bon weekend 🙂
We’ve all heard the saying that individuals learn at their own pace. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed an automated, robotic training device that allows mice to learn at their leisure. The technology stands to further neuroscience research by allowing researchers to train animals under more natural conditions and identify mechanisms of circuit rewiring that occur during learning.
A research team led by Carnegie Mellon neuroscientist Alison Barth has used the automated technology to identify new, previously unidentified pathways activated when the brain rewires its circuits in response to experience. Their findings are published online in Neuron.
Barth’s lab focuses on understanding the process by which cortical circuits receive sensory information and adapt to it in order to learn. Understanding the algorithm that underlies the changes in the brain’s learning circuitry will have important implications for creating engineered systems that use deep learning and artificial intelligence.
“Neural circuits in the cerebral cortex have had 3.5 billion years to evolve to become perfectly adapted to learning things,” said Barth, a professor of biological sciences and member of the Carnegie Mellon Neuroscience Institute. “There is valuable information about what happens in the brain that can be used to inform computations that need to change based on experience.”
To better study how the brain changes during sensory learning, the researchers constructed an army of automated robotic devices, in an effort that was spearheaded by Sarah Bernhard, an undergraduate student in Carnegie Mellon’s Department of Biological Sciences. These devices allowed mice to voluntarily approach a water port in their home cage where they would receive a gentle puff of air to their whiskers followed by a drop of water. If they approached the port and didn’t feel a puff of air, they wouldn’t get a drop of water. Eventually, they learned that a puff of air meant water and they would start to drink when they felt it.
“It was almost like we gave the mice homework. Some took 50 tries to learn, others took 400. Some learned early in the evening, others learned late at night. But they all learned and learned quickly,” said Barth. “One thing that is critical to learning is that you have to be ready to learn. This device let mice learn when they wanted and at their own pace.”
They found that when they used the device, the mice learned quickly and independently, with no intervention from the researchers. As a result, they could capture a larger data set that more accurately reflects the individual diversity in learning.
In the Neuron study, Barth and colleagues used the robotic device to determine what sensory learning pathways were conserved across the population, regardless of how long learning took. They found some surprising results.
The pathways that changed the most in response to the sensory stimulus, indicating learning, were not the ones they expected. It was commonly thought that in sensory learning information came from the skin, traveling rapidly to the neocortex through the thalamus. However, the research team found that this pathway remained relatively unchanged during sensory learning. Instead, they were surprised to find that the cortical synapses, responding to a high-order and more integrative part of the thalamus, were much more plastic.
“Our results suggest that the brain maintains the pathway that represents the fast sensory input, things that you want to know for certain in any given situation. The pathway that is responsible for processing more context-rich information is the one that is flexible,” Barth said. “The brain keeps the original file but edits a copy of it.”
The results provide insight into the algorithm that the neocortex uses to rewire itself during learning. Barth plans to use this training paradigm to understand how and when different types of tasks and rewards can change the brain.
As you’re probably aware, the coronavirus disease, or COVID-19, has now been found in countries all over the globe. This is an understandably disconcerting moment for many, but there are steps we can all take to help mitigate the effect on our communities.
COVID-19 is spreading, but misinformation and disinformation are spreading even faster. The most responsible thing you can do is protect yourself from both the disease and false information. Being prepared with facts and data instead of assumptions and fabrications will help inform how you can best prepare for COVID-19.
Here are some resources you can trust:
- WHO provides daily updates surrounding COVID-19’s spread, infection rate, and general influence on our society. Their latest update given on March 3, 2020, details that there is a shortage of personal protective equipment for healthcare professionals. They also provide a very handy FAQ section, where you can learn more about how to protect yourself and your community.
- Every day Worldometer updates its website with the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in each country that has been affected. Worldometer has been rated one of the best free reference websites by the American Library Association, and for good reason: it lists every single one of its regular sources here, and lists the source of every COVID-19 update at the bottom of the COVID-19 page.
