Mathematical Model Shows How the Brain Remains Stable During Learning

Read the full article Mathematical Model Shows How the Brain Remains Stable During Learning at

Complex biochemical signals that coordinate fast and slow changes in neuronal networks keep the brain in balance during learning, according to an international team of scientists from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan, UC San Francisco (UCSF), and Columbia University in New York. 

The research is in Neuron. (full access paywall)

Research: “Modeling the Dynamic Interaction of Hebbian and Homeostatic Plasticity” by Taro Toyoizumi, Megumi Kaneko, Michael P. Stryker, and Kenneth D. Miller in Neuron. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2014.09.036

Image: The theory and experimental findings showed that fast Hebbian and slow homeostatic plasticity work together during learning, but only after each has independently assured stability on its own timescale. This image is for illustrative purposes only. Credit Nicolas P. Rougier.

The Doorway Effect: Why your brain won’t let you remember what you were doing before you came in here

I work in a lab, and the way our lab is set up, there are two adjacent rooms, connected by both an outer hallway and an inner doorway. I do most of my work on one side, but every time I walk over to the other side to grab a reagent or a box of tips, I completely forget what I was after. This leads to a lot of me standing with one hand on the freezer door and grumbling, “What the hell was I doing?” It got to where all I had to say was “Every damn time” and my labmate would laugh. Finally, when I explained to our new labmate why I was standing next to his bench with a glazed look in my eyes, he was able to shed some light. “Oh, yeah, that’s a well-documented phenomenon,” he said. “Doorways wipe your memory.”

Being the gung-ho new science blogger that I am, I decided to investigate. And it’s true! Well, doorways don’t literally wipe your memory. But they do encourage your brain to dump whatever it was working on before and get ready to do something new. In one study, participants played a video game in which they had to carry an object either across a room or into a new room. Then they were given a quiz. Participants who passed through a doorway had more trouble remembering what they were doing. It didn’t matter if the video game display was made smaller and less immersive, or if the participants performed the same task in an actual room—the results were similar. Returning to the room where they had begun the task didn’t help: even context didn’t serve to jog folks’ memories.

The researchers wrote that their results are consistent with what they call an “event model” of memory. They say the brain keeps some information ready to go at all times, but it can’t hold on to everything. So it takes advantage of what the researchers called an “event boundary,” like a doorway into a new room, to dump the old info and start over. Apparently my brain doesn’t care that my timer has seconds to go—if I have to go into the other room, I’m doing something new, and can’t remember that my previous task was antibody, idiot, you needed antibody.

Read more at Scientific American, or the original study.


Summer Reading from The New Yorker

The New Yorker is opening up its Web site for the next few months, letting visitors read everything currently being published — along with archives back to 2007 — for free.

The move comes alongside a site redesign.

Via The New Yorker:

Beginning this week, absolutely everything new that we publish—the work in the print magazine and the work published online only—will be unlocked. All of it, for everyone. Call it a summer-long free-for-all. Non-subscribers will get a chance to explore The New Yorker fully and freely, just as subscribers always have. Then, in the fall, we move to a second phase, implementing an easier-to-use, logical, metered paywall.

Images: Twitter posts from The New Yorker… and an ellipsis for good measure.

Light Alcohol Consumption During Later Life Associated With Better Episodic Memory

Read the full article Light Alcohol Consumption During Later Life Associated With Better Episodic Memory at

Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, University of Kentucky, and University of Maryland found that for people 60 and older who do not have dementia, light alcohol consumption during late life is associated with higher episodic memory — the ability to recall memories of events.

The research is in  American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias. (full access paywall)

Research: “Effects of Alcohol Consumption on Cognition and Regional Brain Volumes Among Older Adults” by Brian Downer, PhD, Yang Jiang, PhD, Faika Zanjani, PhD and David Fardo, PhD in American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias. doi:10.1177/1533317514549411

Image: Researchers found that light and moderate alcohol consumption in older people is associated with higher episodic memory and is linked with larger hippocampal brain volume. This image is for illustrative purposes only. Credit rudolf_langer.

Stop sharing accounts! SDR2 thread is at risk of closing!

According to Slow Beef’s recent tweet, the thread is at risk of being gassed. Nobody wants that. In an effort to eliminate shared accounts, Slow Beef is offering upgrades to anyone who can find and autoban a shared account. It’s a great incentive, and it should help to weed out those who can’t follow the site’s rules. Outdated information. The thread is safe. I guess account sharing isn’t as common anymore with the mirror now well-established.

