March 26, 2010

Introducing: Petri Dish Talk

I was delighted to stumble across a neuroscience blog that I hadn't seen before. Petri Dish Talk is run by Mohammed Rahman, a neurobiology researcher who now works in biotech, and who has also worked with drugs that affect the CNS such as Carbidopa and Divalproex, which are used to treat Parkinson's and Bi-polar disorder respectively.

Among the few posts currently published, Rahman discusses the tension between research and industrialisation in his first offering. He suggests that departmentalising projects will allow errors to slip through the net in spite of well-intentioned lab researchers, and that biotech industries should do more to ensure research and experimental integrity instead of following a business model that tends to be blinkered and short-sighted in regard to such concerns.

After a very brief and informative post on BOLD fMRI that excellently serves as an expanded definition of the term, he launches into a more detailed post about dendritic pruning within the wider issue of neuroplasticity. With decent illustrations, Rahman talks about how Long-Term Potentiation (LTP) is one of the many theories advanced to explain this adaptability of the brain and the mechanism by which the dendrites are pruned. He ends with looking forward to a future in which neuroplasticity will be vigorously studied and what it will have to say about our minds as a physical structure (and rightly so).

In the last two posts we are treated to a double-whammy that explains how meditation can bring about neurophysiological changes, by virtue of a 2007 PNAS paper on the neural correlates of attentional expertise in long-time meditation practitioners, that long-time (focused) experts tend to have specialised attentional networks with a simultaneous decrease in "chatter". In the second part, Rahman discusses a 2008 paper that discusses these changes: larger volumes of grey matter in the hippocampus and frontal cortex. On the face of it,this seems as natural as a professional athlete gaining muscle mass due to exercise, so in the same way an experienced meditator gains greater "strength" in certain neural circuits due to focus and concentration-oriented meditating.

Overall I think this is a good start for a blog and I was impressed with the quality of the information as well as the easily readable presentation. I'll definitely be looking forward to more contributions.

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