- Your local health department will often have the most up-to-date information specific to your immediate area, including how to proceed if you believe you may be showing symptoms of the virus. If you live in the United States, you can find the contact information for your health department by visiting the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO).
There’s another thing about this news that a lot of places are not talking about: the toll on one’s mental health, especially if you are someone who struggles with anxiety. If you find your concerns about being prepared are crossing a line that affects your mental health, please consider reaching out to a loved one who can guide you to help, a mental health professional, or an organization set up to help those in need.
Here are a couple of organizations you can trust:
- Crisis Text Line is free, 24/7 support. Just text 741741 from anywhere in the United States. The Crisis Text Line will connect you with a trained Crisis Counselor.
- National Alliance on Mental Health (@namiorg) offers free support and resources for those who are struggling. NAMI can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am - 6 pm EST at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or by email at email@example.com.
Take care of yourselves, Tumblr. Wash your hands well, practice keeping a safe distance from others, only wear a mask if you believe you are sick with COVID-19 symptoms and could infect others (or are immunocompromised yourself), and remember to fact check everything that you see. Head on over to @world-wide-what for a refresher on what fake news looks like and how it spreads. Pass those tips onto others when you see them accidentally spreading false information.
man: does bare minimum with child
world: WORLD’S GREATEST DAD!!!!
yep she went THERE
(Image caption: Thirst neurons in the hypothalamus (green and red) monitor how hydrating a drink will be based on signals from the gut. Credit: Knight lab / UCSF)
Water bottles are everywhere these days, along with all kinds of advice about exactly how much water you should be drinking. But how does your brain actually know when you’ve had enough and can stop feeling thirsty? A new UC San Francisco study — published March 27, 2019 in Nature — may have the answer.
Until recently, scientists believed that a brain region called the hypothalamus makes us thirsty when it detects a drop in the hydration of our blood. But UCSF neuroscientist Zachary Knight, PhD, an associate professor of physiology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, realized that this couldn’t be the whole story — in particular because a refreshing beverage begins to quench our thirst almost as soon as it touches our lips, despite taking 10 minutes or more to actually change our overall hydration.
In a 2016 study, Knight lab graduate student Christopher Zimmerman helped to explain this phenomenon by showing that sensory signals from the mouth and throat make thirst neurons in the hypothalamus shut down immediately when mice take a drink. These sensors appear to predict how hydrating a drink will be, based on the volume of liquid an animal swallows, and they are particularly attuned to cold fluids, which may explain why an icy drink is so refreshing.
“This fast signal from the mouth and throat appears to track how much you drink and match that to what your body needs,” Zimmerman said. “But we also knew that this fast signal couldn’t explain everything.”
In particular, the researchers wondered how the brain knows exactly how hydrating a drink will be. After all, sea water doesn’t quench thirst, but it would activate many of the same receptors in the mouth and throat as ice water from the fridge.
In their new study, Zimmerman and colleagues used flexible optical fibers implanted near the hypothalamus to watch the activity of thirst neurons as mice drank salty water. In agreement with the team’s earlier results, these neurons did go quiet as soon as the thirsty animals took a drink, but then quickly switched back on, as if some other sensor were testing the water the animal had just drunk and alerting the brain: “Too salty — stay thirsty!”
To see whether these signals could be coming from the gut, the researchers infused liquid directly into the stomachs of thirsty mice while watching the activity of their thirst neurons. They found that infusing fresh water deactivated these cells just as well as taking a drink does, but after infusions of salt water thirst neurons remained active. When mice were given a salt infusion and then allowed drink pure water, their thirst neurons initially went quiet as they drank, but soon switched back on, as if signaling the need to drink more to make up for the added salt in their stomachs.
These results suggest that the sensors in the mouth and throat that Zimmerman discovered in 2016 let the brain temporarily quench thirst to reward animals for taking a drink, but that the thirst neurons then review this decision based on a second level of sensors in the gut (probably at the beginning of the small intestine, the authors suggest) that predict how well the drink will rehydrate the animal and tell it whether it needs to keep drinking.
