Your brain is like 100 billion mini-computers all working together

Each of our brain cells could work like a mini-computer, according to the first recording of electrical activity in human cells at a super-fine level of detail.

The study has revealed a key structural difference between human and mouse neurons that could help explain our superior powers of intelligence.

Brain cells, or neurons, communicate by firing electrical impulses down their length, which researchers can detect and measure by putting microscopic electrodes inside them. Most such studies have been done on rodent neurons kept alive in a dish, where the cells can live for several hours. But Mark Harnett at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge wanted to see how human neurons compared with those of mice, so he used live tissue obtained from surgeons who were removing small chunks of brain from people with epilepsy.

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This Is Your Brain on Exercise

Exercise is as good for your brain as it is for your body, and researchers are just beginning to discover why


Human beings evolved to move. Our bodies, including our brains, were fine-tuned for endurance activities over millennia of stalking and chasing down prey. «We’ve engineered that out of our lives now,» says Charles Hillman, a psychology professor at Northeastern University who has spent decades studying the link between exercise and cognition. Tell our relative new sedentary lifestyle takes on our bodies is clear: For the first time in U.S. history, younger generations are expected to live shorter, unhealthier lives than their parents.

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Have You Thanked Your Brain’s Astrocytes Today?

Increasing evidence suggests defects in astrocyte–neuron communication are associated with a number of diseases, including Alzheimer’s, stroke, epilepsy, and schizophrenia. Astrocytes are vitally important cells in the human brain.

Virginia Tech engineers are forging new computational tools to shed light on the role of vitally important cells in the human brain called astrocytes. Increasing evidence suggests defects in astrocyte-neuron communication are associated with a number of diseases, including Alzheimer’s, stroke, epilepsy, and schizophrenia.

Guoqiang Yu, an assistant professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering, is leading a project, “Decoding astrocyte signaling in neural circuitry with novel computational modeling and analytical tools.” Yu is collaborating with experimental neuroscientists from the University of California, Davis, and Yue (Joseph) Wang, the Grant A. Dove Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The collaborative team has been awarded a $2.5 million National Institutes of Health grant for the project.

Astrocytes, from the Greek “star cells” in reference to their shape, are workhorses of the central nervous system. They wrap around neurons, nursing and protecting them; help to repair damaged tissue; maintain ion balance; and provide nutrients to the nervous tissue.

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