Now, here are my thoughts. Most of you reading this only visit Something Awful for SDR2. I can understand your past frustration with the paywall, but orenronen has already allowed the creation of this mirror. There will obviously never be a paywall here on tumblr, there is no future risk of spoiler banners, and new updates are mirrored very shortly after they are posted in the thread. The first LP has been archived, and the current LP is in progress here on this blog. If you are only interested in Dangan Ronpa, there is absolutely no reason to attempt sharing accounts on Something Awful.

If someone is upset about the paywall, please direct them here. If someone is asking to share an account, please, please direct them here. If you come across a shared account’s login information, I encourage you to get it autobanned to prevent future use. Please spread the word about this mirror, and please be a decent person so we can continue enjoying this fantastic LP.


"Paywalls are for pussies. It’s a head-scratcher why all publications are erecting them. They learned none of the lessons from the music industry. Foremost of which is your enemy is not reduced revenues, but obscurity. The key is to be the paper of record, to be available to everybody. And not everybody is concerned with everything, but when you break a story…be sure it can go viral.

In other words, if you make people buy your music to hear it, you’re never going to make it in today’s marketplace. And it’s always about the music. Thom Yorke can get everybody to pay attention to his opinion on Spotify, but he can get almost nobody to listen to Atoms For Peace. And that’s backwards.

There’s a huge desire for news. By pulling back from the audience, the paywall police are doing it wrong.”

Human Skin Cells Reprogrammed Directly into Brain Cells

Read the full article Human Skin Cells Reprogrammed Directly into Brain Cells at

Scientists have described a way to convert human skin cells directly into a specific type of brain cell affected by Huntington’s disease, an ultimately fatal neurodegenerative disorder. Unlike other techniques that turn one cell type into another, this new process does not pass through a stem cell phase, avoiding the production of multiple cell types, the study’s authors report.

The research is in Neuron. (full access paywall)

Research: “Generation of Human Striatal Neurons by MicroRNA-Dependent Direct Conversion of Fibroblasts” by Matheus B. Victor, Michelle Richner, Tracey O. Hermanstyne, Joseph L. Ransdell, Courtney Sobieski, Pan-Yue Deng, Vitaly A. Klyachko, Jeanne M. Nerbonne, and Andrew S. Yoo in Neuron. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2014.10.016

Image: Human skin cells (top) can be converted into medium spiny neurons (bottom) with exposure to the right combination of microRNAs and transcription factors, according to work by Andrew Yoo and his research team. Credit Yoo Lab.

More than a year and a half later, it’s clear the New York Times’ paywall is not only valuable, it’s helped turn the paper’s subscription dollars, which once might have been considered the equivalent of a generous tithing, into a significant revenue-generating business. As of this year, the company is expected to make more money from subscriptions than from advertising — the first time that’s happened.

Love the subtle slam on “the common tactics for attracting eyeballs on the Web” later in the piece.

Who are the most ruthless capitalists in the western world? Whose monopolistic practices make Walmart look like a corner shop and Rupert Murdoch a socialist? You won’t guess the answer in a month of Sundays. While there are plenty of candidates, my vote goes not to the banks, the oil companies or the health insurers, but – wait for it – to academic publishers. Theirs might sound like a fusty and insignificant sector. It is anything but. Of all corporate scams, the racket they run is most urgently in need of referral to the competition authorities.

Everyone claims to agree that people should be encouraged to understand science and other academic research. Without current knowledge, we cannot make coherent democratic decisions. But the publishers have slapped a padlock and a “keep out” sign on the gates.

You might resent Murdoch’s paywall policy, in which he charges £1 for 24 hours of access to the Times and Sunday Times. But at least in that period you can read and download as many articles as you like. Reading a single article published by one of Elsevier’s journals will cost you $31.50. Springer charges €34.95, Wiley-Blackwell, $42. Read 10 and you pay 10 times. And the journals retain perpetual copyright. You want to read a letter printed in 1981? That’ll be $31.50. Of course, you could go into the library (if it still exists). But they too have been hit by cosmic fees. The average cost of an annual subscription to a chemistry journal is $3,792. Some journals cost $10,000 a year or more to stock. The most expensive I’ve seen, Elsevier’s Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, is $20,930. Though academic libraries have been frantically cutting subscriptions to make ends meet, journals now consume 65% of their budgets, which means they have had to reduce the number of books they buy. Journal fees account for a significant component of universities’ costs, which are being passed to their students.

