Scientists Use Lab-Grown Brains to Study What Makes Us Human

Researchers are growing human, ape, and monkey brain tissue in the lab in order to understand what makes us different. Human brains are clearly unique in some way, given that we’re the only animal that can make and post memes online and fly into space. But questions still surround why we’re different from our close relatives, the other great apes, and it’s difficult to access the brain tissue needed to study these differences. One team of scientists hopes to explore the subject in a way that only humans can: with the help of genetic sequencing and organoids, miniature organs grown from stem cells in petri dishes. Read More >>

Can You Forget Things on Purpose?

Memory’s ungovernable, a ceaseless shaming pain: you’re either scrambling to retrieve it (rooting around for keys, or the name of some acquaintance) or you’re scrambling away from it, wishing it wouldn’t toss up, for the seven hundredth time, this or that miserable incident (deaths, bad dates, awkward elevator talk, trauma beyond the scope and tone of this parenthetical, etc.). Eternal Sunshine posited a medical remedy for this latter scourge – but is such a thing actually possible, outside of twee pseudo-indie movies from the early aughts? Can you actually forget things on purpose? For this week’s Giz Asks, we reached out a number of psychologists with different viewpoints to find out. Read More >>

Vocal Tract Simulator Translates a Person’s Brain Activity Into Clear Sentences

By capturing brain signals associated with the mechanical aspects of speaking, such as movements of the jaw, lips and tongue, researchers have created a virtual, computer-based vocal tract capable of intelligible speech. The system could eventually be used by people who have lost the capacity to speak. Read More >>

Blind People Really Do Have More Sensitive Hearing, MRI Study Finds

A new study out Monday suggests that losing your sight early in life can lead to subtle alterations in the brain circuitry primarily responsible for hearing Read More >>

Scientists Partially Revive Disembodied Pig Brains, Raising Huge Questions

Researchers from Yale have developed a system capable of restoring some functionality to the brains of decapitated pigs for at least 10 hours after death. The achievement has tremendous scientific potential, but it raises some serious ethical and philosophical concerns. Read More >>

MDMA Made Older Mice Start Socialising Like Teenagers

You might think of young brains as soft clay that can take on new shapes in response to various inputs. But as time passes, the clay hardens and is less workable—and like clay, older brains can be less likely to change in response to new situations. Scientists doing research in mice have realised this analogy seems to work for learning social behaviours, and that MDMA, the active ingredient of the drug ecstasy, might return older brains to a more malleable state. Read More >>

Fascinating Experiment Suggests Some Humans Can Sense Earth’s Magnetic Field

The ability to sense the Earth’s magnetic field—a trait known as magnetoreception—is well documented among many animals, but researchers have struggled to show that humans are also capable of the feat. Until now. Read More >>

Scientists Come Closer to Finding Out What Consciousness Looks Like in the Brain 

Most of the time, it’s easy to tell when someone is consciously aware. But there are many tragic cases when it’s unclear whether a person who is unresponsive after a serious brain injury is truly no longer conscious. That ambiguity can raise ethical questions about how to manage or ultimately end such a person’s life-sustaining care. Read More >>

Doctors Zap the Brains of Awake Brain Surgery Patients to Make Them Laugh and Have Fun

Some forms of brain surgery require patients to be awake and responsive—a rather unsettling proposition for even the bravest among us. Neuroscientists have now devised an ingenious way of reducing fear and anxiety during these delicate procedures by electrically stimulating a part of the brain that triggers laughter and good feelings. Read More >>

Neuroscientists Translate Brain Waves Into Recognisable Speech

Using brain-scanning technology, artificial intelligence, and speech synthesizers, scientists have converted brain patterns into intelligible verbal speech – an advance that could eventually give voice to those without. Read More >>

How a Periodic Table of Brains Could Revolutionise Neuroscience

Between your ears sits perhaps the most complex piece of biological machinery on the planet: an all-in-one computer, simulator, and creation device that operates out of a squishy, folded gray mass. And scientists aren’t quite sure how it works. Read More >>

Why Do We Forget?

To live is to forget – account numbers, names, the precise locations of keys and wallets, friends from childhood, peripheral characters from prestige TV shows, inside jokes, past ambitions, U.S. history, much else. Goldfish with guns: that’s the human race. But every frailty, we know, serves some larger adaptive purpose. So it is worth asking, as we wrack our brains for whatever it was we know we were supposed to do today: why must things be like this? Why do we forget? For this week’s Giz Asks, we reached out to a number of neuroscientists and psychologists to find out. Read More >>

Why Do We Remember Some Dreams but Not Others?

If you’ve ever woken up on the brink of a heart attack, drenched in sweat and convinced you’ll never live down the shame of sprinting nude through downtown Pittsburgh, you know that some dreams are more memorable than others. Most dreams, in fact, seem totally unmemorable – at least in the sense that we can’t remember them. And yet every now and then a dream will linger into breakfast and well into the day, or month, or year – will become a memory like any other. Read More >>

Would Perfect Memory Be a Burden or a Superpower?

The ability to remember every moment of your life sounds like an amazing proposition, but for the very few people who actually have this ability, it comes at a cost. Read More >>

Experimental Drug Offers a ‘Glimmer of Hope’ for People With a Devastating Form of Multiple Sclerosis

New research funded by the National Institutes of Health suggests an experimental drug can slow down the brain damage caused by a form of multiple sclerosis (MS), an incurable neurological disorder that eats away at the protective coating of our nervous system. But it’s still unclear whether the drug can noticeably improve the crippling symptoms sufferers experience. Read More >>