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30 Amazing Facts About Your Brain That Will Blow Your Mind

The brain is one of the most astonishing and intricate parts of the human body, yet it only takes up a fraction of space. But, oddly enough, there's so much the average person doesn't know about his or her noggin. Here are some strangely interesting facts about your gray matter.

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History of mistrust complicates study of dementia in African-Americans

8.8.2017

The question came as a shock to Dorothy Reeves: Would she be willing to donate her husband's brain for research?

She knew dementia would steadily take Levi Reeves' memories of their 57-year marriage, his remaining lucidity and, eventually, his life. But to let scientists take his brain after he died? That seemed too much to ask.

Mice made with CRISPR usher in new era of autism research

8.7.2017

Researchers have debuted two mouse models of autism made using the gene-editing tool CRISPR. Both strains lack one functional copy of CHD8, a gene with strong ties to autism.

CRISPR allows researchers to quickly and efficiently insert specific mutations into single-cell mouse embryos. Several teams have used the method to make mouse models for other conditions, including Rett syndrome, an autism-related condition. The new mice represent the first use of the method to make models expressly for autism.

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Why are Alzheimer’s Rates So High Among Latinos?

8.4.2017

Latinos are California’s fastest-growing ethnic group. They’re also among the most likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. A new five-year study out of UC Davis will investigate why.

The study grew out of a $14.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. It will involve nine other universities and last for five years.

Rates of dementia in Latino adults are about 1.5 times higher than rates in white adults. They are slightly lower than the rates in the African American community.

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Med student focusing on brain research awarded 2017 O'Connor research grant

7.28.2017

John Paul Aboubechara, a fifth-year student in the combined M.D./Ph.D. program at UC Davis School of Medicine, has been honored with this year’s Daniel T. O’Connor, M.D., Memorial Research Grant.

Medical student John Paul Aboubechara, who also is working on a doctorate in neuroscience, has a 'bench-to-bedside' vision for his careeer in medicine.

Aboubechara, who is pursuing a doctorate in neuroscience, earned the award for his research into the role that immune dysregulation plays in neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia.

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UC Davis to co-lead $14.7 million study of dementia in U.S. Hispanics

7.25.2017

A UC Davis neurology researcher will share the lead in a $14.7 million, multiyear study examining the causes of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia among Latinos in the United States, university officials announced Tuesday. The work is being funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Charles S. DeCarli, director of the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center, will serve as co-principal investigator along with Hector M. Gonzalez, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Michigan State University.

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UC Davis neurosurgeon talks Sen. John McCain's brain cancer

7.25.2017

Sen. John McCain voted to begin debate on an Obamacare replacement Tuesday. 

The Arizona Republican's crucial vote comes after his recent brain cancer diagnosis, which we wanted to know more about. 

Glioblastoma is an aggressive brain cancer. Tumors could return and there is an average survival rate of about 14 months.

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The riddle of CHD8 haploinsufficiency in autism spectrum disorder

7.19.2017

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of neurodevelopmental conditions defined by social and communication deficits accompanied by repetitive and stereotyped behaviors. The core symptoms of ASDs are rarely isolated and most often coexist with other conditions, such as intellectual disability and epilepsy. ASDs have a strong genetic basis as demonstrated by recurrence risk in families and twin studies. In recent years, genetic studies have identified several chromatin remodeling genes with causal roles in neurodevelopmental disorders.

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Mice Provide Insight Into Genetics of Autism Spectrum Disorders

6.26.2017

While the definitive causes remain unclear, several genetic and environmental factors increase the likelihood of autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, a group of conditions covering a “spectrum” of symptoms, skills and levels of disability.

Taking advantage of advances in genetic technologies, researchers led by Alex Nord, assistant professor of neurobiology, physiology and behavior with the Center for Neuroscience at the University of California, Davis, are gaining a better understanding of the role played by a specific gene involved in autism. The collaborative work appears June 26 in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

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Could Prozac be a treatment for children with autism?

6.22.2017

After drinking mother’s milk spiked with the antidepressant Prozac for 19 days, infant mice bred to mimic the distinctive behaviors and brain abnormalities seen in autism experienced dramatic improvements in their social interactions, communication patterns and a wide range of neurochemical peculiarities that are a hallmark of the disorder, according to a new study.

