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One Form of Neuron Turned Into Another in Brain

 A new finding by Harvard stem cell biologists turns one of the basics of neurobiology on its head -- demonstrating that it is possible to turn one type of already differentiated neuron into another within the brain. The discovery by Paola Arlotta and Caroline Rouaux "tells you that maybe the brain is not as immutable as we always thought, because at least during an early window of time one can
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Human brain evolution: transcripts, metabolites and their regulators

What evolutionary events led to the emergence of human cognition? Although the genetic differences separating modern humans from both non-human primates (for example, chimpanzees) and archaic hominins (Neanderthals and Denisovans) are known, linking human-specific mutations to the cognitive phenotype remains a challenge.  The new strategy is to focus on human-specific changes at the level of intermediate
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Discrete genetic modules are responsible for complex burrow evolution in Peromyscus mice

The genetics of behavioural differences between closely related species are less well understood than the genetics of morphological differences. Many animals build elaborate structures — such as hives, nests and burrows — that 'evolve' as natural selection acts on the behaviour of their builders. This study uses an example of this phenomenon to tackle the question of whether complex behaviours
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New Implant Replaces Impaired Middle Ear

Functionally deaf patients can gain normal hearing with a new implant that replaces the middle ear. The unique invention from the Chalmers University of Technology has been approved for a clinical study. The first operation was performed on a patient in December 2012.Jan. 14, 2013 — Science Daily
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Regenerate Sensory Hair Cells, Restore Hearing to Noise-Damaged Ears

Hearing loss is a significant public health problem affecting almost 50 million people in the United States alone. Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common form and is caused by the loss of sensory hair cells in the cochlea. Hair cell loss results from a variety of factors including noise exposure, aging, toxins, infections, and certain antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs. Although hearing aids
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Microglia: New Roles for the Synaptic Stripper

Any pathologic event in the brain leads to the activation of microglia, the immunocompetent cells of the central nervous system. In recent decades diverse molecular pathways have been identified by which microglial activation is controlled and by which the activated microglia affects neurons. In the normal brain microglia were considered “resting,” but it has recently become evident that they constantly
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Feedback Inhibition Enables Theta-Nested Gamma Oscillations and Grid Firing Fields

Cortical circuits are thought to multiplex firing rate codes with temporal codes that rely on oscillatory network activity, but the circuit mechanisms that combine these coding schemes are unclear. The authors establish with optogenetic activation of layer II of the medial entorhinal cortex that theta frequency drive to this circuit is sufficient to generate nested gamma frequency oscillations in synaptic
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Shaping Our Minds: Stem and Progenitor Cell Diversity in the Mammalian Neocortex

The neural circuits of the mammalian neocortex are crucial for perception, complex thought, cognition, and consciousness. This circuitry is assembled from many different neuronal subtypes with divergent properties and functions. Here, we review recent studies that have begun to clarify the mechanisms of cell-type specification in the neocortex, focusing on the lineage relationships between neocortical
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Ion Channels | TRP Channels in Drosophila Auditory Transduction

In this study, Lehnert et al. record spikes and subthreshold activity from a genetically defined population ofDrosophila auditory receptor neurons. These recordings reveal that several TRP family members play distinct roles in converting movement to transduction currents.Lehnert et al.Neuron, Volume 77, Issue 1, 115-128, 9 January 201310.1016/j.neuron.2012.11.030
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Eliminating Useless Information Important to Learning, Making New Memories

As we age, it just may be the ability to filter and eliminate old information -- rather than take in the new stuff -- that makes it harder to learn, scientists report.  "When you are young, your brain is able to strengthen certain connections and weaken certain connections to make new memories," said Dr. Joe Z. Tsien, neuroscientist at Georgia Regents University.  It's that critical weakening
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Cortico-cortical projections in mouse visual cortex are functionally target specific

Neurons in primary sensory cortex have diverse response properties, whereas higher cortical areas are specialized. Specific connectivity may be important for areal specialization, particularly in the mouse, where neighboring neurons are functionally diverse. To examine whether higher visual areas receive functionally specific input from primary visual cortex (V1), the author used two-photon calcium
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In vivo reprogramming of circuit connectivity in postmitotic neocortical neurons

