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From the College of Natural Sciences
Fish’s Use of Electricity Might Shed Light on Human Illnesses

Fish’s Use of Electricity Might Shed Light on Human Illnesses

Brienomyrus brachyistius, commonly known as the baby whale.

Deep in the night in muddy African rivers, a fish uses electrical charges to sense the world around it and communicate with other members of its species. Signaling in electrical spurts that last only a few tenths of a thousandth of a second allows the fish to navigate without letting predators know it is there. Now scientists have found that the evolutionary trick these fish use to make such brief discharges could provide new insights, with a bearing on treatments for diseases such as epilepsy.

Could a Digital Version of this Part of the Brain Be Coming Soon?

Could a Digital Version of this Part of the Brain Be Coming Soon?

The cerebellum (red) directs many of the movements we make often, yet don’t have to think about. Photo credit: Database Center for Life Science. Used via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.1 Japan license.

For decades, Michael Mauk, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Austin, has been developing a computer simulation of the part of our brains called the cerebellum that directs many of the movements we make often, yet don't have to think about, like walking or picking up a glass of water.

Meet Lawrence Garvin, II, Class of 2018

Meet Lawrence Garvin, II, Class of 2018

Lawrence Garvin, II

As a kid, Lawrence Garvin, II loved football. His dream was to be like Vince Young and play for the Longhorns. But in high school, Garvin became fascinated by neuroscience and decided his path was to be a doctor. Garvin kept his sights on The University of Texas at Austin as his top school. He was drawn to its pre-med track and partnership with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Anti-Alcoholism Drug Shows Promise in Animal Models

Anti-Alcoholism Drug Shows Promise in Animal Models

Scientists at The University of Texas at Austin have successfully tested in animals a drug that, they say, may one day help block the withdrawal symptoms and cravings that incessantly coax people with alcoholism to drink. Photo credit: Shutterstock.

Scientists at The University of Texas at Austin have successfully tested in animals a drug that, they say, may one day help block the withdrawal symptoms and cravings that incessantly coax people with alcoholism to drink. If eventually brought to market, it could help the more than 15 million Americans, and many more around the world who suffer from alcoholism stay sober.

Manipulating Neurons

Manipulating Neurons

Illustrations: Jenna Luecke

With a flash of light, neuroscientists can now turn individual brain cells on or off. They do so using a set of tools, pioneered in part by UT Austin neuroscientist Boris Zemelman, called optogenetics.

Learning Expands the Brain’s Capacity to Store Information

Learning Expands the Brain’s Capacity to Store Information

Kristen Harris and her team used an electron microscope to make 3D images of brain structures like this one to understand how learning alters the structures. They discovered that learning causes some synapses (red) to grow and others to shrink, leading to an increase in their capacity to store information. In this image, axons (green) carrying signals from multiple brain cells connect via synapses to the shaft-like input of a single brain cell, called a dendrite (yellow). Credit: Univ. of Texas at Austin.

The act of learning causes connections between brain cells, called synapses, to expand their capacity to store information, according to a new discovery from neuroscientists at The University of Texas at Austin, the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences and The University of Otago in New Zealand.

Neuroscientists Join Virtual Mega-laboratory to Probe the Brain’s Deepest Secrets

Neuroscientists Join Virtual Mega-laboratory to Probe the Brain’s Deepest Secrets

To understand how billions of neurons work together to guide decision-making in a single brain, twenty-one laboratories will join forces under the umbrella of the newly-formed International Brain Laboratory (IBL) to conduct a unique joint experiment.

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Neuroscientist Receives Grant to Advance Understanding of Brain Structure

Neuroscientist Receives Grant to Advance Understanding of Brain Structure

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Kristen Harris, a professor in the Department of Neuroscience at The University of Texas at Austin, a $9 million grant to explore the brain in microscopic detail and understand the cell biology of the nervous system. Harris plans to image and map synapses, the tiny points of contact between neurons throughout the brain, in detail and to model synapse function and share the data publically for use by colleagues throughout the world.

Brain image from an electron micrograph through a single section plane illustrating spiny dendrites (yellow), nonspiny dendrites (orange), excitatory axons (green), excitatory synapses (red), astroglia (light blue), microglia (dark brown). Image credit: Kristen Harris
Unlocking the Mind's Mysteries

Unlocking the Mind's Mysteries

It's been called the most complicated object in the known universe. But, as UT scientists are learning, the human brain offers five important clues for understanding its wonders.

Keeps Us on Our Toes (Audio)

Keeps Us on Our Toes (Audio)

Worried that smart robots are taking over the world? You'll be relieved to know they still have a long way to go. That is unless you're an artificial intelligence researcher like Peter Stone. One big challenge facing robots that walk and run is that they fall over a lot.

Taillefumier Awarded Sloan Fellowship

Taillefumier Awarded Sloan Fellowship

A faculty member at The University of Texas at Austin whose research combines applied mathematics and theoretical neuroscience has been awarded a Sloan Research Fellowship for 2017.

UT Austin Leads $29 Million Alcoholism Treatment Consortium

UT Austin Leads $29 Million Alcoholism Treatment Consortium

The National Institutes of Health has awarded an international consortium seeking better pharmaceutical treatments for alcoholism a five-year grant totaling $29 million. The administrative headquarters and several of the projects will be at The University of Texas at Austin, which will receive $8.5 million of the total.

Resetting the Alcoholic Brain (Audio)

Resetting the Alcoholic Brain (Audio)

Adron Harris, director of the Waggoner Center for Alcoholism and Addiction Research, and his team mapped the differences in gene expression between an alcoholic's brain and a non-alcoholic's brain. They found that, as a person becomes dependent on alcohol, thousands of genes in their brains are turned up or down, like a dimmer switch on a lightbulb, compared to the same genes in a healthy person's brain.

UT Austin Researchers Map Neurological Process of Learning, Deciding

UT Austin Researchers Map Neurological Process of Learning, Deciding

Scientists at The University of Texas at Austin can now map what happens neurologically when new information influences a person to change his or her mind, a finding that offers more insight into the mechanics of learning.

Neuroscientist Weighs How Realistic Bourne Character's Memory Loss Is

Neuroscientist Weighs How Realistic Bourne Character's Memory Loss Is

This week, Matt Damon returns to the big screen as Jason Bourne, a secret agent who has forgotten his entire life and is piecing it back together while confronting political and economic conflicts. We wondered how realistically the series depicts brain science.