And when newborn mice got a daily injection of Prozac in their first six days of life, the treatment appeared to restore normal vocalization patterns and reduce anxiety-like behaviors well into adulthood, the new research showed.

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It shouldn’t take a crisis to address mental illness. There’s a better way.

6.15.17

As you gather with children this Father’s Day weekend, consider how far you would go to ensure their well-being: If your child had cancer or diabetes, would you wait until the disease were critical before you called doctors to intervene?

Of course not. And yet this year, as in every year, thousands of young adults will cross the threshold into serious mental illness and go untreated because of a health care paradigm that California must change.

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Curious about Curiosity

6.13.2017

Neuroscientists are beginning to understand the connections.

Curiosity’s powers extend above and beyond its perceived potential contributions to usefulness or benefits. It has shown itself to be an unstoppable drive. The efforts humans have invested, for instance, in exploring and attempting to decipher the world around them, have always far exceeded those needed for mere survival. It seems that we are an endlessly curious species, some of us even compulsively so. University of Southern California neuroscientist Irving Biederman says human beings are designed to be “infovores,” creatures that devour information.

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Researchers have ditched the autism-vaccine hypothesis. Here’s what they think actually causes it.

5.11.2017

Of all the issues doctors have explored in children’s health, none has been more exhaustively researched than the question of whether vaccines are linked to autism. After hundreds and hundreds of studies in thousands of children, “We can say with almost as much certainty than anybody could ever say that vaccines don’t cause autism,” Mayo Clinic autism researcher Dr. Sunil Mehta told me.

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The next big challenge in AI could be teaching computers how to think like humans

5.11.2017

Charan Ranganath has dedicated his professional life to studying how the human brain works. Now the UC Davis psychology professor is pushing that research into new frontiers by teaching computers how to slow down and mimic that same complicated but imperfect organ.

Ranganath and his team are putting to use a $7.5 million grant from the Department of Defense to develop a computational model that emulates how memory functions in the real world. The DOD is hoping to use that model to help predict and prevent terrorist activities as well as for other national security purposes. Ranganath is taking on that task by leading a team of five other scientists from Princeton, Harvard, Washington University in St. Louis and New York University.

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Grant to Model Human Memory and Learning for Machines

4.27.2017

Much of what scientists know about human memory comes from studies involving relatively simple acts of recollection — remembering lists of words or associations between names and faces.

However, they know very little about the brain networks that support memories for complex events, like when we remember the plot of a book or movie or what we experienced, thought and felt during a childhood birthday party.

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March for Science 2017

4.23.2017

Lots of scientists marched yesterday. Five explain why they didn't  Read Article

See pictures of our CNS Faculty and Students at the March

Living with Alzheimer’s: New California guidelines aim for easier, earlier diagnoses

4.5.2017

It’s the much-feared diagnosis no one wants to hear. But under new state and federal guidelines, more patients could be getting easier and earlier diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease, which already affects more than 600,000 Californians.

“Alzheimer’s can be challenging to diagnose, especially in a very busy primary care setting,” said Dr. Charles DeCarli, neurologist and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at UC Davis.

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Improving the Lives of Families

4.4.2017

UC Davis researchers search tirelessly for solutions for families affected by autism.

When 16-year-old Kira Duley wants to tell her mom how she's feeling, she does a Google image search.  For love, she points to a heart.  For sad, a frowning emoji.  For lonely, a photo of a woman standing alone on a beach, looking off into a sunset. 

Kira communicates this way because she has autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Although autism presents itself differently in different people, 25 percent of peole with autism- like Kira- do not develop spoken language. 

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UC Davis Encouraged by Changes to Alzheimer's Care

4.4.2017

There is new help for people dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.

New state guidelines and federal funding are promising to help ease the confusion about care.

Dr. Charles DeCarli is the director of Alzheimer’s Disease Center at UC Davis. He’s optimistic about the new guidelines he says will translate into better care for Dementia patients. According to Dr. DeCarli, “Too many people who could be treated are not being diagnosed and therefore not getting effective treatment.”

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Autism breakthrough as brain fluid link could lead to earlier diagnosis of condition

3.6.2017

A huge study has found that many toddlers diagnosed with autism at two years of age had a substantially greater amount of cerebrospinal fluid when they were babies.