The molecular mechanisms that control how progenitors generate distinct subtypes of neurons, and how undifferentiated neurons acquire their specific identity during corticogenesis, are increasingly understood. However, whether postmitotic neurons can change their identity at late stages of differentiation remains unknown. To study this question, the authors developed an electrochemical in vivo gene
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Dual origins of the mammalian accessory olfactory bulb revealed by an evolutionarily conserved migratory stream

The accessory olfactory bulb (AOB) is a critical olfactory structure that has been implicated in mediating social behavior. It receives input from the vomeronasal organ and projects to targets in the amygdaloid complex. Its anterior and posterior components (aAOB and pAOB) display molecular, connectional and functional segregation in processing reproductive and defensive and aggressive behaviors, respectively.
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New Information on Autism and Genetics

Research out of the George Washington University reveals another piece of the puzzle in a genetic developmental disorder that causes behavioral diseases such as autism. "It tell us that in very early development, those with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome do not make enough cells in one case, and do not put the other cells in the right place. This occurs not because of some degenerative change, but because
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The Immune System's Compact Genomic Counterpart

Much of the human genome derives from self-serving DNA strands known as transposons. These genetic gypsies often jump to new chromosome locations, sometimes disabling genes and even triggering cancer. For that reason, a specialized group of RNA molecules known as piRNAs are the superheroes of animal genomes. piRNAs team up with certain proteins to shackle transposons in animal germline cells, creating
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Your Brain On Big Bird: Sesame Street Helps to Reveal Patterns of Neural Development

Using brain scans of children and adults watching Sesame Street, cognitive scientists are learning how children's brains change as they develop intellectual abilities like reading and math,Scientists are just beginning to use brain imaging to understand how humans process thought during real-life experiences. For example, researchers have compared scans of adults watching an entertaining movie to see
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2012: Signaling Breakthroughs of the Year

With input from the members of the Board of Reviewing Editors and editorial staff, Science Signaling puts the spotlight on the hottest signaling research of 2012. The connection between signaling and metabolism continues to be an important area. Signaling breakthroughs in cancer, immunology, developmental biology, neuroscience, and microbiology all made the list. Structural and molecular insights into
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The NaV1.7 sodium channel: from molecule to man

The voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.7 is preferentially expressed in peripheral somatic and visceral sensory neurons, olfactory sensory neurons and sympathetic ganglion neurons. NaV1.7 accumulates at nerve fibre endings and amplifies small subthreshold depolarizations, poising it to act as a threshold channel that regulates excitability. Genetic and functional studies have added to the evidence that
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Quantitative analysis of peptides and proteins in biomedicine by targeted mass spectrometry

Targeted mass spectrometry (MS) is becoming widely used in academia and in pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries for sensitive and quantitative detection of proteins, peptides and post-translational modifications. In Nature methods,  Gillette and Carr describe the increasing importance of targeted MS technologies in clinical proteomics and the potential key roles these techniques will have
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All-in-one optogenetics

Scientists reverse engineer fluorescent proteins for light-mediated control.Optogenetics is a young discipline that is coming on strong in fields such as neuroscience and protein signaling. It refers to the use of light-sensitive proteins to control cellular processes in living cells and organisms. Optogenetic tools can also be used to sense biological processes. Each of these applications has been
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A cellular mechanism for cortical associations: an organizing principle for the cerebral cortex

A basic feature of intelligent systems such as the cerebral cortex is the ability to freely associate aspects of perceived experience with an internal representation of the world and make predictions about the future. Here, a hypothesis is presented that the extraordinary performance of the cortex derives from an associative mechanism built in at the cellular level to the basic cortical neuronal unit:
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Neuronal reference frames for social decisions in primate frontal cortex

Steve Chang et. al. studied encoding of the outcomes of social decisions in three frontal cortical areas as monkeys performed a social reward allocation task. Orbitofrontal cortex neurons signaled received rewards, anterior cingulate (ACC) sulcus neurons signaled foregone rewards, and the ACC gyrus was involved in the computation of shared experience and social reward. Nature Neuroscience (2012) doi:10.1038/nn.3287
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Closed-loop optogenetic control of thalamus as a tool for interrupting seizures after cortical injury

