Neuroscience | St. Louis Public Radio

Neuroscience

Washington University graduate student Jarod Roland tries out a device that detects electrical signals in his brain and casues his hand to open and close in response.
Leuthardt Lab at Washington University

A mind-controlled robotic glove under development by Washington University scientists could give hope to those whose hands have become paralyzed due to a stroke. 

In the journal Stroke, researchers reported some success with using the device, called the Ipsihand, to help stroke patients regain the ability to grasp objects. A  group of 10 patients wore the robotic exoskeleton over the hand, wirelessly connected to a cap fastened to the head that reads brain signals that tell the hand to open and close.

In 1962, laughter epidemic afflicted several communities for more than two years in present-day Tanzania.
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

In 1962, a strange epidemic swept through several communities in Tanganyika, present-day Tanzania. It wasn’t a virus, but laughter among teenage schoolgirls. The contagious laughter, which lasted for about two and a half years, afflicted about 1,000 people and forced at least 14 schools to temporarily shut down.

Experts later determined that the origin of the epidemic was psychological, perhaps related to stress caused by the presence of British colonialism. But such events have raised scientific questions about why humans can’t control behaviors such as laughing, yawning, coughing and shivering — and why they spread among groups of people.

“We are a part of a human herd whose behavior is often the involuntary playing out of an ancient neurological script that is so familiar that it goes unnoticed,” wrote neuroscientist Robert Provine in his book, "Curious Behavior."

UMSL neuroscience major Katrina Lynn injects a gel into a brainwave-reading cap worn by subject Kohei Kikuchi in January 2017.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

In the late 1990s, before Sandra Langeslag began attending college, she was dumped. Then a few months later, she fell in love again.

“I was very curious. I had these two experiences that were so opposite,” she said. “Why did I feel the way that I feel?"

She was about to begin her studies as a psychology major. Eventually, her interest in the subject of love led her to search for papers to explain the connection between the brain and the experience of falling in love. As it turns out, there weren’t many.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Many people could construe the tagline of Malcolm Gay’s recent book, “The Brain Electric: The Dramatic High-Tech Race to Merge Minds and Machines,” as a vision of dystopian cyborgs lording over the general public. In reality, the vision and the future of brain-machine interface is not quite so dramatic—or horrific.

This diagram describes how the new wireless device functions. Source: Jeong JW, McCall JG, et al. Wireless optofluidic systems for programmable in vivo pharmacology and optogenetics. Cell, published online July 16, 2015.
Washington University | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign | Cell Press

Scientists at Washington University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a new tool to study how specific brain cells affect behavior.

The miniature, wireless device can inject drugs into the brains of live mice.

Oxford University Press

Movies can sometimes feel very real, bringing up emotions and even physical reactions as we watch them.

Washington University cognitive neuroscientist Jeffrey Zacks studies how the brain processes visual imagery, including what we see on film.

According to Zacks, movies hijack the parts of our brains that trigger our emotional responses and overstimulate them.

Washington University School of Medicine

In the not-so-distant future, it will be possible, perhaps even common place, to have computers implanted in our brains, says St. Louis neurosurgeon Eric Leuthardt.

These miniaturized LED devices are small enough to safely implant in a mouse brain.
University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign and Washington University-St. Louis

Researchers at Washington University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed miniaturized electronic devices small enough to safely insert into the brains of live mice. The tiny wireless devices can target specific brain cells and influence behavior.

University of Illinois materials scientist John Rogers co-led the study and helped design the devices. He says they’re on the same size-scale as cells, so they can penetrate far down into the brain.

D. Barch, M. Harms, G. Burgess for the WU-Minn HCP consortium.

An international brain mapping project led by Washington University has released its first set of results.

The Human Connectome Project is a five-year effort to study brain circuits and how the wiring of the brain relates to human behavior.

Project researchers are working to obtain high-resolution brain scans of 1,200 healthy adults, along with information about their cognitive abilities, personalities, and other characteristics.

At a recent academic conference, Michigan State University professor Natalie Phillips stole a glance around the room. A speaker was talking but the audience was fidgety. Some people were conferring among themselves, or reading notes. One person had dozed off.