January 26, 2012

Hemispatial neglect: A one-sided world

Check out the dog, Barley, in this video. Notice how he doesn't seem interested in the food on the left side of his bowl. Perhaps he's blind in his left eye?

But that can't be the case. Close your left eye. You can still see much of your left visual field, and you'd certainly smell any food placed under your nose. And what dog is one to walk away without finishing their food?

In fact, Barley is displaying signs of hemispatial neglect, a strange condition in which brain damage, despite normal vision, results in complete neglect of the left side of one's world. Barley had, in fact, suffered a stroke.

January 20, 2012

Rostral brainstem vs. pug

I can't tell the difference...

...can you?

My Neuroanatomy class is making me hallucinate!

January 19, 2012

Fur-iends with benefits

Apologies for the cheesy blog title.

My brain for the past two weeks has been a whirlwind of—well, brains. I'm in a fairly intense five-week neuroanatomy class and my neurons have been abuzz with images of brain slice after brain slice—so much that transverse sections of the brainstem were beginning to resemble a pug's face. The wrinkly cerebellum was the forehead, and the pons stained darkly resembled the snout. But I digress.

Hallucinating said "pug," combined with me missing my 11-year old greyhound and best friend Patrick (above) back home and my upcoming orientation at the Harrisburg Humane Society (so excited!) prompted me to find out: what is it about pets that, simply put, makes us feel good?
This post was chosen as an Editor's Selection for

January 6, 2012

The neuroscience of optimism: Why we resolve (and believe) we'll be better

If you're within the 32% of Americans that made a resolution for 2012, chances are you're still going strong. Nearly a week in, you've been faced with the temptation, the test of willpower, and likely some teasing from loved ones. And you've only got 360 days left to call your resolution a success? Easy as pie...

Experimentally (and in real life), our species has consistently demonstrated unbridled optimism in the face of adversity. We've failed for the past 20 years'-worth of New Years resolutions—but no, 2012 will definitely be the year we lose weight. Plus, we're all going to quit the jobs we despise and find a better-paying, less stressful, more rewarding job. AND win the lottery (brilliant—we'll never have to go back to work in the first place!).

A study by Tali Sharot and colleagues from New York University explored exactly why we can retain this buoyancy, thanks to insights in brain imaging.