday, 10 September 2012
Why You Are Not Just Your Brain

In the introduction to their 1991 book The Embodied Mind, Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch noted that as of that writing, the cognitive sciences had little to say about what it means to be human in the concrete situations of everyday life. This criticism was aimed directly at the prevailing paradigm, according to which the human brain worked somewhat like a computer, with input, information processing, symbolic representation, output, and so on.

In contrast, the approach proposed by Varela and his colleagues, to which they gave the name “enaction”, emphasizes how much our reasoning depends on our bodies and on the environmental context in which they are situated. (more…)

Body Movement and the Brain, The Emergence of Consciousness | Comments Closed

Monday, 3 September 2012
The beginning of modern neurosurgery

Probably the oldest form of neurosurgery is trepanation, which consisted in drilling a hole in the skull to allow evil spirits to escape from the brain. For example, scientists have found the skull of a young girl who was trepanned with a flint instrument in about 3 500 BCE. What is most remarkable are the scars suggesting that she survived this operation.

Modern neurosurgery did not really begin until the late 19th century, when surgeons opened the meninges to operate directly on the brain. But these first years were difficult ones: the survival rate for any surgical procedure that involved opening the skull was only 10%!

Then came American surgeon Harvey Cushing (1869-1939), now regarded as the father of modern neurosurgery. In the early 20th century, he developed a great many new techniques that increased the survival rate for neurosurgery spectacularly, to over 90%! (more…)

From the Simple to the Complex | Comments Closed

Monday, 27 August 2012
How Poverty Harms the Brain

childrenThe brain is highly sensitive to the environment in which it develops, especially during childhood. Since the experiments conducted in the 1960s with rats raised in environments rich in sensory and social stimulation, there is no longer any doubt that an enriched environment promotes brain development, whereas an impoverished environment slows it down.

Regarding humans, there have been countless studies showing that low socio-economic status, usually associated with a poor environment, alters functions such as attention, working memory, language, and self-control. Beyond these, there are the overall harmful effects of social inequality on health. In Montreal, Quebec, for example, life expectancies are 10 years lower in poor neighbourhoods than in rich ones. (more…)

How the Mind Develops, Mental Disorders | 1 comment