At one time or another in our life, all of us are confronted with the most fundamental question of “who am I?” Do our memories make us who we are? When our memories are lost we are thrown into a realm of confusion about ourselves. From this we can safely conclude that our memories are a significant part of our identity. But have you ever wondered about the genesis of these memories? How is it that certain memories are more profound than others? Isn’t it puzzling how the same brain that can sometimes forget the simplest of things can also remember certain incidents that haunt us for the rest of our lives!
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The eyes and the hands work together as a team for most of the daily tasks we perform. When we pick up the morning coffee, or when we drive to work, our brains are constantly commandeering our eye and hand systems to bring about smooth, coordinated movements. We often do not consciously compute the steps required to bring them about. However, when the coordination is disrupted, even the simplest of tasks like picking up a book prove to be extremely challenging. How does the brain achieve efficient eye-hand coordination? A recent study from Prof. Aditya Murthy’s laboratory at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, explores this critical question and suggests a framework to understand the control mechanisms ofcoordinated eye-hand movements.
The human brain excels at object recognition. Presented with images of a chair, table and a squirrel, you will probably recognize them instantly for what they are, even that the first two objects fall under the category of “furniture” and are completely different from the third.
In a paper published in Nature, researchers have compiled information about the brain disorders dominant in certain low and middle income countries across the globe: in Africa, Asia, Middle East and Latin America. About one-third of the total disease burden in developing countries comes from brain disorders. In India alone, there are 3.7 million people with dementia and the numbers are expected to double by 2030.
Monkeys and apes, humans included, are naturally capable of complex coordinated tasks that befuddle state-of-the-art robots. A crucial component of such ability in humans and non-human priamtes is eye-hand coordination, which, as part of our common evolutionary heritage, is likely to have similar mechanisms and played a pivotal role in our survival. Although the importance of eye-hand coordination in activites like arranging lego blocks or reaching for a glass of water may not be obvious to many of us, it is a matter of life and death each time a monkey swings from branch to branch.
Nestled in the quiet and sparsely populated CNS wing, Dr. Balaji’s lab is full of activity. The research in this very recently established lab focuses on the storage and organisation of information in the brain and how this influences learning and behaviour. Dr. Balaji, an alumnus of UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), explains that while this can be studied in a variety of ways, his lab mainly uses mice as a model system. Currently, attention in this lab is centred on two main areas of research: autobiographical memory and associative learning.
Examining how the brain and nervous system control these actions forms the research focus of Dr. Aditya Murthy, an Associate Professor in the Centre for Neuroscience at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
The first Indian case of Coats plus syndrome, a rare genetic disorder has been identified in Bangalore by a team of researchers. This interdisciplinary team consisted of scientists from NIMHANS and IISc in Bangalore, and CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in New Delhi.
This rare disorder has an estimated prevalence of 1 in 10,00,000 people across the globe and affects multiple organs. The scientists identified an eight-year-old boy who showed signs of having this rare disease, along with an unusual occurrence of Dextrocardia, where the heart is positioned on the right side of the body instead of the left.
The best computer algorithms cannot do even simple visual tasks like recognizing distorted letters. What makes the human brain so good at vision?