Consciousness Overview

Consciousness is the quality or state of awareness, or, of being aware of an external object or something within oneself.

At one time consciousness was viewed with skepticism by many scientists, but in recent years it has become a significant topic of research in psychology, neuropsychology and neuroscience. The primary focus is on understanding what it means biologically and psychologically for information to be present in consciousness—that is, on determining the neural and psychological correlates of consciousness.

Special Topics in Neuroscience

In this post, you will find short summaries of some of the major special topics in neuroscience. To learn more about a specific special topic and related posts, click on the titles in this post to go directly to a slide show of related posts.

Neural Recording     Brain Mapping
Neuromodulation   Brain Evolution
Neuroplasticity   Learning & Memory
Consciousness     Aging and the Brain
Neuromorphic Computing

Aging and the Brain Overview

Age is a major risk factor for most common neurodegenerative diseases, including Mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, cerebrovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease and Lou Gehrig’s disease.

While much research has focused on diseases of aging, there are, at the presen time,few informative studies on the molecular biology of the aging brain. Research does suggest that the aging process is associated with several structural, chemical, and functional changes in the brain as well as a host of neurocognitive changes.

Brain Evolution Overview

The principles that govern the evolution of brain structure are not well understood.

Brain to body size does not scale isometrically (in a linear fashion) but rather allometrically. The brains and bodies of mammals do not scale linearly. Small bodied mammals have relatively large brains compared to their bodies and large mammals (such as whales) have small brains; similar to growth.

Brain Mapping Overview

Brain mapping utilizes a set of neuroscience techniques predicated on the mapping of (biological) quantities or properties onto spatial representations of the (human or non-human) brain resulting in maps.

Brain mapping is the study of the anatomy and function of the brain and spinal cord through the use of imaging, immuno-histochemistry, molecular & optogenetics, stem cell and cellular biology, engineering (material, electrical and biomedical), neurophysiology and nanotechnology.

Neural Engineering Overview

Neural engineering (also known as neuroengineering) is a discipline within biomedical engineering that uses engineering techniques to understand, repair, replace, enhance, or otherwise exploit the properties of neural systems.

Neural engineers are uniquely qualified to solve design problems at the interface of living neural tissue and non-living constructs.

Neural Recording Overview

Neural recording is the use of neurotechnologies to measure an aspect of brain function and the electro-physiological responses of single neurons.

Common neuroimaging methods for measuring brain function include: Positron emission tomography (PET), Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), multichannel electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG), near infrared spectroscopic imaging (NIRSI), and Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). Single neuron measurement normally uses a microelectrode system.

Neuroethics Overview

Neuroethics refers to two related fields of study: what the philosopher Adina Roskies has called the ethics of neuroscience, and the neuroscience of ethics. The ethics of neuroscience comprises the bulk of work in neuroethics.

It concerns the ethical, legal and social impact of neuroscience, including the ways in which neurotechnology can be used to predict or alter human behavior and "the implications of our mechanistic understanding of brain function for society... integrating neuroscientific knowledge with ethical and social thought".

Neuromodulation Overview

Neuromodulation is the process when a neuron uses one or more neurotransmitters to regulate populations of neurons, unlike in classical synaptic transmission, where a presynaptic neuron directly influences a postsynaptic partner.

Neuromodulators secreted by a small group of neurons diffuse through large areas of the nervous system, affecting multiple neurons. Major neuromodulators in the central nervous system include dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, histamine, and norepinephrine.

Neuromorphic Computing

In recent times the term neuromorphic has been used to describe analog, digital, and mixed-mode analog/digital VLSI and software systems that implement models of neural systems (for perception, motor control, or multisensory integration).

Neuromorphic Computing, also known as neuromorphic engineering is a concept developed by Carver Mead, in the late 1980s, describing the use of very-large-scale integration (VLSI) systems containing electronic analog circuits to mimic neuro-biological architectures present in the nervous system.

Neuroplasticity Overview

Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity, is an umbrella term that encompasses both synaptic plasticity and non-synaptic plasticity.

Neuroplasticity refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behavior, environment, neural processes, thinking, emotions, as well as changes resulting from bodily injury. Neuroplasticity has replaced the formerly-held position that the brain is a physiologically static organ, and explores how – and in which ways – the brain changes throughout life.

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