Cerebrocortical injuries such as stroke are a major source of disability. Maladaptive consequences can result from post-injury local reorganization of cortical circuits. For example, epilepsy is a common sequela of cortical stroke, but the mechanisms responsible for seizures following cortical injuries remain unknown. In addition to local reorganization, long-range, extra-cortical connections might
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A subpopulation of nociceptors specifically linked to itch

A method for tagging single transcripts with two fluorescent markers can be used to study many aspects of gene expression, including intrinsic noise in transcription or polymerase dynamics at a single gene, report Singer and colleagues.Lian Han et al.Nature Neuroscience (2012) doi:10.1038/nn.3289
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A subpopulation of nociceptors specifically linked to itch

Dorsal root ganglion neurons respond to both painful and itchy stimuli, but are there itch-specific neurons? Here the authors describe a group of MrgprA3-expressing neurons that innervate the superficial layers of the skin and selectively sense itch.Lian Han et al.Nature Neuroscience (2012) doi:10.1038/nn.3289
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Whole-Genome Sequencing in Autism Identifies Hot Spots for De Novo Germline Mutation

An international team, led by researchers from UC San Diego,  has discovered that "random" mutations in the genome are not quite so random after all. Their study, to be published in the journal Cell on December 21, shows that the DNA sequence in some regions of the human genome is quite volatile and can mutate ten times more frequently than the rest of the genome. Genes that are linked to autism
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How do environments talk to genes?

In Nature Neuroscience January 2013 issue, Moshe Szyf explains the environmental interaction onto genes. A report elucidates the widely recognized, but poorly understood, concept of gene-environment interaction, finding a molecular mechanism in the case of post-traumatic stress disorder: demethylation of a glucocorticoid response element in the stress response regulator FKBP5 that depends on both the
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The ventral visual pathway: an expanded neural framework for the processing of object quality

Since the original characterization of the ventral visual pathway, our knowledge of its neuroanatomy, functional properties, and extrinsic targets has grown considerably. Here the authors synthesize this recent evidence and propose that the ventral pathway is best understood as a recurrent occipitotemporal network containing neural representations of object quality both utilized and constrained by
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Retooling spare parts: gene duplication and cognition

Two new studies provide experimental evidence of how ancient genomic duplications of synaptic genes provided the substrate for diversification that ultimately expanded vertebrate cognitive complexity.T Grant Belgard & Daniel H GeschwindNature Neuroscience 16, 6–8 (2013) doi:10.1038/nn.3292Published online 21 December 2012
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Origin of Life: Hypothesis Traces First Protocells Back to Emergence of Cell Membrane Bioenergetics

A coherent pathway -- which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells -- has been traced for the first time in a major hypothesis paper in Cell this week. Science Daily on Dec. 20, 2012Reference : Nick Lane, William F. Martin. The Origin of Membrane Bioenergetics.Cell, 2012; 151 (7): 1406
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Like Math? Thank Your Motivation, Not IQ

It's not how smart students are but how motivated they are and how they study that determines their growth in math achievement. That's the main finding of a new study that appears in the journal Child Development. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Munich and the University of Bielefeld. "While intelligence as assessed by IQ tests is important in the early stages of developing
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Woman With Quadriplegia Feeds Herself Chocolate Using Mind-Controlled Robot Arm

Reaching out to high five someone, grasping and moving objects of different shapes and sizes, feeding herself dark chocolate. For Jan Scheuermann and a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC, accomplishing these seemingly ordinary tasks demonstrated for the first time that a person with longstanding quadriplegia can maneuver a mind-controlled, human-like robot
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Evolution of GluN2A/B cytoplasmic domains diversified vertebrate synaptic plasticity and behavior

Understanding the mechanisms underlying the many forms of vertebrate behavior is a central objective of neuroscience and, although studied extensively at the cellular and circuit levels, very little is known about the underlying molecular evolutionary events. How did genome evolution give rise to the many forms of learning, emotional behavior and motor functions and generate the subtlety of synaptic
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Neurogliaform cells dynamically regulate somatosensory integration via synapse-specific modulation

