Click above to view full image! Any book lover can tell you: diving into a great novel is an immersive experience that can make your brain come alive with imagery and emotions and even turn on your senses.
The famed protein chain reaction that made mad cow disease a terror may be involved in helping to ensure that our recollections don't fade.
Prions are proteins with two unusual properties: First, they can switch between two possible shapes, one that is stable on its own and an alternate conformation that can form chains. Second, the chain-forming version has to be able to trigger others to change shape and join the chain. Say that in the normal version the protein is folded so that one portion of the protein structure—call it "tab A"—fits into its own "slot B." In the alternate form, though, tab A is available to fit into its neighbor's slot B. That means the neighbor can do the same thing to the next protein to come along, forming a chain or clump that can grow indefinitely.
For a brain cell, keeping a memory around is a lot of work. A variety of proteins need to be continually manufactured at the synapse, the small gap that interfaces one cell to another. But whereas a cell may have a multitude of synapses, the protein synthesis that grows and maintains the connection only occurs at specific ones that have been activated. Work in the sea slug Aplysia (a favorite of neuroscientists because of its large cells) showed that a protein called CPEB, for cytoplasmic polyadenylation element binding, is necessary to keep a synapse activated. CPEB acts as a prion.
Once the prion's chain reaction gets started it's self-perpetuating, and thus the synapse can be maintained after the initial trigger is gone—perhaps for a lifetime. But that still doesn't explain how the first prion is triggered or why it only happens in certain synapses and not others.
An answer comes from Si's work on fruit flies, published February 11 in PLoS Biology. Sex—and, in particular, male courtship behavior—is an ideal realm in which to test memory: If a female is unreceptive, the male will remember this and stop trying to court her. Earlier, Si’s team showed that if the fly's version of CPEB, called Orb2, is mutated so that it cannot act as a prion, the insect briefly remembers that the female is unreceptive but that memory fades over the course of a few days.
Now, Si's team has figured out how the cell turns on the machinery responsible for the persistence of memory—and how the memory can be stabilized at just the right time and in the right place.
Before the memory is formed a fly's neuron is full of a version of the prion called Orb2B. Although this version can switch shapes to form prions' characteristic clumps, it can't get started without the related protein Orb2A. In this week's paper Si and colleagues untangled the multipartnered dance that controls Orb2A's role. First, a protein called TOB binds to Orb2A, allowing it to persist intact in the cell. (Normally, it would be broken down within a few hours.) Once stabilized it needs to have a phosphate tag attached, and this is done by another protein called Lim kinase.
Crucially, Lim kinase is only activated when the cell receives an electrical impulse—and only targeted at that synapse, not any other synaptic connections the cell might also be making. That means that the prion chain reaction is turned on in the specific time and place it's needed. This, researchers say, means the cell has a mechanism to stabilize some synapses but not others—potentially explaining why some of our memories fade, whereas others last a lifetime.
Although work so far on these proteins has been in yeast, sea slugs, flies and mice, the human CPEB may operate in the same way to preserve memories. The next steps, both researchers agree, are to develop better techniques to see where in the brain prions are activated, and to dig into more questions about how the prion process is regulated. One burning question: When we forget, does that mean that the prion's chain reaction has been halted?
My favorite part of the article: "When you spend too much time concentrating on everyone else’s perception of you, or who everyone else wants you to be, you eventually forget who you truly are. So don’t fear the judgments of others; you know in your heart who you are and what’s true to you. You don’t have to be someone else to impress and inspire people. Let them be impressed and inspired by the real YOU. Honestly, whatdoes life matter if you lose yourself along the way? Even your mentors should teach you HOW to think, not WHAT to think. So if someone – anyone – is belittling your truth, it might be time to turn the other way."
Editor's note: This post is co-authored by Marcus Conyers who, with Donna Wilson, is co-developer of the M.S. and Ed.S. Brain-Based Teaching degree programs at Nova Southeastern University.
During the school year, students are expected to listen to and absorb vast amounts of content. But how much time has been devoted to equipping students with ways to disconnect from their own internal dialogue (self-talk) and to focus their attention fully on academic content that is being presented? Listening is hard work even for adults. When students are unable to listen effectively, classroom management issues arise.
Who knew that some noises could eventually become as extinct as the passenger pigeon? Depending on your age, you or your kids or grandchildren may have only heard some of the following sounds in old movies, if at all.
artist siren elise wilhelmsen is so talented it is sick! this "clock" knits a scarf in one year, they are absolutely gorgeous! and look! her latest design is in a grandfather clock frame! ugh! they are so beautiful they make...
"Some intrepid advertisers will spend the money necessary to attract the right talent, and will create native experiences that are so entertaining, informative, or educational that they rival the quality of the world's best journalism."...
What’s more, researchers are coming to recognize that dreaming is an essential part of understanding, organizing and retaining what we learn—and that dreams may even hold out the possibility of directing our learning as we doze.
Empathy In Action: How a Concept is Making Real Change In the World
What this story teaches us is this:
Empathy can change the world.
Doug Dietz decided that just doing his job wasn't enough, so he made some huge waves affecting the lives of many families. Seeing one child's pain and feeling that it was unacceptable, he committed his own time, energy, money and resources to finding a solution that would make the stress and fear go away for countless sick children.
Having spent years of his life devoted to streamlining and perfecting the MRI machine, it wasn't until he took a human-centered approach to design and innovation, letting compassion and empathy for others be his guide, that he began to truly push the limits of his work and find avenues of progress he couldn't have imagined before.
When you are willing to listen there's an untold amount of knowledge, experience and perspective just waiting to be shared. From the person who serves you coffee in the morning to the colleague at work for whom we have neither patience nor time, to the three-year old just starting to figure out how to express their thoughts.
Chances are, you’re slumped over in your chair right now, or craning your head down to read your phone. Besides the obvious neck and shoulder pain, the second most common complaint from desk jobs are that of lower back/butt pain.
Positive thinking sounds useful on the surface. (Most of us would prefer to be positive rather than negative.) But “positive thinking” is also a soft and fluffy term that's easy to dismiss. In the real world, it rarely carries the same weight as words like “work ethic” or “persistence.” But those views may be changing.
In this upcoming season, when our families will gather and we're reminded how much our relationships matter, have we taken the time to think about, and thank, those who have helped us along the way in our business?