Journal Club

Highlighting recently published papers selected by Academy members

Category Archives: Neuroscience

The hippocampus has brief but critical role in early task learning

How the brain learns new tasks is among the biggest and oldest questions in neuroscience. A recent study in Nature Neuroscience offers a new, potentially key part of the answer: the dorsal hippocampus is involved in the earliest stages of … Continue reading

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Future choices may be guided by our memories of past ones

When it comes to making choices, past decisions may play a surprisingly large role. The traditional view of decision-making is that our choices are guided by what we remember about the outcomes of previous choices we’ve made. But in recent … Continue reading

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Neurons in the hippocampus can make several different maps of the same environment

Nestled deep in the brain, the hippocampus is the seat of spatial cognition. Specialized hippocampal neurons fire in consistent patterns thought to construct mental maps that help us navigate the world—in general, researchers believed there was one map for every … Continue reading

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Judging others based on the rewards they receive correlates with political leanings

Which employee deserves the highest salary? Should a professor receive tenure? Did my spouse do their fair share of the household chores? These types of questions all require people to pass judgment on the effort expended by others. According to … Continue reading

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Dopamine-making neurons, an ongoing mystery, play a bigger role in reinforcing learning than in initiating action

Deep in the midbrain, one type of neuron has two crucial jobs when it comes to acting while anticipating a reward—a state also known as Pavlovian conditioning. Called dopaminergic (DA) neurons, they can link a signal, such as a sound … Continue reading

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For choices involving uncertainty, the brain simplifies the math that drives our decisions

Every day, people make countless decisions, big and small: Should I buy that new house? Do I want chocolate or vanilla ice cream? A recent study suggests that when faced with uncertainty regarding a choice, how a person evaluates their … Continue reading

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Journal Club: Neurons fire in sync, helping elucidate the biological basis of learning

Our brains change as we learn. But how exactly does a cluster of neurons change their activity or connections? It seems the phenomenon is due, at least in part, to neurons starting to fire in sync, according to a recent … Continue reading

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Journal Club: Newly discovered ion channel gene promises disease insights

The molecular identity and precise function of a commonly expressed cell-membrane chloride channel has long been a mystery. A recent study in Science uncovers the gene responsible for the channel, potentially shedding light on its role in the body. Researchers … Continue reading

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Journal Club: Brain scans and behavior suggest oxytocin can change perceptions of fairness

Some people are more generous in social situations—offering to cover the dinner bill for example. Others are more individualistic, preferring to keep resources for themselves. A recent study in Nature Neuroscience finds that perceptions of fairness vary from person-to-person based … Continue reading

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Journal Club: Low-intensity focused ultrasound shows promise as tool to probe deep brain function

To study the brain’s networks of neurons, neuroscientists typically alter the activity in one area, and observe the cascade of effects on others—something like unscrewing one bulb in a string of Christmas lights and observing as others go dim. But … Continue reading

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Journal Club: Pinpointing theory of mind deficiencies in autism

Around age four, preschoolers learn that other people have unique thoughts and feelings, an inner life. These children start to be able to predict a person’s behavior based on that understanding. They start developing theory of mind (ToM). That developmental … Continue reading

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