Ramirez, Liu et al. (2013) and Liu, Ramirez et al. (2013)


Ramirez, Liu et al. (2013). Creating a false memory in the hippocampus. Science, 341(6144): 387-391.

Liu, Ramirez et al. (2013). Inception of a false memory by optogenetic manipulation of a hippocampal memory engram. Phil Trans R Soc B, 369(1633): 20130142

To be fair, one of these papers reviews the other as well as the Liu, Ramirez, et al. paper I’ve already reviewed. But A) I read both, and B) I need to make up ground in advance for the 6 months I’ll need to re-read, understand, and review Marr’s 1971 paper.

I highly recommend playing the theme music to Inception while reading this paper and/or blog post.



Memory engram storage and retrieval. Tonegawa, et al. (2015)

In my first post, in a long, loooooong time, I’ve decided to join the #366papers group on Twitter and read a paper every day (due to the vacations recently booked, I know I’ll fail). I figured to keep this blog alive and to keep me writing something other than grants, I would post short, daily reviews, and perhaps longer reviews after finishing a group of papers. I’ll likely revisit papers multiple times as I learn more. I’m interested to see how my analyses will change with time. So here, I’ll start with a review on a topic I find very exciting: the identification of memory engrams. (more…)

Mind(s) of Your Own

The prominent debate in the young years of neuroscience was whether or not the brain had specialized functional regions or whether the brain as a whole was responsible for all cognitive functions.

Franz Joseph Gall was the first to assert the radical notion that all behavior emanated from the brain and that specific regions of the cerebral cortex (the large, convoluted structure on top of many pictures of the brain) controlled specific functions. Though, these assertions would be shown to hold water, he falsely viewed the brain as being synonymous to a muscle, with specific areas getting larger with use, which would cause the skull above these areas to bulge, meaning that the surface of the skull could give information about one’s mental state. This became known as phrenology and though the idea of the skull’s shape being indicative of mental capabilities has been conclusively discredited, Gall’s first two assertions have been supported.

In support of Gall’s claims that the brain contained specialized functional areas came the research of Pierre Paul Broca of France and Karl Wernicke of Germany. These two men studied aphasias, which are disorders of language. Broca discovered that patients who displayed difficulty in generating speech, yet had no ailment of the mouth or vocal cords, often had a lesion (damage, such as that caused by stroke) in a very specific site in the left cerebral hemisphere. Wernicke’s patients, who could speak, but not understand language, also had lesions in another specific site of the left hemisphere. Wernicke thus came to the conclusion that the brain was a parallel distributed processor, meaning that complex functions, such as language, are the result of different brain regions working in both serial and parallel manners.

In using using this model of cognitive function, Wernicke successfully predicted another aphasia called conduction aphasia in which these areas were intact, but the connections between them were compromised. Patients with this condition generate nonsensical speech, despite being able to form words and understand language.


Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas. Source

If understanding and generating language takes place solely in the left hemisphere, then what occurs at these places on the right hemisphere? (more…)

Ending the War on Drugs: How Studying the Brain Gives Us Optimism for an Effective Drug Policy


In complete contrast with his brother’s views about drug policy, Christopher Hitchens expresses a more libertarian view, criticizing and advocating an end to the War on Drugs in the United States and Britain. In conversation with David Frum, it is pointed out how if drugs were legalized, addiction rates may increase. Well, why the hell should we ever advocate for a policy that would have such a result? (more…)

Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Science?

I’m going to step away from the two sensational articles I’ve written on drug addiction and decision making to discuss some feedback I’ve been getting about some of the articles I’ve posted. Don’t worry, I will wrap up my discussion on drugs soon.

Have you ever been told something you were quite surprised by and didn’t want to believe at all, only to see over time that it was in fact true? Perhaps, at first, you denied it vehemently. Then you accepted it begrudgingly. Then you regarded it as a a mere fact. Perhaps you have even come to a point where you find it interesting and take a pride in it.

For example, maybe you’ve been told that you look just like someone else whom you’d rather not look like, perhaps a celebrity that you don’t see as particularly attractive. At first you may be insulted and claim you look nothing like them. Over time, however, enough people point out the resemblance and you begin to see objective truth in their observations and eventually impersonate this celebrity every year on Halloween. Though I was mortified when it was first brought up in high school, I’ve simply come to terms with and embrace the fact that I’m a near perfect duplication of a young Brad Pitt:


I Can’t Choose…Really, I Can’t

In my last post, I explained a little bit of how addiction works in our brains. For addiction to occur, we must have had to have taken the addictive substance in first place, something many people, such as Peter Hitchens you may remember, regard erroneously as a choice that is worthy of punishment. Let’s look at how our brains make decisions and see if we agree with Mr. Hitchens, or if we have a different opinion. (more…)

Learning to Do Drugs

“Neuroanatomy and neurochemistry?! And you’re going to link it to an important social issues?! I knew you were a generous man who knows what I need,” you’ll say at the end of this article.

Have you ever heard someone say that addiction is a disease? Have you ever heard someone say that addiction isn’t a disease, but rather, substance abusers merely choose to make themselves sick? Have you ever heard someone defend either of these positions adequately? (more…)

Cancer That Causes…Pedophilia?

Today, I have some neuroanatomy for you: prefrontal cortex.

Mmmm…goes down smooth.

What is a prefrontal cortex (PFC)? This is an area of your cerebral cortex located in the frontal lobe that carries out what neuroscientists will often refer to as “executive functions.” These include mood and action regulation, working memory, attention, etc.

Let’s discuss action regulation. Have you ever had a thought you didn’t want to have, or perhaps were not so bothered by having, but simply would never act upon? That’s because your PFC shuts down your urges. It makes sense then that reductions in prefrontal volume, as well as low connectivity of the PFC with other brain regions has been seen in criminal populations. Some people simply have a reduced capacity not to do bad things. Causes of this include life stressors, lead poisoning and cancer. (more…)

Unconscious Science

In a recent study on brain activity in an epileptic patient, a research team in a neuroscience lab at George Washington University discovered that in stimulating a region of the brain known as the claustrum, they were able to affect the consciousness of the study’s subject – turning it “off.”

Though to most, this may seem like a rather interesting study, perhaps shedding some light on a topic that has been widely debated within science and philosophy for centuries while also studying a devastating disorder, to others it immediately raised some alarms. (more…)