Despite the prevailing idea that neurogliaform cells produce a spatially unrestricted widespread inhibition, the authors demonstrate here that their activity attenuates thalamic-evoked feed-forward inhibition in layer IV barrel cortex but has no effect on feed-forward excitation. The result of this circuit selectivity is a dynamic regulation in the temporal window for integration of excitatory thalamic
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Genomic variation landscape of the human gut microbiome

Whereas large-scale efforts have rapidly advanced the understanding and practical impact of human genomic variation, the practical impact of variation is largely unexplored in the human microbiome. The authors developed a framework for metagenomic variation analysis and applied it to 252 faecal metagenomes of 207 individuals from Europe and North America. Using 7.4 billion reads aligned to 101 reference
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Synaptic scaffold evolution generated components of vertebrate cognitive complexity

The origins and evolution of higher cognitive functions, including complex forms of learning, attention and executive functions, are unknown. A potential mechanism driving the evolution of vertebrate cognition early in the vertebrate lineage (550 million years ago) was genome duplication and subsequent diversification of postsynaptic genes. Here the authors report the first genetic analysis of a vertebrate
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Encoding asymmetry within neural circuits

Genetic and environmental factors control morphological and functional differences between the two sides of the nervous system. Neural asymmetries are proposed to have important roles in circuit physiology, cognition and species-specific behaviours. We propose two fundamentally different mechanisms for encoding left–right asymmetry in neural circuits. In the first, asymmetric circuits share common
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Deciphering the mechanism underlying late-onset Alzheimer disease

Drug development efforts for late-onset Alzheimer disease (AD) have met with disappointing results. Krstic and Knuesel argue for a re-evaluation of pathological mechanisms underlying the disease, with a shift of focus away from amyloid-β as the key therapeutic target. Through integration of their own research with the wider literature, they present a model that places inflammation and impairments
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Long-term modification of cortical synapses improves sensory perception

Synapses and receptive fields of the cerebral cortex are plastic. However, changes to specific inputs must be coordinated within neural networks to ensure that excitability and feature selectivity are appropriately configured for perception of the sensory environment. The authors induced long-lasting enhancements and decrements to excitatory synaptic strength in rat primary auditory cortex by pairing
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Evolution of Human Intellect: Human-Specific Regulation of Neuronal Genes

A new study published November 20 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology has identified hundreds of small regions of the genome that appear to be uniquely regulated in human neurons. These regulatory differences distinguish us from other primates, including monkeys and apes, and as neurons are at the core of our unique cognitive abilities, these features may ultimately hold the key to our intellectual
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The retina as a window to the brain—from eye research to CNS disorders

The eye is an extension of the CNS in terms of its development and anatomy, and in terms of its dialogue with the immune system. Many neurodegenerative disorders of the brain and spinal cord have manifestations in the eye, which are often evident before the emergence of clinical neurological symptoms. London et al. highlight how investigation of the eye represents a noninvasive approach to the detection
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Optimization of a GCaMP Calcium Indicator for Neural Activity Imaging

Genetically encoded calcium indicators (GECIs) are powerful tools for systems neuroscience. Recent efforts in protein engineering have significantly increased the performance of GECIs. The state-of-the art single-wavelength GECI, GCaMP3, has been deployed in a number of model organisms and can reliably detect three or more action potentials in short bursts in several systems in vivo. Akerboom
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Genetically encoded optical indicators for the analysis of neuronal circuits

In a departure from previous top-down or bottom-up strategies used to understand neuronal circuits, many forward-looking research programs now place the circuit itself at their centre. This has led to an emphasis on the dissection and elucidation of neuronal circuit elements and mechanisms, and on studies that ask how these circuits generate behavioural outputs. This movement towards circuit-centric
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Disorder of Neuronal Circuits in Autism Is Reversible, New Study Suggests

People with autism suffer from a pervasive developmental disorder of the brain that becomes evident in early childhood. Peter Scheiffele and Kaspar Vogt, Professors at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, have identified a specific dysfunction in neuronal circuits that is caused by autism. In the journal Science, the scientists also report about their success in reversing these neuronal changes.
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Cross-sensory transfer of sensory-motor information: visuomotor learning affects performance on an audiomotor task, using sensory-substitution

