How the brain responds to texture

Our hands and fingertips are amazingly sensitive to texture. We can easily distinguish coarse sandpaper from smooth glass, but we also pick up more subtle differences across a wide range of textures, like the slick sheen of silk or the soft give of cotton. Continue reading “How the brain responds to texture”

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This is a neuron on nicotine

When a person takes a puff on a cigarette, nicotine floods into the brain, latching onto receptors on the surface of neurons and producing feelings of happiness. But nicotine does not simply stay on the surface of cells — the drug actually permeates into neural cells and alters them from the inside out. Now, a team of scientists has developed a protein sensor that glows in the presence of nicotine, allowing the researchers to observe nicotine’s movements in cells and reveal more about the nature of nicotine addiction. Continue reading “This is a neuron on nicotine”

Bioengineers create ultrasmall, light-activated electrode for neural stimulation

Neural stimulation is a developing technology that has beneficial therapeutic effects in neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease. While many advancements have been made, the implanted devices deteriorate over time and cause scarring in neural tissue. In a recently published paper, the University of Pittsburgh’s Takashi D. Y. Kozai detailed a less invasive method of stimulation that would use an untethered ultrasmall electrode activated by light, a technique that may mitigate damage done by current methods. Continue reading “Bioengineers create ultrasmall, light-activated electrode for neural stimulation”

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