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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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Rats Recall Past to Make Daily Decisions

 UCSF scientists have identified patterns of brain activity in the rat brain that play a role in the formation and recall of memories and decision-making. The discovery, which builds on the team's previous findings, offers a path for studying learning, decision-making and post-traumatic stress syndrome.  In the journal Science this week (online May 3, 2012), the UCSF researchers demonstrated
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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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Rats Match Humans in Decision-Making That Involves Combining Different Sensory Cues

The next time you set a trap for that rat running around in your basement, here's something to consider: you are going up against an opponent whose ability to assess the situation and make decisions is statistically just as good as yours.   A Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) study that compared the ability of humans and rodents to make perceptual decisions based on combining different
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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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Neural development: Epigenetic regulation of asymmetry

The brains of many species demonstrate structural and functional bilateral asymmetry, yet the underlying molecular mechanisms are mostly unknown. In the Caenorhabditis elegans nervous system, the lineages arising from the two daughter cells of a particular blastomere known as ABarap produce a different cell on each side of the body: a motor neuron on the right and an epithelial cell on the left. Here,
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Scientists Prove Plausibility of New Pathway to Life's Chemical Building Blocks

For decades, chemists considered a chemical pathway known as the formose reaction the only route for producing sugars essential for life to begin, but more recent research has called into question the plausibility of such thinking. Now a group from The Scripps Research Institute has proven an alternative pathway to those sugars called the glyoxylate scenario, which may push the field of pre-life chemistry
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Scientists Discover New Clue to Chemical Origins of Life

Organic chemists at the University of York have made a significant advance towards establishing the origin of the carbohydrates (sugars) that form the building blocks of life.  A team led by Dr Paul Clarke at York has re-created a process which could have occurred in the prebiotic world.  They have made the first step towards showing how simple sugars -- threose and erythrose -- developed.
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