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, 16 June 2014
Making the Brain Transparent To Explore It More Easily

A relatively new technique can now perform the amazing feat of making a mouse’s brain completely transparent (This same technique has been tried on human brains as well, but so far has succeeded in making only parts of them transparent.)

But enabling scientists to see through the brain would be merely an interesting curiosity if this technique—dubbed “Clarity” by the team that developed it—did not also preserve the brain’s entire underlying cellular and molecular structure, so that existing methods of staining and tracing nerve bundles can be applied to the brain once it has been rendered transparent. The neural pathways throughout the mouse brain thus become visible in the finest detail, while the transparency of the tissues enables researchers to obtain a far more comprehensive overview of the axonal pathways than was ever possible before. (more…)

From the Simple to the Complex, Uncategorized | No comments


Tuesday, 27 May 2014
The Variety and Structural Complexity of Neurons

The purpose of most of the posts in this blog is to summarize recent studies in the cognitive sciences and attempt to make them more accessible—in particular by providing links to selected pages on this website. But the purpose of some of the other posts is simply to draw attention to existing resources on various aspects of neuroscience. Today’s post falls in the latter category. It deals with the neuron and the work by Kristen Harris and her colleagues to reveal it in all its complexity (see the first two links below). (more…)

From the Simple to the Complex | No comments


Monday, 12 May 2014
We May Be Able To Have Feelings Without an Insula

The insula is a brain structure that lies deep inside the cerebral cortex and so is less accessible for examination. That is why so little was known about the insula for so long, until neurobiologists such as Antonio Damasio demonstrated its role in many human feelings. Because the insula receives so many signals from the strong internal bodily reactions associated with even our slightest emotions, it was seen as perfectly positioned to make us aware of these reactions.

That is what Damasio says in a February 2013 article in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience, in which he goes on to say that the role of the insula in generating our feelings may be more limited than some might believe. He points out several observations that are not highly consistent with the strong thesis that the insula is the essential platform for human emotions, and, by extension, for human consciousness, which develops from them. (more…)

Emotions and the Brain | No comments


Tuesday, 29 April 2014
A “cyborg” which hears more than what we see

Since 2004, Neil Harbisson has regarded himself as the first “cyborg” to be recognized as such by the government of a country—in his case, the United Kingdom, which has given him permission to appear in his passport photo with the small portable camera that he always wears on his forehead. This camera enables him not only to see colours, but also to hear them!

Harbisson was born in 1982 with a rare congenital vision disorder called achromatopsia—the inability to see colours. This disorder can also arise following a brain injury, as neurologist Oliver Sacks reported in his writings. But Harbisson has seen the world only in black and white ever since he was born. (more…)

The Senses, Uncategorized | No comments


Tuesday, 15 April 2014
The Collective Intelligence of Human Groups

In psychology, the concept of general intelligence in individuals and the use of IQ tests to measure it are controversial topics, to say the least. One frequently cited piece of evidence for the existence of such intelligence is that this single variable predicts from one-third to one-half of individuals’ scores on a variety of distinct cognitive tasks.

In a study published in the journal Science in October 2010, psychologists from three U.S. universities reported that they had discovered a factor that they called collective intelligence and that is similar to general intelligence but occurs in groups rather than in individuals. To test for this factor, the researchers formed dozens of groups of 2 to 5 people each and had them work for several hours on various tasks, ranging from creative brainstorming about a moral dilemma to playing checkers against a computer. (more…)

From Thought to Language | No comments