Category Archives: Neuroscience

Structure of Sodium Channels

In an exciting development, in the online version of the journal Nature this new significant study has been published

The crystal structure of a voltage-gated sodium channel

A couple years back, R. McKinnon received a nobel prize for determining the crystal structure of the potassium channel–if that

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helps explain the potential magnitude of this discovery.

I’m going to see if I can get my hands on a copy of this paper to read it!


From the [Brandeis University Student Paper] The Justice:

Wakefield presents controversial vaccine beliefs

Now, let me start by saying, this isn’t a knock again Brandeis, as it wasn’t a “University sponsored” event. Rather it was a speaker invited by a student group. It’s just coincidental and ironic that Wakefield spoke at an institution which places such emphasis on “integrity”. [Aside: ask any a Brandeis student how much they’re told about integrity during New Student Orientation and they may roll their eyes at you]

To quote a well respected, knowledgeable, and esteemed Autism Spectrum Disorder researcher and specialist:

“If you can’t trust the integrity of the researcher, you can’t trust the research,”–Source

Thus the irony in Wakefield, who conducted a flawed, methodologically poor study speaking at a university that prides itself on truth and integrity.

At least a columnist took a step in the right direction: Work to combat Wakefield’s glaring falsehoods

Good for this columnist!

Correlation does not equal causation

Here’s a story the anti-vaccine crowd is sure to jump on:

“Finland Suspends H1N1 Vaccine

The Finnish National Institute for Health (THL) proposed suspending vaccinations for H1N1 swine flu, due to suspected links to increased narcolepsy in children and adolescents, the body announced this week.

Six cases of narcolepsy, a chronic disorder causing excessive daytime sleepiness and extreme fatigue, have been reported after patients had been receiving the Pandemrix vaccine.

Six cases of narcolepsy is consistent with annual averages, reports THL, but all of these patients were affected after being vaccinated, and there are nine additional cases that have not yet been confirmed.

Now since this is a mainstream media article versus a scientific publication, there are some questions that definitely need to be answered.

Was the diagnosis of Narcolepsy made by combination of history plus multiple sleep latency test?

Were any of

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said patients displaying any symptoms preceeding vaccination?

Did these individuals have either lumbar punctures or blood tests performed to detect the HLA-DQB1*0602.marker?
[This while not a diagnostic tool per say would however provide interesting immunological evidence]

What makes this all interesting, is that increasing research seems to be pointing towards Narcolepsy having an auto-immune origin in the body. In the simplest terms, individuals with narcolepsy commonly lack hypocretin/orexin [hcrt/ox] producing neurons. The lack of hcrt leads to a disruption in the normal neuro-chemical functioning of the brain which leads to the symptoms of the disorder. [A discussion of which is beyond the scope of this blog–however I can provide references]

Chemistry is fun

I’ve always loved chemistry–maybe not so much the pressure cooker of or organic chemistry–but the experimentation and laboratory parts have always been fun.
(Okay, I also sucked at microscale orgo lab, but different story).

Anyway, today I did a personal physiological experiment in the gym. Took 600mg alpha-GPC + 200mg caffeine anhydrous + 2g ALCAR. Full of win!
Not only did I have lots of energy, but I was able to high bar oly squat 315! [Was very excited].

I also noticed a significant improvement in my mood throughout the morning too. Even was able to skip my daily cup o’ coffee. Going to give it another go tomorrow for some upper body training as well.

Free Webinar: Parasomnias: Things That Go Bump in the Night

Parasomnias: Things that go bump in the night

This presentation will focus on different parasomnias, the anatomy and physiology of sleep, and the different neurochemicals that play key roles in our sleep.

Parasomnias are a category of sleep disorders that involve abnormal movements, behaviors, emotions, perceptions, and dreams that occur while falling asleep, sleeping, between sleep stages, or arousal from sleep. They are classified according to the stages of sleep in which they occur, rapid eye movement (REM) or non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep.

This webinar is best suited for medical professionals of various backgrounds who encounter patients suffering from different parasomnias.

Larry King Live on Autism

For what it’s worth, it is advisable to skip over Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carey at the beginning.

If you actually care about science it’s best to start watching when the panel discussion starts featuring a doctor in a white lab coat. (The doctor also bears an uncanny resemblance to Dr. House)

Waves of Mu: Review

So I went to the performance Waves of Mu at PS 122 last night.

Didn’t really know what to expect.

The fist part of the program, is a giant room (instalation) with artists conceptualizations of the different parts of the brains. This, though a bit abstract was definitely the highlight of the evening. (pictures here). I particularly liked the portrayal of the thalamus.

Then came the performance part which seemed very erratic and non-sensible. The program started with the small (~30 people) audience having to sign a “wiaver” which was more of a thinly vailed joke at an individual consent form, used in clinical research.. The program from there began to just start veering all over the place. A few clips of an interview with V.S. Ramachandran instersupurced with some wierd acting/behavior by the 3 person cast. It was literally all over the place. Amy was very talented, and it showed, but I just didn’t understand what the point was.

Now granted, as one with a background in neuroscience, maybe I was not the target audience for such a performance. In a similar vein, my appreciation for modern art isn’t great. Nor do I have much appreciation for modern theater either. (I’m better with the visual art). So with that in mind, my review is probably a bit biased in that way.

Waves of Mu: Quick Review

Meh…I didn’t understand the performance part at all.

Maybe I just lack an appreciation for “modern” performance art.
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Starving off Jet Lag

In a paper just published in the journal Science, a group of authors have shown that, at least in mice, not eating for ~16h can help stave off jet-lag.

Now considering the quality of airline food these days, that doesn’t sound like too daunting of a task.

Without having read the paper itself, I’m curious to see what if any implications the Orexin/Hypocretin system play in this phenomena. Perhaps though that is too speculative at this point in time.