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An old drug gets a new price to fight a rare disease: $89,000 a year

2.10.2017

An old steroid treatment, long available outside the United States, received approval this week for a rare disease that afflicts about 15,000 Americans. Though not previously approved in the United States, the drug, deflazacort, has for years been available to patients suffering from the devastating and fatal disease Duchenne muscular dystrophy; families can import it from abroad for about $1,200 per year on average.

The new list price for the drug? $89,000 a year.

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What Do Genetic Links Between Cancer And Autism Mean For Treatment?

2.9.2017

In 1997 a Cleveland-based researcher studying a rare, sometimes-cancerous condition noticed that an unusually high percentage of her patients also had a particular type of autism. She eventually discovered that both conditions shared the same genetic mutation.

Since then, a number of other cancer genes have been found in some types of autism, and a recent report out of the University of California Davis says 43 genes thought to be involved in autism are also associated with cancer.

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Forget Me Not: The Harrowing Tale of H. M.'s Brain (Excerpt)

2.9.2017

Michael D. Lemonick explains how a postmortem study of the most celebrated amnesic in history went awry

I pulled the New York Times out of its plastic delivery bag on the morning of December 5, 2008, unfolded the paper, and read this headline on the front page: “H.M., an Unforgettable Amnesiac, Dies at 82.”

He was certainly unforgettable to me. I’d first read about H.M. in my freshman psychology textbook at college, in the fall of 1971, less than twenty years after the experimental surgery that robbed him of most of his existing memories and also of ability to form new ones. The idea of living in a perpetual “now” seemed appalling, and, along with the two hundred or so other students in the class, I tried to imagine what such an existence might be like. Naturally, I failed.

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Why Scientists Are Still Flummoxed by Alzheimer's

12.7.2016

The brain is amazing and complicated

Preventing memory loss and restoring it once it’s gone is the holy grail of brain science. In the United States alone, an estimated 5 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease. But recently, unexpected and disappointing findings have underlined just how difficult it is to develop therapies for cognitive decline.

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Heavy Screen Time Rewires Young Brains, For Better And Worse

11.19.2016

There's new evidence that excessive screen time early in life can change the circuits in a growing brain.

Scientists disagree, though, about whether those changes are helpful, or just cause problems. Both views emerged during the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego this week.

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Maternal immune activation: Implications for neuropsychiatric disorders

8.19.2016

The Zika virus and its accompanying risk of microcephaly (1) have finally turned public attention to the detrimental effects of maternal infection. Although images of microcephalic newborns evoke outcry and require government action, the direct effects of Zika are only one part of a much larger global health hazard.

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A pregnant woman’s immune response could lead to brain disorders in her kids

8.18.2016

Pregnant women, like everyone, get sick. And like everyone else, their bodies try to fight infection and, importantly, keep it from reaching the growing fetus.

If the mother’s immune system successfully defeats the virus before the developing baby is exposed or if the virus never crosses the placenta, is harm averted?

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NSF funds new integrative approaches to study the brain

8.18.2016

$17 million for fundamental research in neural and cognitive systems as part of the BRAIN Initiative

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded 18 grants to multidisciplinary teams from across the United States to conduct frontier research focused on neural and cognitive systems. Each award provides a research team with up to $1 million over two to four years.

The awards fall within four research themes:

  • Neuroengineering and brain-inspired concepts and designs.
  • Individuality and variation.
  • Cognitive and neural processes in realistic, complex environments.
  • Data-intensive neuroscience and cognitive science.

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Researchers Temporarily Turn off Brain Area to Better Understand Function

7.20.2016

Capitalizing on experimental genetic techniques, researchers at the California National Primate Research Center, or CNPRC, at the University of California, Davis, have demonstrated that temporarily turning off an area of the brain changes patterns of activity across much of the remaining brain.

The research suggests that alterations in the functional connectivity of the brain in humans may be used to determine the sites of pathology in complex disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.

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The Worst Part Of Schizophrenia Isn’t What You Think It Is

7.17.2016

Even after the voices go quiet, people with schizophrenia struggle to focus and think clearly. Can computerized brain training solve a problem that drugs have not?

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Hellman Fellows: Early-career faculty members get a boost

7.6.2016

Vice Provost Maureen Stanton, who leads Academic Affairs, has named UC Davis’ newest class of Hellman Fellows — early-career faculty members chosen to receive financial support for their research and to assist them in making progress toward tenure. Center for Neuroscience faculty, Dr. Diasynou Fioravante is named one of 12 Hellman Fellows.

