Science of being high: Your brain on acid.

Your ego disappears, you feel united with the Universe, you see things which are not there and your time perception is distorted: Even if you’ve never taken drugs these effects sound familiar to you; this is what your friends told you after they took acid at some festival or after their recent trip to Amsterdam.

Prehistoric art suggests that psychedelic drugs have a pretty long relationship with humans, their usage in spiritual and healing rituals going as far back as about 5000 years (our ancestors knew what’s up). However, due to political mostly than scientific reasons, psychedelic research was prohibited not long after blooming in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Currently, what can be called a reneissance in the research of psychedelic substances is taking place as more and more scientists turn their attention towards the neural correlates of the fascinating altered states of consciousness associated with psilocybin (the main component of magic mushrooms), ayahuaska and LSD.

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Shooting lasers into brain: sci-fi or reality?

Of all the stuff I came to do as a neuroscience undegrad there is one thing I particularly like to brag about. I shone lasers into mice brains, sliced them (brain, not mice) and created pretty fluorescent pictures out of them. Isn’t this the coolest opener at a party?

The way to have this kind of fun is called optogenetics and it is one of the hottest techniques in neuroscience right now. Pioneered by Karl Deisseroth of the Stanford University, this method is spreading like a wildfire through the neuroscience world and that for a good reason. As the name already suggests, genetical and optical technology are at play there. Gene technology is used to make specific cells light-sensitive, that is, to make them activate (or to shut down) when light falls on them and optical methods (=light) are used to subsequently manipulate these cells. This is done by the following steps:

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