I never expected to see this. Using LOL cats to describe a new study? The result is surprisingly good. Maybe I’m slightly biased because I love cats.
Here’s the abstract of the newly published (31/01) Nature paper in case you want to learn more:
Stroking of the skin produces pleasant sensations that can occur during social interactions with conspecifics, such as grooming1. Despite numerous physiological studies (reviewed in ref. 2), molecularly defined sensory neurons that detect pleasant stroking of hairy skin3, 4 in vivo have not been reported. Previously, we identified a rare population of unmyelinated sensory neurons in mice that express the G-protein-coupled receptor MRGPRB4 (refs 5, 6). These neurons exclusively innervate hairy skin with large terminal arborizations7 that resemble the receptive fields of C-tactile (CT) afferents in humans8. Unlike other molecularly defined mechanosensory C-fibre subtypes9, 10, MRGPRB4+ neurons could not be detectably activated by sensory stimulation of the skin ex vivo. Therefore, we developed a preparation for calcium imaging in the spinal projections of these neurons during stimulation of the periphery in intact mice. Here we show that MRGPRB4+ neurons are activated by massage-like stroking of hairy skin, but not by noxious punctate mechanical stimulation. By contrast, a different population of C fibres expressing MRGPRD11 was activated by pinching but not by stroking, consistent with previous physiological and behavioural data10, 12. Pharmacogenetic activation of Mrgprb4-expressing neurons in freely behaving mice promoted conditioned place preference13, indicating that such activation is positively reinforcing and/or anxiolytic. These data open the way to understanding the function of MRGPRB4 neurons during natural behaviours, and provide a general approach to the functional characterization of genetically identified subsets of somatosensory neurons in vivo.
You can read the paper here (paywall alert).
PS: LOL cats seem to be popular in academia lately. Remember the LOLcat dissertation?
A spectrum approach in mental illness is very appealing and could possibly explain why some disorders are still in the gene pool. Of course, it’s all speculative at this point but very interesting. I will try to write a bit more about this in a future blog post. For now, here is a relevant TED talk by Joshua Walters, a comedian diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Maybe no one’s really crazy. Everyone is just a little bit mad. How much depends on where you fall in the spectrum. How much depends on how lucky you are.” (Joshua Walters)
The Symphony of Science is a musical project of John D Boswell, designed to deliver scientific knowledge and philosophy in musical form. The project owes its existence in large measure to the classic PBS Series Cosmos, by Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, and Steve Soter, as well as all the other featured figures and visuals. Continuation of the videos relies on generous support from fans and followers.
Read more about the project here.
Here’s one of my favourites, “Ode To The Brain”.
Categories: art, cognitive neuroscience, neuroscience, psychology
brain, cognition, cognitive neuroscience, music, neuroscience, psychology, research, science, video
Charles Limb is a surgeon and musician who is investigating the neural correlates of musical creativity. You might remember his very cool fMRI study of jazz improvisation. You can read it here. He talks about this and other projects he’s working on in his recent TED talk. We need more studies like these!
Categories: cognitive neuroscience, music psychology, neuroscience, Uncategorized
brain, cognitive neuroscience, creativity, fMRI, neuroscience, prefrontal cortex, research, video
A tweeting mouse?
A Japanese group led by Arikuni Uchimura managed to create a genetically-engineered mouse that tweets like a bird! The “singing” mouse is part of the team’s “Evolved Mouse Project”, in which they use genetically modified mice that are prone to mutations.
The “singing” mouse was born by chance but this particular trait will be passed on to future generations. Uchimura who dreams of creating a real life version of Mickey Mouse (!) hopes that this creation could provide clues on how human language evolved…
You can hear the talented animal here. Sounds a bit like squeaking to be honest…
Moreover, a case of a “singing” mouse was reported much earlier – in 1936. You can read the Times article here. More recently, another group had identified patterns of singing in male mice. You can read the article here.
Categories: cognitive neuroscience, neuroscience
animals, brain, evolution, funny, language, Links, mice, music, news, research, video
Categories: AI, cognitive neuroscience, neuroscience
brain reading, cognitive neuroscience, computational neuroscience, fMRI, Links, mental states, neuroimaging, neuroscience, research, video
Kim Peek , the man who inspired Dustin Hoffman’s well known character in the film Rain Man , died a few days (19/12) ago of heart attack at the age of 58.
Peek was not able to live on his own and depended on his father for most everyday activities. However, he was known for his extraordinary memory, mathematical and reading skills. Even though, Peek was though to be autistic, scans performed in 2008 revealed that the most likely diagnosis was FG syndrome .
Here are a few links about the famous savant:
- videos of Kim Peek .
- Scientific American’s article: Inside the Mind of a Savant
- Kim Peek – The Real Rain Man (Wisconsin Medical Society entry)
- Kim Peek has left the buliding (Mind Hacks)