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From the College of Natural Sciences
As We Develop, the Brain Connects Lessons Learned Differently

As We Develop, the Brain Connects Lessons Learned Differently

Members of Alison Preston’s research group study fMRI brain scans. Credit: Vivian Abagiu.

A new study of brain activity patterns in people doing a memory task finds that the way we make inferences — finding hidden connections between different experiences — changes dramatically as we age. The study's findings might one day lead to personalized learning strategies based on a person's cognitive and brain development.

First Glimpse of Brains Retrieving Mistaken Memories Observed

First Glimpse of Brains Retrieving Mistaken Memories Observed

Scientists have observed for the first time what it looks like in the key memory region of the brain when a mistake is made during a memory trial. The findings have implications for Alzheimer's disease research and advancements in memory storage and enhancement, with a discovery that also provides a view into differences between the physiological events in the brain during a correct memory versus a faulty one.

Xue-Xin Wei Asks Basic Questions about the Nature of Intelligence

Xue-Xin Wei Asks Basic Questions about the Nature of Intelligence

Image by Vivian Abagiu.

Xue-Xin Wei, a computational and theoretical neuroscientist, recently joined the Department of Neuroscience as an assistant professor. Wei grew up in Qingdao, China, before obtaining his undergraduate degree in mathematics at Peking University. His lab works at the intersection of computational/theoretical neuroscience, statistics, artificial intelligence and deep learning. He and his team work closely with experimental scientists to test predictions of computational models to form theory-experiment loops.

Discovery about Brain Cells that Promote Healing from Strokes Offers Treatment Insights

Discovery about Brain Cells that Promote Healing from Strokes Offers Treatment Insights

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have found a particular type of cell once thought to hinder the recovery process in people who have suffered strokes may actually promote the healing process following a brain injury. The findings, published April 27 in the journal Cell Reports, provides new insights for researchers seeking treatments for stroke and brain injury.

Two Natural Sciences Undergraduates Selected as Goldwater Scholars

Two Natural Sciences Undergraduates Selected as Goldwater Scholars

Two University of Texas at Austin undergraduate students, Briana Syed and Teddy Hsieh, have earned the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship, which honors outstanding students in STEM majors.

New Study Shows How Deep-learning Technology Can Improve Brain Imaging

New Study Shows How Deep-learning Technology Can Improve Brain Imaging

Compare these two images of a slice of brain tissue from a rat. The PSSR method applies deep learning to a low resolution image from a scanning electron microscope (left) to yield a higher resolution image (right).

Neuroscience researchers often face challenges when using high-powered microscopes to capture clear images of brain tissue. Microscopes suffer from what researchers call the "eternal triangle of compromise" — image resolution, the intensity of the illumination the sample is subjected to, and speed compete with each other. For example, taking an image of the sample very quickly can result in a dark image, but subjecting a biological sample to more intense light can damage it.

Misinformation, the Brain and Tricks for Analyzing Data Accurately

Misinformation, the Brain and Tricks for Analyzing Data Accurately

Michela Marinelli, an associate professor of neuroscience and neurology, teaches a class particularly relevant as widespread misinformation becomes a hot topic in society.

Neuroscientist Honored With Lifetime Achievement Award

Neuroscientist Honored With Lifetime Achievement Award

Kristen Harris, professor of neuroscience, has been awarded the prestigious Mika Salpeter Lifetime Achievement Award by the Society for Neuroscience. The award recognizes neuroscientists with outstanding achievements in research who have significantly promoted the professional advancement of women in neuroscience.

International Project to Provide Detailed View of New Complexities Linked to Synapses

International Project to Provide Detailed View of New Complexities Linked to Synapses

Synapses are the tiny structures that form trillions of intersections between nerve cells in the brain, allowing us to think, sense, learn, act and remember. Because new research has found these nanostructures to be far more varied and nuanced than neuroscientists believed even five years ago, a new project will examine what is known as synaptic weight or strength, which has significant implications for understanding human brain health.

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin will lead an ambitious new project with 10 other U.S. institutions and global partners that has significant implications for understanding human brain health.

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Brain’s Immune Cells are a Central Driver of Alcohol Use Disorder

Brain’s Immune Cells are a Central Driver of Alcohol Use Disorder

The brain's primary immune cells play a fundamental role in alcohol use disorder, according to a new study from Scripps Research and The University of Texas at Austin. The scientists are the first to link these cells—known as microglia—to the molecular, cellular and behavioral changes that promote the increased drinking that's associated with alcohol dependence.

Scientists Discover Molecular Culprits Linked to Alcohol Use Disorders

Scientists Discover Molecular Culprits Linked to Alcohol Use Disorders

An unanswered question in alcoholism research has been what drives the transition from moderate alcohol consumption to alcohol dependence. Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin set out to discover if a molecule that regulates gene expression in the brain called Lim-only 4 (Lmo4) could facilitate this transition. In doing so, they discovered a molecular mechanism in the brain that is critical to the development of alcoholism, providing potential new targets for treatment.

Social Support Aids Recovery from Drug Addiction, Study Suggests

Social Support Aids Recovery from Drug Addiction, Study Suggests

Having an option to receive social support rather than use drugs is better at reducing relapse than cutting out drugs completely, and this behavior has its own control circuit in the brain, according to research co-authored by University of Texas neuroscientist Robert Messing. The research, done in partnership with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides evidence supporting existing recovery offerings and has implications for developing new drug-addiction treatments.

The Next 50 Years: Thinking Outside the Brain

The Next 50 Years: Thinking Outside the Brain

This semester, the College of Natural Sciences is checking in with faculty experts about developments related to their fields of study that may well affect how we live, work and interact with one another and the world around us over the next 50 years. For this installment, we hear from Professor Adron Harris, M. June and J. Virgil Waggoner Chair in Molecular Biology, a professor of neuroscience, pharmacology and psychiatry, and the associate director of the Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research.

What Neuroscience Suggests to Better Your Study Habits

What Neuroscience Suggests to Better Your Study Habits

Every student has their own style of studying for exams. Some hold marathon study sessions, others endlessly review their notes. But scientists right here on campus say there are right ways and wrong ways to study, according to neuroscience.

Improving Brain Imaging with Deep Learning

Improving Brain Imaging with Deep Learning

An image showing the side by side versions of electron microscope captures. Credit: Salk Institute

Textbook descriptions of brain cells make neurons look simple: a long spine-like central axon with branching dendrites. Taken individually, these might be easy to identify and map, but in an actual brain, they're more like a knotty pile of octopi, with hundreds of limbs intertwined. This makes understanding how they behave and interact a major challenge for neuroscientists.

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