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, 24 November 2014
Persistence of social signatures in human communication

No need to be impressed anymore by people who have 600 or 1400 “friends” on Facebook. Just like you and I, they are not really discussing their true feelings or anything else important with more than one or two dozen people at most. And for every individual, the size of this limited “hard core” of relationships seems to persist over time, even though the friends who compose it may change. These fascinating cognitive data come from a study entitled “Persistence of social signatures in human communication”, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America in January 2014. (more…)

From Thought to Language | No comments

Wednesday, 5 November 2014
A Brain Circuit That Links Two Events in Time

If you’re out in a storm and you see a bolt of lightning streak across the sky, you tend to pull your head down between your shoulders for the next few seconds, fearing the big thunderclap that you expect to come next. This kind of association between a stimulus and a potential danger is something that the human brain retains easily, because it has always had an obvious importance for our survival.

A study co-ordinated by MIT professor Susumu Tonegawa and published in the journal Science in January 2014 reveals the neuronal bases of this association between a stimulus and the timing of a potential danger, about which relatively little was previously known compared with the association with the other essential property of a danger: its location. In the latter case, the hippocampus, the key brain structure for encoding memories, makes use of place cells, which are activated when you are in or are remembering a specific location. (more…)

Memory and the Brain | No comments

Monday, 20 October 2014
Reading Novels Increases Connectivity of Areas in the Brain

Immersing yourself in reading a good novel is an excellent way to take a break from the stresses of daily life. By seeing things from the protagonists’ point of view while you are reading those few hundred pages, not only do you feel as if you have access to another world, but you may also continue to have this feeling for some time, or even for your entire life, if the book has really made an impression on you.

The neurobiological bases of this phenomenon would appear to have been discovered in a study that Gregory S. Berns and his colleagues published in the journal Brain Connectivity in Fall 2013. The subjects in this study were 21 young adults. In the first phase of the study, the subjects received resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans for five consecutive days. The researchers then used these scans to develop a general diagram of the connectivity of each subject’s brain. (more…)

Memory and the Brain | No comments

Monday, 6 October 2014
Poverty Imposes a Cognitive Burden on the Brain

Neuroscience is providing growing evidence that poverty can have serious consequences not only for the health of people who are “struggling to make both ends meet” (something that has been known for a long time), but also on their cognitive abilities. The most recent of these studies looking specifically at this aspect of poverty was published in the journal Science in August 2013 by economist Anandi Mani and her colleagues.

Using two different approaches, this research team reached the same conclusion: for people at the low end of the socioeconomic spectrum, everyday life requires so much calculation and effort just to meet basic material needs (food, shelter, etc.) that it exhausts their mental capacities. (more…)

From Thought to Language | No comments

Monday, 15 September 2014
The Intelligence in Our Hands

The first crisp days of autumn are great for outdoor chores like chopping firewood, installing storm windows, and raking leaves. Distracted by the blazing fall foliage, you may sometimes find yourself performing complex tasks with your hands while your mind is clearly off somewhere else. It’s as if your hands had “a mind of their own.”

But this mental aspect of manual work is not just a passing impression you may have; it’s also one of the hottest topics in cognitive science today. MIT Press has just published The Hand, an Organ of the Mind: What the Manual Tells the Mental. This collection of essays, edited by philosophy professor Zdravko Radman, examines the intimate connection between the hands and the mind not only from the neurophysiological and evolutionary angle, but from the philosophical, cultural and esthetic perspectives as well. (more…)

Body Movement and the Brain | No comments