“Interestingly, infusing salt water into the stomach didn’t drive drinking in well-hydrated mice, just in mice who were already thirsty,” Zimmerman said. “This suggests that signals from the gut are needed to quench thirst, but that you actually need to become dehydrated to trigger thirst in the first place.”
The researchers showed that the gut’s hydration signals travel via the vagus nerve to activate thirst neurons. Using a technique called optogenetics, which lets scientists activate or shut down particular groups of neurons using beams of light, the researchers showed how these cells — which are located in the hypothalamus’s subfornical organ (SFO) — pass messages to the nearby median preoptic nucleus (MnPO), which can respond by driving animals to drink and telling the kidney to conserve water in the bloodstream.
The researchers were intrigued to discover that a subset of individual neurons in the MnPO appeared to respond to and integrate drinking signals from the mouth and throat, satiation signals from the gut, and information about an animal’s overall hydration level from the bloodstream. Other nearby cells also encoded other information like an animal’s stress level or the availability of water sources.
“This is the first time we’ve been able to watch in real time as single neurons integrate signals from different parts of the body to control a behavior like drinking,“ Knight said. “This opens the door to studying how all these signals interact, such as how stress or body temperature influences thirst and appetite.”
In addition to studying the normal function of the SFO and MnPO thirst neurons, the researchers hope to use these insights to understand whether defects in how these neurons regulate fluid balance within the body could explain the origins of diseases like high blood pressure.
“The hypothalamus is a critical center for keeping our physiology within a healthy range, whether it’s hydration, appetite, making sure we’re the right temperature, or controlling blood pressure — and all of these needs compete with and modify one another,” Knight said. “It has been difficult to study how all of these factors interact in the brain of a living animal, but studies like this are beginning to allow us to investigate this critical question.”
The internet can be a really wonderful place
It’s changed the way we learn and research, the way we connect with others, and the way we express ourselves in positive, powerful ways. But it’s no secret that these improvements also present us with unique challenges. We can learn new things faster, but sometimes we have to sort through piles of misinformation while we do—and it’s not always easy to detect. We’re able to connect with people we never would have met otherwise thanks to social media, but it can encourage addictive behavior in the apps that keep us connected. We’re able to express ourselves more easily, but we sometimes overshare in ways detrimental to our careers, reputation, and mental health.
We—as in Tumblr the company—are not immune to these challenges. You know it. We know it. And we hear you. We recognize that toxicity and negativity happen everywhere online, even on Tumblr. We are constantly striving to learn and utilize new ways to create a safe place for our communities. Opening up this dialogue to anyone who wants to join is the first step we’re taking in 2020 to foster a more positive, collaborative experience. Over the next year, we’ll be rolling out improvements and updates to our platform that improves your experience.
We can all agree that these challenges exist, but let’s look out for each other; Teach other people and ourselves how to keep the wonderful parts of the internet in view while working through the troublesome bits. These issues are best addressed through honest, open dialogue.
That’s why we’ve partnered with the UK non-profit, Ditch the Label (@ditchthelabel), to help spread some internet safety awareness as well as facilitate some much-needed conversation between yourselves—the community on Tumblr.
We’re calling it World Wide What
At the heart of this campaign is, well, you. We want to hear from you. Over the next month we’ll focus on six different topics with accompanying videos for discussion. Each one will feature a different real-world problem you’ve most likely faced as an Extremely Online Person (yeah, we see you) and what you can do to mitigate those issues. They’re live right now:
“Don’t @ Me” (Cyberbullying)
Some posts will be accompanied by Answer Times with guests that can speak knowledgeably about one or more of the topics we’re focusing on. We’re looking at:
1/8 – @medialiteracyed taking questions about fake news
1/15 – @ditchthelabel opening up their ask box to discuss cyberbullying
1/22 – Jameela Jamil, founder of I Weigh, to answer questions about the effects of inauthentic social media personalities
TBD – Someone from the leadership team here at Tumblr to talk about user safety
One of the more beautiful qualities of the Tumblr community is that so many of you spare the time and space to look out for others. If you have someone in your life that you think could use a little guiding light to use social media in a safer way for their mental or physical health, this might be a good resource to send them.
