Record Turnout for NYC Regional Brain Bee

Twelfth-grader Melissa Cao, from Long Island’s Bethpage High School, took home the grand prize after a close race with two other finalists at Saturday’s Regional Brain Bee at Columbia University in New York City. The local event is part of an annual international neuroscience competition. Winners advance into the national and then international competitions during the spring and summer months as part of Brain Awareness Week (BAW).

brain bee 2016 5 crop

Program moderator Carol Mason, Ph.D., awards Cao her first place prize. Photo credit: Jacqueline Silberbrush

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The Physics of Folds and Grooves

guest post by Kayt Sukel

Gel-printed brain. Image courtesy of T. Tallinen, J-Y Chung and L. Mahadevan

Gel-printed brain forming folds after it was placed in liquid solvent. Image and video below courtesy of T. Tallinen, J-Y Chung, and L. Mahadevan

The human brain has a remarkably distinct shape. With its folds and valleys (gyri and sulci, respectively), there is no bodily organ like it. How and why does it have this accordion-like structure? That’s remained an open, and highly debated, question among neuroscientists. Some argued there must be some biological factors within neurons and supporting cells that program them to grow this way. Others hypothesized that the brain’s gulfs and valleys are due to simple physics—that is, the mechanical compression involved with developing inside the enclosed case of the skull. Now, work done at Harvard University and Finland’s University of Jyväskylä suggests the latter argument may be the correct one.

“The number, size, shape, and position of neuronal cells during brain growth all lead to the expansion of the gray matter, known as the cortex, relative to the underlying white matter,” says Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan, a physicist and applied mathematician at Harvard. “This puts the cortex under compression leading to a mechanical instability that causes it to crease locally, a process called gyrification.” Continue reading

Dana News E-Blast: January

Here are some stories recently posted on

cere_article_Baumann_0116_featThe Changing Face of Recreational Drug Use

by Michael H. Baumann, Ph.D.

Known as “designer drugs,” new psychoactive substances (NPS) represents a disturbing new trend. Our article describes what is known about the molecular mechanisms of action, and highlights some of the considerable challenges in dealing with this public health problem. From Cerebrum, our online magazine of ideas.

Adcock, R. Alison_heashotA Study of Motivation

It’s difficult to know what motivates people, but R. Alison Adcock’s lab is using imaging to study how states like desire and curiosity can facilitate “motivated memory.” Her work could have implications in the education field, but also in other learning contexts like psychotherapy and behavior change. One of our series of Scientist Q&As. Continue reading

A Study of Motivation

Adcock, R. Alison_heashot“What makes us curious? What makes us play with our environment and investigate it? Why are some people more curious than others—and why does my own curiosity wax and wane over time?” These are questions Dana Foundation grantee R. Alison Adcock has asked herself since she was child, and which have led her to focus her scientific research on motivation.

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Lumosity Fined for Deceptive Advertising

cere_110114_article_featWhen we published the Cerebrum article,  “The Brain Games Conundrum: Does Cognitive Function Really Sharpen the Mind?”, and a follow-up Q&A with the authors in November 2014, three aspects of the article were crystal clear: I) Few topics in neuroscience evoke as much debate as brain game effectiveness. 2) Advertising has convinced tens of thousands of people to open their wallets and buy products. 3) The science surrounding the benefits of brain games is sketchy at best.

The article was in direct contrast to website claims by Lumosity, a major player in the brain-game business, with more than $1 billion a year in revenues and 60-million members. At the time, Lumosity’s website boasted of nine peer-reviewed studies, 36 university collaborators, and testimonials galore.

Now, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTA):

The creators and marketers of the Lumosity ‘brain training’ program have agreed to settle FTA charges alleging that they deceived consumers with unfounded claims that Lumosity games can help users perform better at work and in school, and reduce or delay cognitive impairment associated with age and other serious health conditions.

As part of the settlement, Lumos Labs, the company behind Lumosity, will pay $2 million in redress and will notify subscribers of the FTC action and provide them with an easy way to cancel their auto-renewal to avoid future billing.

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