Copper on the Brain at Rest

November 26th, 2014

In recent years it has been established that copper plays an essential role in the health of the human brain. Improper copper oxidation has been linked to several neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Menkes’ and Wilson’s. Copper has also been identified as a critical ingredient in the enzymes that activate the brain’s neurotransmitters in response to stimuli. Now a new study by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has shown that proper copper levels are also essential to the health of the brain at rest.

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‘Sleepless in America’ documentary to feature Berkeley research

November 24th, 2014

We spend one-third of our lives sleeping, and yet it is only in the last decade or so that scientists have begun to really understand why. Among other things, UC Berkeley sleep researcher Matthew Walker has linked sleep deprivation to psychiatric disorders, obesity, risky behavior, post-traumatic stress syndrome, learning and memory loss in old age.

This Sunday, Nov. 30,  Walker and other scientists will be featured in the captivating documentary Sleepless in America, on the National Geographic Channel.

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Diana Bautista receives Young Investigator Award from neuroscience society

November 18th, 2014

The Society for Neuroscience today (Monday, Nov. 17) presented one of two new Young Investigator Awards to Diana Bautista, UC Berkeley associate professor of molecular and cell biology, at the society’s annual meeting in Washington, DC.

The $15,000 award recognizes “outstanding achievements and contributions by a young neuroscientist who has recently received his or her advanced professional degree,” according to a statement from the society.

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Of rats and men: Tolman, behavior and academic freedom

November 14th, 2014

If you’ve ever been to Tolman Hall, you probably reached it not by rigid adherence to a series of mechanical steps — start at West Circle, go up Hilgard Way, first right to the end of Morgan Hall, then first left andvoila — but by navigating via the map in your head. That is, you pictured its location, and figured out a suitable route.

If you’d made the trip Monday, you would have learned it was the man who lent the aging psychology building his name, longtime UC Berkeley professor Edward Tolman, whose pre-World War II work with rats in mazes changed how we think about how we think. His groundbreaking insights laid the foundation for the discovery of what’s been called “the brain’s GPS” — the underlying neural machinery of the cognitive map — and this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

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Why Lab Rats Don’t Observe Daylight Saving Time

November 3rd, 2014

Twice a year, most Americans do a truly bizarre thing. In coordinated fashion, we change our clocks an hour ahead or behind and proceed as if the new time tells us what we should be doing: when to eat, when to sleep, when to wake and when to work.

The earth, of course, spins and rotates on its merry course, unperturbed by our temporal machinations. If we used to wake after sunrise, we might now wake before morning light. If we used to drive home with the setting sun, we might now drive home in darkness.

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Snap, crackle, pop, whoosh!

November 3rd, 2014

Ah, aging. Just when you think you’ve got your life together, your body starts falling apart. Thanks to WebMD, you can now diagnose yourself with almost anything if you play fast and loose enough with your symptoms. Fatigue? Sure. Back pain? Always. Sense of impending doom? Woke up like dis.

But there are some symptoms so distinct that a simple google search will turn up proof that that weird thing you’re experiencing isn’t so weird after all. Amazingly, however, this doesn’t mean that doctors or scientists have an explanation.

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