The Idea That Scandalized Brain Science
Many neuroscientists say that the most startling about-face in their field has been the abandonment of the idea, once gospel, that the adult central nervous system has a fixed endpoint of development. Since no new nerve cells ever grew, repair—for example of a severed spinal cord—was out of the question. The revolution that shattered this orthodoxy is called “plasticity.” The scientist who coined that term reflects on how the implications of plasticity keep nudging us to reformulate basic questions about the brain.
Introduction: The Brain’s Special Status
In his introduction to this special issue of Cerebrum, Harvard provost Steven Hyman writes that the brain raises weighty issues deserving the focus created by the concept of neuroethics: The time for broad ethical discussions related to brain science is upon us.
Scientists, Families, and Courts Clash Over the Elusive Causes of Autism
When a British medical journal reported that childhood vaccinations might be a cause of autism, a storm of anxiety ensued. Subsequent studies failed to confirm the autism-vaccine link, and the journal that published the original study retracted it. As of now, however, the lawsuits are going forward and childhood vaccination rates are dropping.
Feeding the Aging Brain
Those tiny hearts on some menus speak to people with cardiovascular health in mind. Now scientists are paving the way for another icon. Processes that “stoke the fires of aging” in the brain may be attacking the ability of neurons to communicate. Trying to counteract this with vitamins and supplements has been disappointing, but changes in diet are yielding dramatic results. Blueberries top the list, but there are many choices for a brain-healthy menu.
Three Nobelists Ask: Are We Ready for the Next Frontier?
Sydney Brenner, Robert Horvitz, and John Sulston shared a 2002 Nobel Prize for discoveries in the tiny worm C. elegans that thrust molecular biology into the complex world of multi-cellular organisms and transformed how we think about how the brain develops. In recent interviews, all three voiced the same hope: That a new generation of scientists will begin to forge a genuine “systems neuroscience.”
Patients Have Been Too Patient With Basic Research
Steinman has devoted his long career to pioneering studies of immunology. Basic research of this kind has been hugely productive, he says, but its potential benefits for treating serious illnesses are taking too long to reach patients. We are failing to maintain a crucial transmission belt between basic research and clinical applications: the physician-scientist. We must take immediate and effective steps to reverse this trend, because our lives “may one day depend upon the progress of medicine.”