Learning

Illustration of a series of squares containing distinct patterns.

Can an emerging field called ‘neural systems understanding’ explain the brain?

This mashup of neuroscience, artificial intelligence and even linguistics and philosophy of mind aims to crack the deep question of what "understanding" is, however un-brain-like its models may be.

By George Musser
5 June 2024 | 21 min listen
Conceptual image of colorful falling letters, casting shadows on a white wall.

Some minimally verbal autistic people show signs of written-language familiarity, study suggests

But researchers not involved in the work worry the findings could be used to support discredited facilitated-communication techniques.

By Calli McMurray
9 May 2024 | 7 min read
Image of the dorsal raphe area of the brain.

Neurotransmitter switch-up helps fan extreme stress into full-blown fear

The flip occurs when certain neurons in the dorsal raphe start to express the chemical GABA instead of glutamate, a new study shows.

By Claudia López Lloreda
9 April 2024 | 5 min read
Computer-generated illustration of disgusting green food.

‘It must be something I ate’ is hard-wired into the brain

Feeling sick reactivates “novel flavor” neurons, according to a new study in mice, and points to a dedicated circuit for learning to avoid unsafe food.

By Angie Voyles Askham
29 March 2024 | 6 min read
Photograph of Simone Biles vaulting at the Summer 2020 Olympics.

Learning or performance? Why the distinction matters for memory science

New methods make it possible to probe the neural substrates of memory with unprecedented precision. Making the most of them demands careful experimental design.

By Stephen Maren
11 March 2024 | 6 min read
Photograph of an intimidating lab mouse.
Hypothalamus Microphone

Newly found hypothalamus circuits shape bullying behaviors in mice

Activity in the tiny brain region helps submissive rodents learn to avoid aggressors, and aggressive mice to curb their attacks, according to two recent studies.

By Angie Voyles Askham
5 March 2024 | 6 min listen
Illustration of a starfish against a white backdrop.

Cognition in brainless organisms is redefining what it means to learn

A slew of simple creatures demonstrate forms of learning, making the case for cognitive science to expand beyond the boundaries of the human mind.

By Annie Melchor
31 January 2024 | 8 min read
An abstract illustration of a figure from the shoulders up with multi-colored boxes on its face

What ‘drifting representations’ reveal about the brain

How neuronal activity patterns associated with a behavior can change, even when the behavior does not — something once seen as an experimental artifact — could offer new insights about neural function.

By Angie Voyles Askham
13 December 2023 | 8 min read
Three researchers, one wearing movement-tracking devices, walk around a university campus.

‘Into the wild’: Moving studies of memory and learning out of the lab

People with electrodes embedded deep in their brain are collaborating with a growing posse of plucky researchers to uncover the mysteries of real-world recall.

By Katie Moisse
13 November 2023 | 9 min listen
A research image of a mouse hippocampus

Some social issues in DYRK1A model mice stem from faulty inhibitory circuits

Alterations in inhibitory circuits and difficulties in social recognition characterize mice missing one copy of DYRK1A, a gene linked to autism.

By Giorgia Guglielmi
11 October 2023 | 4 min read

Explore more from The Transmitter

Brain organoid size matches intensity of social problems in autistic people

Overgrown organoids could point to mechanisms underlying profound autism.

By Holly Barker
18 July 2024 | 5 min read

Persistent protein pairing enables memories to last

The complex of two memory proteins, rather than the individual molecules acting independently, underlie month-long memories in mice, a new study suggests.

By Elissa Welle
17 July 2024 | 5 min read
A digitally distorted image of a file folder against a blue gradient background.

Data access changes to UK Biobank stir unease in neuroscientists

“I feel a little bit in limbo,” says neuroscientist Stephanie Noble, who has paused a study using Biobank data after the repository shifted from a data download to a cloud-only access model.

By Calli McMurray
16 July 2024 | 7 min read