Visual-to-auditory sensory-substitution devices allow users to perceive a visual image using sound. Using a motor-learning task, researchers in Israel found that new sensory-motor information was generalized across sensory modalities. They imposed a rotation when participants reached to visual targets, and found that not only seeing, but also hearing the location of targets via a sensory-substitution
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Reversible switching between epigenetic states in honeybee behavioral subcastes

In honeybee societies, distinct caste phenotypes are created from the same genotype, suggesting a role for epigenetics in deriving these behaviorally different phenotypes. The authors found no differences in DNA methylation between irreversible worker and queen castes, but substantial differences between nurses and forager subcastes. Reverting foragers back to nurses reestablished methylation levels
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Stem Cell Revolution: Regenerating the Eye

Research is breaking new ground that promises to change our ability to treat eye disease forever.Although stem cells were discovered in the mid-1800s and the subject of experimentation in the early 1900s, it’s only been in recent decades that they’ve truly caught the imagination of medical researchers and the public. Today, our understanding of these cells is expanding dramatically, and research
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Clue to Cause of Alzheimer's Dementia Found in Brain Samples

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found a key difference in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease and those who are cognitively normal but still have brain plaques that characterize this type of dementia.The new study, available online inAnnals of Neurology, still implicates amyloid beta in causing Alzheimer's dementia, but not necessarily in the form
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Humans can learn new information during sleep

During sleep, humans can strengthen previously acquired memories, but whether they can acquire entirely new information remains unknown. The nonverbal nature of the olfactory sniff response, in which pleasant odors drive stronger sniffs and unpleasant odors drive weaker sniffs, allowed us to test learning in humans during sleep. Using partial-reinforcement trace conditioning, the authors paired pleasant
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Multisensory brain mechanisms of bodily self-consciousness

Recent research has linked bodily self-consciousness to the processing and integration of multisensory bodily signals in temporoparietal, premotor, posterior parietal and extrastriate cortices. Studies in which subjects receive ambiguous multisensory information about the location and appearance of their own body have shown that these brain areas reflect the conscious experience of identifying with
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Emerging roles of non-coding RNAs in brain evolution, development, plasticity and disease

Novel classes of small and long non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) are being characterized at a rapid pace, driven by recent paradigm shifts in our understanding of genomic architecture, regulation and transcriptional output, as well as by innovations in sequencing technologies and computational and systems biology. These ncRNAs can interact with DNA, RNA and protein molecules; engage in diverse structural,
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The Attention System of the Human Brain: 20 Years After

Here, the author update their 1990 Annual Review of Neuroscience article, “The Attention System of the Human Brain.” The framework presented in the original article has helped to integrate behavioral, systems, cellular, and molecular approaches to common problems in attention research. Research on orienting and executive functions has supported the addition of new networks of brain regions. Developmental
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Early Events in Axon/Dendrite Polarization

Differentiation of axons and dendrites is a critical step in neuronal development. Here we review the evidence that axon/dendrite formation during neuronal polarization depends on the intrinsic cytoplasmic asymmetry inherited by the postmitotic neuron, the exposure of the neuron to extracellular chemical factors, and the action of anisotropic mechanical forces imposed by the environment. To better
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Evolution of Synapse Complexity and Diversity

Proteomic studies of the composition of mammalian synapses have revealed a high degree of complexity. The postsynaptic and presynaptic terminals are molecular systems with highly organized protein networks producing emergent physiological and behavioral properties. The major classes of synapse proteins and their respective functions in intercellular communication and adaptive responses evolved in prokaryotes
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Motor Circuits in Action: Specification, Connectivity, and Function

Mammalian motor behavior is enabled by a hierarchy of interleaved circuit modules constructed by interneurons in the spinal cord, sensory feedback loops, and bilateral communication with supraspinal centers. Neuronal subpopulations are specified through a process of precisely timed neurogenesis, acquisition of transcriptional programs, and migration to spatially confined domains. Developmental and
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Bit by Bit: The Darwinian Basis of Life

