Category Archives: Uncategorized

Activating Memories with Light: How our paper came to be

The feeling of publishing a paper has two key components: the unforgiving roller coaster leading up to publication — a process that feels like an airplane is perpetually parked on the face of your self-esteem — and the part after the paper has been accepted — a process that feels like a double-thick oreo milkshake multiplied by world peace. Both processes are bound together by research. Research is what happens when you navigate onto the edge of what is known and unknown. Neuroscientists are cartographers of the brain, and this story is about how my first two years as a grad student in Susumu Tonegawa’s lab (T-lab) have been an adrenal gland-squeezing voyage to understand how uncharted neural waters make the wine of memory possible. I took the hippocampic oath; we called the voyage Project X.

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The new nature vs nurture: are you your genome or your connectome?

The nature vs nurture debate is over. Scientists and philosophers now know that an interplay between both shapes who we are at the level of the genome. Genes have the magnificent ability of both programing an organism and responding to all sorts of environmental cues.

Today, however, a new kid on the block named “connectomics” is ruffling feathers in many scientific circles. How do we begin to relate the brain’s immensely complicated structure to its function? What can this tell us about human nature that genetics has not? Watch as MIT neuroscientist Sebastian Seung ushers in the age of the Connectome, a complete map of the human brain, in order to advance our understanding of the human story.

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How to get something (the universe) out of nothing (nothing)

When we march backwards along the arrow of time, we reach the point from which everything began, the point that modern science calls the “Big Bang.” Scientists have a wonderful grasp on what happened a billionth of a billionth of a second after the big bang; this, of course, only begs the question “What came before the Big Bang?” Physicist Lawrence Krauss demonstrates in the video below that the answer is “Nothing” and that under our current understanding of physics, and contrary to traditional logic, it is not just probable that we get “something” out of “nothing” — it is absolutely inevitable.

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I don’t know, so maybe I’m not: A rebuttal to Matt Segall and Ronan Hallowell

Here are my thoughts on what modern neuroscience can tell us about consciousness (part 2). In a nutshell, despite their complexity, neural systems are perfectly suitable to represent our “selves” over time. This seemingly magical process can be explained by brain activity and brain activity alone.

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Clipping an Angel’s Wings

So, are miracles real or not? All sorts of scriptures make truth-claims about the world that are falsifiable under the scientific method. I’ll argue that philosopher David Hume figured this problem out a few hundred years ago.

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Nature is Redundant

Nature has found some pretty fantastic solutions to equally fantastic problems. It is no coincidence that we see all sorts of patterns both in the world around and the world within. Have you recognized these before?

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Clouds over MIT

Today was our BCS fall welcome social — the official induction to the world of neuroscience for us lowly ‘first years.’ It was full of barbecue and lemonade, grad students and professors, ponies and sunshine. I also love my class.