15 November 2014

Brains and bacteria: teaming up to bring you neuro-news and microbial fun!

Exciting news! JCN is teaming up twice between now and xmas to bring you MOAR science cartoons…

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

From the news: bilingual neurons – not so unusual…

First up; some background. Neurons make and fire out chemical signals called neurotransmitters; that’s the main way they talk to each other. Neurotransmitters travel from one cell to another across synapses, the tiny spaces between neurons. Each message hits receptors on the receiving cell surface, which transmit the message into the cell. Excitatory messages make receiving cells fire faster, and inhibitory ones slow them down. Neurotransmitters can also cause the receiving cell to make a new protein, show different receptors on their surfaces, and a bunch of other useful stuff.Recently a paper came out here, discussed in an article with a catchy title about bilingual neuronshere. Time was, we used to think neurons mainly spoke in one neurotransmitter. Thats how they’re named… so that’s how we still think of them. We get it into our heads that glutamatergic neurons talk via excitatory glutamate, and GABAergic neurons speak inhibitory GABA. Dopaminergic neurons use dopamine, and so on. So the fact that neurons could use two seemingly opposite neurotransmitters – GABA and glutamate – in ‘bilingual’ communication seems counter-intuitive…

Sunday, 9 November 2014

From the news: eat chocolate to improve your brain? if only it were that simple…

Many of you will have seen the recent fuss about a study from Nature Neuroscience, reporting that a component of cocoa (flavanols) may enhance the function of a bit of your brain related to memory (the dentate gyrus, part of the hippocampus).This news was widely reported under headlines suggesting that chocolate improves your memory. Now I think we all know what the hope of many of us is when we see a headline like this;

This is what I dream of, anyway!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Axo-dendritic synapses: because everyone loves the classics

Time for part 2 of the Synapse Series! Special thanks to @prerana123 for help with this post!
Axo-dendritic synapses are the classic synapse that everyone thinks of; an axon from one neuron synapses at the dendrites of another. Thats what we all learned in school, and so this synapse has become a classic. The brain is a complicated thing, though.There are other types of synapses (likethe axo-axonal synapse in episode 1), and neurons may make connections with many cells via more than one synapse type.
Like these synapses? Then please visit my shop! ๐Ÿ™‚
The synapse shown here is between a basket cell, whose axons are stamping on the shaft of pyramidal cells dendrites! Basket cells are inhibitory; they reduce activity in the pyramidal cells they form synapses with. This kind of synapse occurs in various parts of the cortex – the folded outer layer of your brain.Also there’s 15% off everything at RB at the moment, so click here to visit to my shop and use code
RBHOLIDAY15 at the checkout! Thanks y’all and have a great week ๐Ÿ™‚

Saturday, 1 November 2014Back from break, and (briefly) back to the lab!

Well, after 4 dtates and 3 time zones, I’m home safe from the USA. I’ve got an exciting microscopy-themed commission on in November, and it looks like in December, JCN will temporarily be The Journal of Cartoon Microbiology – more about that later. But for now, I’ve been having a flashback to my past life in the lab, as I revisited my old cellular haunts… paper revisions from postdocs outlive the job itself.Looking back at some fluorescent cell imaging work, reminded me that one of the students in my old lab had a theory about why, sometimes, experiments that should work in theory don’t work every time. There are many reason an experiment may not work – it could just be a badly thought out experiment, but sometimes its preparation or execution may be sub-optimal. Ingredients go off. Temperature sensors break. Maybe the cells were a bit peaky, maybe the temperature went awry, or the fluorescent antibodies were maybe a bit old… The student’s theory in this case was: sometimes the cells just don’t feel that fluorescence is really them. Maybe it just isn’t their personal colour choice. So naturally a cartoon image sprang into my head…

Here’s hoping y’all had a great halloween, and more neurotoons will be heading your way next week!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014JCN is taking a two week break

JCN is taking a two week break. In the mean time, please enjoy this vintage JCN moment of electrophysiological magic, brought to you by stats; we all hoped our many temperamental cells average out as one lovely one!

The magic of stats can also be found here:

Friday, 3 October 2014The Trouble with neural cell culture #3: A culture of laziness

If you grow cells from biopsies or brain tissue samples in culture, you know neural cell types can be some of the most intractable little baskets going. And if you have the, umm, ‘pleasure’ of ever studying the electrical activity of neurons in culture, you’ll know they can be variously fickle, contrary or lazy too; sometimes all at the same time. This JCN is in solidarity and sympathy for all those labouring in the service of these little blighters. Happy friday y’all!

The ‘Kevin the teenagers’ of the tissue culture world…



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