Primer on the Senses

We traditionally refer to five senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. But it’s not that simple. Our new primer, on the senses, delves into the complex systems that enable us to connect to the world.

It’s a dynamic process. The brain is not simply a receiving station for sensory signals, and what we see, hear, and feel are constantly shaped by emotions, memories, moods, and beliefs. Our sense of the world is a creation of the brain, and the same physical sensation may be experienced quite differently at different times of life, and even from day to day.

Read Part I of the primer now; Part II will post on the Dana Foundation homepage on Monday, August 26.

– Ann L. Whitman

Right Brain-Left Brain Function: A Primer

You often hear that a creative person is a “right-brain person,” while the more logical tend to be “left-brained.” In the latest primer from the Dana Foundation, we get to the bottom of this oversimplification of right and left brain function.

Dana primers are published quarterly and past topics have included neurotransmitters, genetics and the brain, hormones and the brain, stroke, and neuroanatomy. For a list of all primers, click here.

– Ann L. Whitman

New Stroke Primer for Stroke Awareness Month

May is Stroke Awareness Month and in recognition we’ve published a new primer on stroke. The primer looks at different types of stroke, the resulting damage that can occur, and treatment options. Some helpful takeaways include:

  • Smoking greatly increases the risk of both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke and must be avoided.
  • The same measures to reduce heart attack risk protect against stroke as well:  cholesterol reduction, weight control, healthy diet, and regular exercise.
  • Alcohol in excess (more than one drink daily for women, two for men) raises stroke risk.

To read this and our previous primers on hormones and the brain, neuroanatomy, brain receptors, the synapse, and biomarkers, visit our primers page on

-Ann L. Whitman

Brain Primers

Where is the occipital lobe? How many synapses are in the human brain? How do biomarkers help clinicians predict disease outcomes?

For the answers to these questions and many more, check out the Dana Foundation’s brain-related primers. Started this year, the primers are published quarterly and offer a basic overview of a particular brain topic. So far we’ve looked at biomarkers, the synapse, neuroanatomy, and brain receptors. Coming next: what goes on in the brain during a stroke.

–Ann L. Whitman

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