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




Tuesday, 4 January 2022
The dark side of the scientific-publications business

Today’s post was inspired by an online course about the process and the business of publishing scientific articles. Presented in French by Julie Augustin, a doctoral student in the Department of Biological Science at the Université de Montréal, in March 2021, this course is now available as two 1-hour YouTube videos. The first, La publication scientifique, qu’est-ce que c’est ?, discusses how researchers prepare scientific articles, how these articles are reviewed by the researchers’ peers, and how they are published in scientific journals. Most people who aren’t scientists themselves don’t know much about these processes, but nowadays, when many of us are basing critical health decisions on discussions of such articles in the media, it’s good to learn more about how these articles get produced.

In her second video, Le côté obscur des publications scientifiques, Julie discusses the dark side of the scientific-publications business. As she relates, just four major scientific publishing companies—Elsevier, Springer, Wiley-Blackwell and Taylor & Francis—own about 2000 scientific journals each, which account for nearly 70% of all scientific articles published worldwide! What makes this oligopoly a racket is that basically all of the scientific research reported in these articles is government-funded, as are many of the university libraries, institutes and laboratories that pay exorbitant fees to subscribe to these companies’ journals. And the scientists who conduct the peer reviews required before these articles can be published provide this service for free. No wonder these companies make such huge profit margins, in the neighbourhood of 30 to 40%! By way of comparison, technology giants Google (Alphabet), Apple, Facebook (Meta), Amazon and Microsoft, who are no saints either, make margins of about 20%, while grocery stores make about 2.5%. In response to this shameless diversion of public funds to the private sector, a number of initiatives have been taken to promote open access to scientific publications. Some of these initiatives are fairly mainstream, while others, such as Sci-Hub, stand on shakier legal ground, but everybody uses them anyway, because subscription costs for scientific journals have become so prohibitive.

If you’d like to read more about these and other challenges facing science today, I recommend a long but excellent article entitled The 7 biggest problems facing science, according to 270 scientists.

From the Simple to the Complex | Comments Closed


Friday, 26 November 2021
Study on the intrinsic, dynamic activity of the brain confirms a very general principle of its organization

Scientists have known for some time that for our brains to perform any given task, a very short-term sensory memory function must co-operate with some of our longer-term memory functions. Scientists have also known that such encoding on various time scales is correlated with the frequencies at which the neurons oscillate in the associated parts of our brain, ranging from high frequencies in the sensory cortical areas to very low frequencies in the multi modal associative areas. But in an article entitled Hierarchical dynamics as a macroscopic organizing principle of the human brain, published in the journal PNAS in August 2020, authors Ryan Raut, Abraham Snyder and Marcus Raichle showed that this important principle can be generalized not only to the entire cortex, but also to several sub-structures within it. Throughout all of them, the temporal profile of the spontaneous oscillations in the brain seems to be structured along gradients starting in the high-frequency sensory areas and proceeding to multi modal, higher-function areas where the oscillation frequencies are far lower. (more…)

From the Simple to the Complex | Comments Closed


Monday, 8 November 2021
An example of the importance of our brain rhythms

A large majority of the neurons in the human brain display rhythmic activity patterns—in other words, they send out one nerve impulse, then go quiet, then send out another nerve impulse, and so on. These patterns, which have different frequencies, are one of the neurons’ preferred means of communicating with one another. But unfortunately, college and university neuroscience textbooks discuss the brain’s neural rhythms only very superficially, even though they are actually starting to shed light on many different scientific mysteries. One good example is the consolidation of learning, which is associated with certain types of neural activity in the hippocampus. That’s just about all that a lot of textbooks have to say on the subject—nothing about what specific mechanism might be involved. Or you might read that your recently acquired memories are consolidated while you’re asleep or reconsolidated when you retrieve them, and that the hippocampus is somehow involved, but that’s it. (more…)

Memory and the Brain | Comments Closed


Monday, 18 October 2021
All of our animations are back again !

From the very start, The Brain from Top to Bottom was designed to be an interactive website where the general public could learn about the biological bases of human behaviour. Much of this interactivity was provided by its various navigation tools, which let you explore the five different levels of organization of the human brain and human behaviour, choosing the level of explanation that suits you best (beginner, intermediate, or advanced).

But almost immediately, our team realized that because biology and neuroscience involve so many phenomena that are dynamic—that take place over time—we were going to need more than just static images to explain them properly. We therefore used Adobe Flash software to produce about 100 animations illustrating many of these phenomena, ranging from the generation of action potentials to the effects of drugs at the synaptic level, and from the bases of neuronal plasticity to the bases of muscle contraction. But almost 20 years after it was first released, the Flash platform had become obsolete. As of January 12, 2021, Adobe had stopped supporting its Flash Player and blocked Flash animations from running in any web browsers, making all of the animations on our website inaccessible. (more…)

From the Simple to the Complex | Comments Closed


Tuesday, 28 September 2021
Two pioneers in research on neurogenesis and vision

Today I just want to draw your attention to two researchers who are senior citizens but still active and still inspiring: Fred Gage and Deric Bownds.

Fred Gage recently gave an interview on his scientific career, in which he told how he became a pioneer in research on neurogenesis—the development of new neurons in the brains of adult mammals. It’s always interesting to learn about the scientific career of someone who disproved an idea that was previously dogma. In Gage’s case, it was the idea that had emerged during the last decades of the 20th century that when humans are born, their brains contain as many neurons as they will ever have and will only continue to lose them as their lives go on. (more…)

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