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Exercise is really, really good for your brain

3.1.2016

Physical exercise is good for your brain. And I mean really good for it. The brain burns a ton of energy during exercise, much more, even, than if you were thinking really hard about something really complicated. New research has discovered just what the brain does with all that extra energy.

"From a metabolic standpoint, vigorous exercise is the most demanding activity the brain encounters, much more intense than calculus or chess, but nobody knows what happens with all that energy," says the paper’s lead author Richard Maddock, UC Davis research professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and affiliated faculty of the Center for Neuroscience.

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Beam me up, Scotty? Turns out your brain is ready for teleportation

2.26.2016

Given recent advances in teleportation, it's reassuring to know that the human brain's navigation system appears to work just fine when we're beamed from place to place.

People who experienced virtual teleportation in a video game were able to mentally navigate to known destinations without relying on visual information or perceived motion, according to a study published Thursday by the journal Neuron. And during "teleportation," their brains produced a distinctive electrical signal that's associated with navigation.

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Memory reply prioritizes high-reward experiences

2.11.2016

Why do we remember some events, places and things, but not others? Our brains prioritize rewarding memories over others, and reinforce them by replaying them when we are at rest, according to new research from the University of California, Davis, Center for Neuroscience, published Feb. 11 in the journal Neuron.

“Rewards help you remember things, because you want future rewards,” said Professor Charan Ranganath, a UC Davis neuroscientist and senior author on the paper. “The brain prioritizes memories that are going to be useful for future decisions.”

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Fioravante, Nord and Gray received NARSAD Young Investigator Awards

1.2016

The UC Davis Center for Neuroscience continues to attract the brightest, most innovative young investigators. All three of its new junior faculty, Drs. Fioravante, Nord and Gray were recognized with a NARSAD Young Investigator Award, a Brain & Behavior Research Foundation grant providing two-year awards of up to $70,000 to support the most promising young scientists conducting mental health research in the world. 

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Ranganath, Wiltgen and Antzoulatos authored three of top 10 Neuron publications of 2014-2015

1.2016

Each year, Neuron celebrates the top 10 groundbreaking research papers selected by its high-achieving scientific editors and readers communities.  In the latest Best of Neuron, 2014-2015, UC Davis Center for Neuroscience research projects by Drs. Wiltgen, Ranaganath and Antzoulatos were named among the top 10.

High impact and prestigious scientific journal of neuroscience, Neuron is a biweekly peer-reviewed publication of Cell Press. Check out its “Best of…” collection and request a PDF version.

Zito and Ekstrom named Chancellor's Fellows

1.5.2016

CNS faculty, Karen Zito and Arne Ekstrom, are among the newest class of Chancellor's Fellows, early-career faculty members who receive $25,000 award to advance his or her scholarly work.

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Imaging studies reveal affected brain regions in schizophrenia

11.20.2015

In a study published online in JAMA Psychiatry, John Daniel Ragland, Ph.D. and Cameron Carter, M.D. combined previously established tests for cognitive function with fMRI to pinpoint how memory and brain function change in patients with schizophrenia.

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Dr. Fioravante receives Society for Neuroscience Next Generation Award

10.9.2015

Dr. Diasynou Fioravante receives the Society for Neuroscience Next Generation Award, presented during the national conference in Chicago, for her outstanding contributions to public communication, outreach, and education about neuroscience.

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Brain games: Do we ever remember what really happened?

6.29.2015

Dr. Ranganath and his team are featured in this Sacramento News & Review article on why our memories are so inaccurate.

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UC Davis Announces $1 Million in Awards in Response to the President's BRAIN Initiative

6.9.2015

In 2013, the Obama administration announced the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, unveiling plans to make a bold investment to understand the human mind with the intent to uncover ways to prevent, treat and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, autism, and epilepsy.

UC Davis answered the call with the BRAIN-STIM: Grand Challenge Initiative in Brain Science to identify and support innovative interdisciplinary projects with the potential for high-impact discoveries in brain science. Five teams will receive up to $200,000 each over a two-year period.

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UC Davis receives $10 million grant to establish center to study schizophrenia

3.25.2015

UC Davis will establish a prestigious, leading-edge center to advance innovative research into the origins of schizophrenia: A Silvio O. Conte Center for Basic or Translational Mental-Health Research, one of only 15 such centers in the United States.