(via Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian)

Illustration by Daniel Pudles

When we say “open access” we are referring to the practice of making scholarly research available online for free upon publication (or soon after). Open access policies should aim to remove barriers and encourage scholarly and educational reuse of research. Copyright restrictions sometimes undermine scientific ideals of openness and collaboration; good open access rules help to bypass traditional copyright limits by encouraging full use of open licensing systems that enable sharing.

Reasons for supporting open access policies abound. From maximizing taxpayer funded research to increasing the exposure and use of publications, facilitating interdisciplinary collaboration, and enhancing the overall advancement of scholarship, the need for open access is more important now than ever. As tuition prices continue to rise and Internet adoption is at an all time high, trapping knowledge behind prohibitively expensive paywalls is a disservice to scientists and problem solvers across the world. Progress is stifled.

Research institutions, academics, and the intellectually curious are increasingly embracing the open access model for research worldwide. Open Access Week is about keeping the dream of easy-to-access knowledge alive. And we have a chance to connect this global momentum toward open sharing with the advancement of constructive policy changes on the local level.

This year’s theme is Generation Open.  We’ll be focusing on the importance of students and early career researchers embracing open access, and exploring how changes in scholarly publishing affect academics and researchers at different stages of their careers.

The number of unqiue users recorded last month by the New York Times website in the US increased by 2.3 per cent year-on-year, despite the introduction of digital subscriptions in March this year.

Speaking on a paywalls panel at the World Editors Forum in Vienna, Jim Roberts, assistant managing editor for digital, said the year-on-year increase to an average 34 million unique users in September per month was “incredibly surprising”, admitting that at first he thought the paywall was “at least potentially a bad idea”.

» via

More than a year and a half later, it’s clear the New York Times’ paywall is not only valuable, it’s helped turn the paper’s subscription dollars, which once might have been considered the equivalent of a generous tithing, into a significant revenue-generating business. As of this year, the company is expected to make more money from subscriptions than from advertising — the first time that’s happened.
—  Bloomberg’s Edmund Lee • Discussing the success of the New York Times paywall, which has done something very surprising — it’s allowed the New York Times to make more than half of its overall revenue from subscriptions, rather than the traditional 80 percent advertising/20 percent subscriptions balance that has traditionally defined newspapers. That’s good for a number of reasons, with the biggest being that the New York Times is no longer as overly reliant on ad dollars to sell its news. That’s an awesome spot for the Times to be, but the real question: Does that mean anything for papers that aren’t the Times, which may be a tougher sell than a paper of record?

New ALS Associated Gene Identified Using Innovative Strategy

Read the full article New ALS Associated Gene Identified Using Innovative Strategy at

Using an innovative exome sequencing strategy, a team of international scientists led by John Landers, PhD, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School has shown that TUBA4A, the gene encoding the Tubulin Alpha 4A protein, is associated with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal neurological disorder also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. 

The research is in Neuron. (full access paywall)

Research: “Exome-wide Rare Variant Analysis Identifies TUBA4A Mutations Associated with Familial ALS” by John E. Landers et al. in Neuron. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2014.09.027

Image: ALS is a progressive, neurodegenerative disorder affecting the motor neurons in the central nervous system. As motor neurons die, the brain’s ability to send signals to the body’s muscles is compromised. This leads to loss of voluntary muscle movement, paralysis and eventually respiratory failure. This image is adapted from the YouTube video associated with this article. Credit cellvideoabstracts.

Journalists are True Alphas When it Comes to Comment Trolling

Background: Yesterday in the Columbia Journalism Review Howard Owens published a piece called How David Simon is wrong about paywalls. In some five thousand plus words he expounds on how paywalls cannot, and will not, save the newsroom.

First comment, by David Simon to defend himself includes such gems as, “Your numbers are just whack. Insane. Off the charts.”

Then come Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz, creators of the Software as a Service paywall system Press+, and a host of other media thinkers sniping at one another.

It’s a lively discussion, to be sure, and well worth the now very long read. It is, after all, a gathering of many who have worked with and without paywalls and study the overall economics of sustainable news operations.

Start with David Simon’s original post and be sure to hit the comments. 

Then move on to Howard Owens’ rebuttal.

It may be very much inside baseball but sometimes inside baseball is a very good place to be.

The Top 5 Best Uses For Your Local Library (That Aren’t Just Books)

H/T to Lifehacker:

  1. Rent A/V Equipment
  2. Get Access To Paywall Content
  3. Find Tickets To Museums, Concerts, And Events
  4. Print Off Legal Forms
  5. Fill Up On E-Books