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, 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 | Comments Closed


Tuesday, 11 June 2013
Shedding Some Light on the First Cell Membranes

Every living cell, including every neuron, has a cell membrane that separates the outside environment from the myriad biochemical reactions that take place inside the cell. Some of these enzymatic reactions are even involved in forming this membrane. It is this characteristic of living things—their ability to produce themselves—that Maturana and Varela have called autopoiesis.

But if it takes a membrane for there to be a living cell, and if it is the living cell that produces the membrane, then how do we solve this dilemma, which is similar in every way to the classic question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” The only logical assumption is that at some moment at the start of evolution, a biochemical reaction capable of creating membranes was catalyzed by a non-organic molecule (a molecule that did not result from the metabolism of a living cell).

That is exactly the kind of reaction that chemists Neal Devaraj and Itay Budin have just managed to achieve. (more…)

From the Simple to the Complex | Comments Closed


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 | Comments Closed


Monday, 16 April 2012
Fewer Glial Cells Than You Might Think?

astrocyteMost neuroscience textbooks still state that the number of glial cells (non-neuronal cells, such as astrocytes) in the human brain is far higher than the number of neurons. The figure often given is 10 times higher, and some authors even speak of up to 50 times higher. But studies done over the past few years offer a far more conservative estimate: a ratio of around one to one. (more…)

From the Simple to the Complex | 1 comment