The center will be funded through a $10 million grant from the National Institutes of Mental Health, which will allow UC Davis’ Conte Center to investigate the novel hypothesis that an origin of schizophrenia may be dysregulation of immune molecules that play a key role in the normal development and functioning of connections in the brain.

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Manipulating memory with light

10.9.2014

Just look into the light: not quite, but researchers at the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience and Department of Psychology have used light to erase specific memories in mice, and proved a basic theory of how different parts of the brain work together to retrieve episodic memories. The work was published Oct. 9 in the journal Neuron.

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Curiosity prepares the brain for better learning

10.2.2014

A new study from the University of California, Davis, suggests that when our curiosity is piqued, changes in the brain ready us to learn not only about the subject at hand, but incidental information, too.


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UC Davis neuroscientists receive prestigious NIH BRAIN Initiative Awards

9.30.2014

Two UC Davis research teams developing transformational technologies to understand the dynamics of the neural circuitry underlying behavior and cognition have received awards from the federal Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, a presidential grand challenge enterprise.

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Zito and Usrey receive NSF's EAGER award, under the NIH BRAIN Initiative

8.18.14

Center for Neuroscience scientists, Karen Zito and W. Martin Usrey, receive the National Science Foundation's Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) awards, enabling new technologies to better understand how complex behaviors emerge from the activity of brain circuits. Each award totals approximately $300,000 over two years for a combined total of $600,000.

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Multiple interacting brain areas underlie successful spatiotemporal memory retrievals in humans

9.19.2014

Emerging evidence suggests that our memories for recent events depend on a dynamic interplay between multiple cortical brain regions, although previous research has also emphasized a primary role for the hippocampus in episodic memory. In this Nature Scientific Reports article, Center for Neuroscience faculty, Arne Ekstrom and  graduate students identify and describe network interactions that mediate spatiotemporal memory retrieval.

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Protein is key to forming short-term memories

8.6.2014

Short-term memory is essential for everyday life — whether remembering a phone number while dialing, carrying on a conversation, or forming the basis of long-term memories. Neuroscientists think that short-term memory is based on changes in both the properties of brain cells and the connections, called synapses, between them.

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Memory researcher wins Pentagon grant

7.31.2014

Congratulations to Professor Charan Ranganath of the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience and Department of Psychology on his selection as a National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellow by the U.S. Department of Defense. The five-year, $2.6 million fellowship will support new work on learning and memory in Ranganath’s Dynamic Memory Laboratory at UC Davis.

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Mark Goldman Named Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor

7.1.2014

Dr. Mark Goldman has been named a 2014 Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor, an award that comes with a $1 million grant for teaching and research to create activities that integrate his research with student learning in ways that enhance undergraduate students' understanding of science.

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A Choice to Heal Documentary…Mental Health in California

6.2014

The Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission features Dr. Cameron Carter, Center for Neuroscience Director and Director of the Early Diagnosis and Preventive Treatment Clinic, in a video documentary. Please contact us if you are interested in receiving a DVD copy (limited availability).

 

What happened when? How the brain stores memories by time

3.12.2014

Before I left the house this morning, I let the cat out and started the dishwasher. Or was that yesterday? Very often, our memories must distinguish not just what happened and where, but when an event occurred — and what came before and after. New research from the University of California, Davis, Center for Neuroscience shows that a part of the brain called the hippocampus stores memories by their "temporal context" — what happened before, and what came after.

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How viral infection disrupts neural development in offspring, increasing risk of autism

9.26.2013

Activating a mother's immune system during her pregnancy disrupts the development of neural cells in the brain of her offspring and damages the cells' ability to transmit signals and communicate with one another, an animal study suggests. They said the finding suggests how maternal viral infection might increase the risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder or schizophrenia.

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Negative feedback stabilizes memories

8.27.2013

Memories may be maintained in the brain through a mechanism familiar to any engineer—negative and positive feedback loops, according to researchers Sukbin Lim and Mark Goldman at the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience.

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Guggenheim Fellowship for memory researcher

4.18.2013

Charan Ranganath got into memory research to help people with brain damage due to Alzheimer's disease, trauma or other causes. That work has now earned Ranganath, a professor in the Department of Psychology and Center for Neuroscience at the University of California, Davis, a $40,000 fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, one of 175 awarded to scientists, artists and scholars by the foundation this year.

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