Scientists and engineers have studied the brain for decades, yet there are many mysteries that remain unsolved. New research is underway to develop and use cutting-edge technologies to better understand the brain. NSF's goal is to enable scientific understanding of the full complexity of the brain, in action and in context, through targeted, cross-disciplinary investments in research, technology and workforce development. Find out more in this Special Report.
Credit: Sputnik Animation, McGovern Institute, Ed Boyden
Your brain is the boss of you. It controls vital physiological functions--such as breathing--as well as thoughts, memories and learning. Yet, our understanding of the brain is downright rudimentary compared to our understanding of other organs. As part of the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative, NSF is working to change that through projects that study the brain's circuitry in action. Find out more in this discovery.
Credit: Parijat Sengupta, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The mission of the Division of Chemistry in NSF's Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences is to support innovative research in chemical sciences, integrated with education, through strategic investment in developing a globally engaged U.S. chemistry workforce reflecting the diversity of America.
A Washington University in St. Louis engineer has found a new way to control chemical oscillation that could help regulate biorhythms involving the heart, brain and circadian cycles.
April 11, 2016
Sea slug brain chemistry reveals a lot about human memory, learning
This team leaves no neuron unturned, using powerful new analytical chemistry tools to gain unprecedented insights into how animal and human brains function
As you can imagine, life is not very complicated for sea slugs. They use their brains mainly to find food, avoid becoming food and to reproduce. While the human brain and nervous system are wired with hundreds of billions of nerve cells, or neurons, sea slugs can get by with tens of thousands.
Ironically, sea slugs can tell us a lot about the chemistry of the human brain and nervous system. In fact, they are ideal as study subjects for research on learning, memory and how neurons control behavior because sea slugs' neurons form well defined and relatively simple neuronal networks and because they are surprisingly large, giving researchers more material to work with, according to analytical chemist Jonathan Sweedler.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Sweedler and his team at the University of Illinois are working to develop new measurement tools that enable insights into the function of individual cells in the central nervous systems of slugs and other animals in order to uncover novel neurochemical pathways. In addition to learning more about the chemistry, the team is also discovering molecules that were previously unknown. Ultimately, Sweedler says learning how to turn specific chemicals in the brain on and off could lead to new methods for diagnosing and treating chronic pain, drug addiction and neurological diseases.
The research in this episode was supported by NSF award #1111705, Bioanalytical Characterization of D-Amino Acids in the Brain.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.