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"Thanks for the memories, but I'd prefer a bite to eat."

UFL.edu

As the organ responsible for maintaining equilibrium in the body and the most energy-demanding of all the organs, the brain takes a lot of the body's energy allocation. So when food is in short supply, the brain is the organ that is fed first. But what happens when there isn’t enough food to fulfill the high-energy needs of the brain and survival is threatened?

The brain does not simply self-allocate available resources on the fly; instead it “trims the fat” by turning off entire processes that are too costly. Researchers from CNRS in Paris created a true case of do-or-die, starving flies to the point where they must choose between switching off costly memory formation or dying. When flies are starved, their brains will block the formation of aversive long-term memories, which depend on costly protein synthesis and require repetitive learning.

But that doesn't mean all long-term memories are shut down. Appetitive long-term memories, which can be formed after a single training, are enhanced during a food shortage.

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In my last column, I wrote about how I lead groups of volunteers to work with the Kenyan Children Foundation in Africa, and how we all return home exhausted but with our brains refreshed and renewed. We take a break from our usual ways of thinking and open our minds to new ideas and experiences. But [...]

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TEDxUF - Michael Okun and Kelly Foote - We Control Your Brain

The human brain is a supercomputer with networks that control the various functions that make us who we are, and allow us to do what we do. When brain circuits malfunction, debilitating motor and behavioral symptoms may emerge. Direct electrical modulation of malfunctioning brain circuits has tremendous potential to alleviate human suffering in dramatic and sometimes surprising ways.
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Robert sez, "The gamified EyeWire project, now in open beta, is about using human computation to help trace the neurons in a retina. Tracing the neurons will help nail down the computation that goes on inside the retina leading up to the optic nerve, and lead to better methods of brain mapping. Come and help explore the eye's jungle!"

Game 1: Reconstructing Neurons
The first step of the challenge is to reconstruct the tree-like shapes of retinal neurons by tracing their branches through the images. You will accomplish this by playing a simple game: helping the computer color a neuron as if the images were a three-dimensional coloring book. The collective efforts of you and other players will result in three-dimensional reconstructions of neurons like this. Playing the game does not require any specialized knowledge of neuroscience — just sharp eyes and practice. If you like, you can stop reading this page, and proceed to detailed instructions for the game here or simply start playing. On the other hand, if you’d like to know more about the scientific plan, read on.

Game 2: Identifying Synapses
Reconstructing neurons involves tracing their branches, which are like the “wires” of the retina. This by itself is not enough for finding connectomes; we also need to identify synapses. This kind of image analysis will be accomplished through another game that will be introduced on this website in the near future. The identification of synapses will involve subtleties, due to limitations of the dataset, as will be discussed in detail later on.

Rules of Connection
Playing either of the above games will produce information that will be valuable for understanding how the retina functions. How exactly will the information be used? To answer this question, we should confront the issue of variability. We expect that every retina will be wired somewhat differently. In that case, would mapping the connections in one retina tell us anything that is applicable to other retinas? We expect that retinal connectomes will obey invariant rules of connection, and it is these rules that really interest researchers. Many of the rules are expected to depend on neuronal cell types, i.e., of the form “Cell type A receives synapses from cell type B.” Some such rules are already known, but the vast majority remain undiscovered.

EyeWire – Help Map the Retinal Connectome

(Thanks, Robert!)

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MrSeb writes "There are around 100 billion neurons in a human brain, forming up to 100 trillion synaptic interconnections. Neuroscientists believe that these synapses are the key to almost every one of your unique, identifiable features: Memories, mental disorders, and even your personality are encoded in the wiring of your brain. Understandably, neuroscientists really want to investigate these neurons and synapses to work out how they play such a vital role in our human makeup. Unfortunately, these 100 trillion connections are crammed into a two-pound bag of soggy flesh, making analysis rather hard. Starting small and working its way up, MIT today launched Eyewire, a crowdsourced 'game' that tasks users with wiring up the neurons in a mouse's retina. A future stage of the game will get users to find the synapses, too."


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How do you remember where you parked your car? How do you know if you're moving in the right direction? Neuroscientist Neil Burgess studies the neural mechanisms that map the space around us, and how they link to memory and imagination.

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Game/Mental State is an article series that looks at how and why mental states can be interpreted from game states. In other words, we're looking into our minds by looking into the game.

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Game/Mental Sate is an article series that looks at how and why mental states can be interpreted from game states. In other words, we're looking into our minds by looking into the game.

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