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Recent news from The Johns Hopkins University

This section contains regularly updated highlights of the news from around The Johns Hopkins University. Links to the complete news reports from the nine schools, the Applied Physics Laboratory and other centers and institutes are to the left, as are links to help news media contact the Johns Hopkins communications offices.

 

Johns Hopkins Mathematician Receives NSF Grant for Innovative Brain Research

Carey Priebe, a noted mathematician in Johns Hopkins University’s Whiting School of Engineering, has been awarded a National Science Foundation EAGER grant for his work exploring the complex behaviors of the brain’s circuitry.

Johns Hopkins Neuroscientists Find Brain Activity May Mark the Beginning of Memories

By tracking brain activity when an animal stops to look around its environment, neuroscientists at Johns Hopkins University believe they can mark the birth of a memory.

Simulated Blindness Can Help Revive Hearing Loss, Researchers Find

Minimizing a person’s sight for as little as a week may help improve the brain’s ability to process hearing, neuroscientists have found.

New Show Invites Visitors to “Please Touch” and Hold

At the “Touch and the Enjoyment of Sculpture: Exploring the Appeal of Renaissance Statuettes” exhibition — an exhibition at the Walters Art Museum through April 15 – visitors are invited to disregard the usual rule against touching. In fact, handling the objects d’arts – which include replicas of famous 16th century statuettes that are part of the Walters’ collection – is one of the reasons behind the exhibition, explains neuroscientist Steven Hsiao of the Johns Hopkins Brain Science Institute, which is partnering with the Walters on this show – the fourth in a series of projects between the museum and Johns Hopkins.

It Takes Two: Brains Come Wired for Cooperation, JHU Neuroscientist Asserts

When legal commentator Nancy Grace and her partner danced a lively rumba to Spandau Ballet’s 1980’s hit, “True,” on a recent “Dancing With the Stars,” more was going on in the legal commentator’s brain than concern over a possible wardrobe malfunction. Deep in Grace’s cortex, millions of neurons were hard at work doing what they apparently had been built to do: act and react to partner Tristan MacManus’s movements to create a pas de deux that had the dancers functioning together (for the most part) like a well-oiled machine. That is because the brain was built for cooperative activity, whether it be dancing on a reality television show, constructing a skyscraper or working in an office, according to a study led by Johns Hopkins behavioral neuroscientist Eric Fortune and published in the November 4 issue of the journal Science.

Drug Improves Brain Function in Condition that Leads to Alzheimer’s

An existing anti-seizure drug improves memory and brain function in adults with a form of cognitive impairment that often leads to full-blown Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study led by neuroscientist Michela Gallagher of The Johns Hopkins University. The findings raise the possibility that doctors will someday be able to use the drug, levetiracetam, already approved for use in epilepsy patients, to slow the abnormal loss of brain function in some aging patients before their condition becomes Alzheimer’s.

As Time Goes By, It Gets Tougher to “Just Remember This”

It’s something we just accept: the fact that the older we get, the more difficulty we seem to have remembering things. We can leave our cars in the same parking lot each morning, but unless we park in the same space each and every day, it’s a challenge eight hours later to recall whether we left the SUV in the second or fifth row. Or, we can be introduced to new colleagues at a meeting and will have forgotten their names before the handshake is over. We shrug and nervously reassure ourselves that our brains’ “hard drives” are just too full to handle the barrage of new information that comes in daily. According to a Johns Hopkins neuroscientist, however, the real trouble is that our aging brains are unable to process this information as “new” because the brain pathways leading to the hippocampus-the area of the brain that stores memories-become degraded over time. As a result, our brains cannot accurately “file” new information (like where we left the car that particular morning), and confusion results. A study on the subject appeared in the May 9 Early Online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

JPEG For the Mind: How the Brain Compresses Visual Information

In the today’s online issue of Current Biology, a Johns Hopkins team led by neuroscientists Ed Connor and Kechen Zhang describes what appears to be the next step in understanding how the brain compresses visual information down to the essentials. They found that cells in area “V4”, a midlevel stage in the primate brain’s object vision pathway, are highly selective for image regions containing acute curvature. Experiments by doctoral student Eric Carlson showed that V4 cells are very responsive to sharply curved or angled edges, and much less responsive to flat edges or shallow curves.

Five Johns Hopkins Researchers Named AAAS Fellows

Five Johns Hopkins researchers have been elected by their peers as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Chia-Ling Chien and Marc M. Greenberg of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Valeria Culotta of the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Se-Jin Lee and Mark Mattson of the School of Medicine are among 503 new fellows from around the world. Election as an AAAS fellow honors scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. The names of the awardees will be published in the “AAAS News and Notes” section of Science on January 28. The newly elected fellows will be awarded a certificate and a rosette pin during the AAAS Fellows Forum at the 2011 AAAS annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Feb. 19.

Your Brain on Art: Symposium Examines The Science of the Arts

For centuries, philosophers have speculated about the links between beauty, human perception, creativity and pleasure. In recent years, scientists have learned a great deal about sensory systems and human response to the visual world, three-dimensional space, sound, touch, taste and smell. To further explore these ideas, the Johns Hopkins Brain Science Institute will host a two-day public symposium titled, “The Science of the Arts: Perceptual Neuroscience and Aesthetics” on Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 20 and 21 at the American Visionary Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Tick, Tock: Rods Help Set Internal Clocks, Johns Hopkins Biologist Says

We run our modern lives largely by the clock, from the alarms that startle us out of our slumbers and herald each new workday to the watches and clocks that remind us when it’s time for meals, after-school pick-up and the like. In addition to those ubiquitous timekeepers, though, we have internal “clocks” that are part of our biological machinery and which help set our circadian rhythms, regulating everything from our sleep-wake cycles to our appetites and hormone levels. Light coming into our brains via our eyes set those clocks, though no one is sure exactly how this happens. Johns Hopkins biologist Samer Hattar, in collaboration with scientists at the University of Southern California and Cornell University, however, has unlocked part of that mystery recently in a study that found that rod cells – one of three kinds of exquisitely photosensitive cells found in the retina of the eye – are the only ones responsible for “setting” those clocks in low light conditions. What’s more, the study found that rods – which take their name from their cylindrical shape – also contribute (along with cones and other retinal cells) to setting internal clocks in bright light conditions. The study appeared in a recent issue of Nature Neuroscience.

Seven Johns Hopkins Researchers Named AAAS Fellows

Seven Johns Hopkins researchers from four of the university’s schools have been elected by their peers as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Pierre A. Coulombe, Ph.D., and Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena, Ph.D, of the Bloomberg School of Public Health; David Draper, Ph.D., of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences; David J. Linden, Ph.D., and Cynthia Wolberger, Ph.D., of the School of Medicine; and Peter C. Searson, Ph.D., and Denis Wirtz, Ph.D. of the Whiting School of Engineering; are among 531 new fellows around the world. Election as a fellow honors their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

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