New technologies are allowing us to explore the brain as never before. We are entering a new era in neuroscience where our knowledge of the brain is beginning to match the urgent need to prevent and treat diseases of the brain.



Widespread connections among neurons help the brain distinguish smells

Distinguished Professor Emeritus Charles Stevens and coauthor Shyam Srinivasan illuminated how, in a brain area responsible for processing information about smells (called the piriform cortex), what looks like a messy jumble of connections between neurons is actually critical to how the brain distinguishes between similar odors. Aside from better describing how smells are processed, the research could also lead to greater insight into how some parts of the brain organize information.

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Research into yeast leads to serendipitous finding about a central nervous system disorder

Professor Tony Hunter, first author Zheng Wang, colleagues and collaborators found that an important cellular quality-control mechanism in baker’s yeast is closely connected to hypomyelinating leukodystrophy, a debilitating neurodegenerative disease that occurs in children. The findings could indicate a therapeutic approach for this rare disease, as well as for multiple sclerosis and other neurodegenerative diseases.

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Physicists train robotic gliders to soar like birds

Professor Terrence Sejnowski and UC San Diego collaborators used reinforcement learning to train gliders to autonomously navigate atmospheric thermals, soaring to heights of nearly 2,300 feet. The results highlight the role of vertical wind accelerations and roll-wise torques as viable biological cues for soaring birds. The findings also provide a navigational strategy that directly applies to the development of autonomous soaring vehicles or unmanned aerial vehicles.

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