You can stay tuned for more updates on World Wide What, including when our Answer Times go live, by following this blog. If you want to be notified the moment a post from us goes live, tap or click the silhouette at the top of our page and select “Get notifications.”
In the meantime, we want to hear from you. What kind of impact has social media had on your mental health? If you want to start a conversation with the community, reblog this post or make a new one and tag it so others can easily find it.
Underwater excavation in Heracleion. Franck Goddio and divers of his team are inspecting the statue of a pharaoh. The colossal statue is of red granite and measures over 5 metres. It was found close to the big temple of sunken Thonis-Heracleion and reassembled on the site. [1772x1230]
For years I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work. Instead I was given an opportunity to sign back up to Big Machine Records and ‘earn’ one album back at a time, one for every new one I turned in. I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future. I had to make the excruciating choice to leave behind my past. Music I wrote on my bedroom floor and videos I dreamed up and paid for from the money I earned playing in bars, then clubs, then arenas, then stadiums.
Some fun facts about today’s news: I learned about Scooter Braun’s purchase of my masters as it was announced to the world. All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at his hands for years.
Like when Kim Kardashian orchestrated an illegally recorded snippet of a phone call to be leaked and then Scooter got his two clients together to bully me online about it. (See photo) Or when his client, Kanye West, organized a revenge porn music video which strips my body naked. Now Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy. Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it.
This is my worst case scenario. This is what happens when you sign a deal at fifteen to someone for whom the term ‘loyalty’ is clearly just a contractual concept. And when that man says ‘Music has value’, he means its value is beholden to men who had no part in creating it.
When I left my masters in Scott’s hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually he would sell them. Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter. Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words ‘Scooter Braun’ escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to. He knew what he was doing; they both did. Controlling a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them. In perpetuity. That means forever.
Thankfully, I am now signed to a label that believes I should own anything I create. Thankfully, I left my past in Scott’s hands and not my future. And hopefully, young artists or kids with musical dreams will read this and learn about how to better protect themselves in a negotiation. You deserve to own the art you make.
I will always be proud of my past work. But for a healthier option, Lover will be out August 23.
Sad and grossed out,
During the construction of London’s massive “super sewer,” archaeologists discovered something unusual in the mud: a 500-year-old skeleton of a man still wearing his thigh-high leather boots.
The Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) announced this week that the skeleton was unearthed on the shores of the Thames, near a bend in the river downstream from the Tower of London.
“By studying the boots, we’ve been able to gain a fascinating glimpse into the daily life of a man who lived as many as 500 years ago,” said Beth Richardson, a finds specialist who analyzes artifacts at MOLA Headland, a consortium of archaeologists. “They have helped us to better understand how he may have made his living in hazardous and difficult conditions, but also how he may have died. It has been a privilege to be able to study something so rare and so personal.” Read more.
- Oprah Winfrey
Sir Elton John approves of Harry Styles’ Gucci-fied Dodgers Halloween ‘fit! 😍
On this transformation tuesday 🌷
Cleaning your house can change your life! ✨💎💫
Cleaning, clutter clearing, a little more organization… it’s really great for your energy and building the kind of focus that feels/acts like magic! 💫
If your home seems far from ideal right now, though, that doesn’t mean you’re doomed! Even starting with one little thing every day that is cleaned, cleared or organized changes the flow of energy and starts creating a whole new wave of empowerment! ⚡️💥
📸: @peace_love_light ✨ I love seeing these Feng Shui ideas becoming popular!
#designyourlife #fengshui #goodvibesonly #organize #mindfulness #empowerment #loveyourlife #fengshuitips #successquotes #homemagic #manifest #highvibes