All known examples of life belong to the same biology, but there is increasing enthusiasm among astronomers, astrobiologists, and synthetic biologists that other forms of life may soon be discovered or synthesized. This enthusiasm should be tempered by the fact that the probability for life to originate is not known. As a guiding principle in parsing potential examples of alternative life, one should
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Timing to Perfection: The Biology of Central and Peripheral Circadian Clocks

The mammalian circadian system, which is comprised of multiple cellular clocks located in the organs and tissues, orchestrates their regulation in a hierarchical manner throughout the 24 hr of the day. At the top of the hierarchy are the suprachiasmatic nuclei, which synchronize subordinate organ and tissue clocks using electrical, endocrine, and metabolic signaling pathways that impact the molecular
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Rethinking the Emotional Brain

The author, LeDoux, proposes a reconceptualization of key phenomena important in the study of emotion—those phenomena that reflect functions and circuits related to survival, and that are shared by humans and other animals. The approach shifts the focus from questions about whether emotions that humans consciously feel are also present in other animals, and toward questions about the extent to which
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Epigenetic understanding of gene-environment interactions in psychiatric disorders: a new concept of clinical genetics

Epigenetics is a mechanism that regulates gene expression independently of the underlying DNA sequence, relying instead on the chemical modification of DNA and histone proteins. Although environmental and genetic factors were thought to be independently associated with disorders, several recent lines of evidence suggest that epigenetics bridges these two factors. Epigenetic gene regulation is essential
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Interneuron dysfunction in psychiatric disorders

Schizophrenia, autism and intellectual disabilities are best understood as spectrums of diseases that have broad sets of causes. However, it is becoming evident that these conditions also have overlapping phenotypes and genetics, which is suggestive of common deficits. In this context, the idea that the disruption of inhibitory circuits might be responsible for some of the clinical features of these
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Epigenetic Mechanisms in Cognition

Although the critical role for epigenetic mechanisms in development and cell differentiation has long been appreciated, recent evidence reveals that these mechanisms are also employed in postmitotic neurons as a means of consolidating and stabilizing cognitive-behavioral memories. In this review, we discuss evidence for an “epigenetic code” in the central nervous system that mediates synaptic plasticity,
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Experimental and Theoretical Approaches to Conscious Processing

Recent experimental studies and theoretical models have begun to address the challenge of establishing a causal link between subjective conscious experience and measurable neuronal activity. The present review focuses on the well-delimited issue of how an external or internal piece of information goes beyond nonconscious processing and gains access to conscious processing, a transition characterized
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The Extraction of 3D Shape in the Visual System of Human and Nonhuman Primates

Depth structure, the third dimension of object shape, is extracted from disparity, motion, texture, and shading in the optic array. Gradient-selective neurons play a key role in this process. Such neurons occur in CIP, AIP, TEs, and F5 (for first- or second-order disparity gradients), in MT/V5, in FST (for speed gradients), and in CIP and TEs (for texture gradients). Most of these regions are activated
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DNA methylation and memory formation

Memory formation and storage require long-lasting changes in memory-related neuronal circuits. Recent evidence indicates that DNA methylation may serve as a contributing mechanism in memory formation and storage. These emerging findings suggest a role for an epigenetic mechanism in learning and long-term memory maintenance and raise apparent conundrums and questions. For example, it is unclear how
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Human Brain Evolution: Harnessing the Genomics (R)evolution to Link Genes, Cognition, and Behavio

The evolution of the human brain has resulted in numerous specialized features including higher cognitive processes such as language. Knowledge of whole-genome sequence and structural variation via high-throughput sequencing technology provides an unprecedented opportunity to view human evolution at high resolution. However, phenotype discovery is a critical component of these endeavors and the use
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Epigenetic control of neural precursor cell fate during development

The temporally and spatially restricted nature of the differentiation capacity of cells in the neural lineage has been studied extensively in recent years. Epigenetic control of developmental genes, which is heritable through cell divisions, has emerged as a key mechanism defining the differentiation potential of cells. Short-term or reversible repression of developmental genes puts them in a 'poised
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