Monday, March 19, 2012

New Tools to Answer Timeless Questions

In the past several years, [Alan] Jasanoff has developed sensors that can be used with fMRI to image brain activity more directly, by measuring levels of neurotransmitters (the chemicals that carry messages between neurons) and calcium, which enters neurons when they fire. Using those sensors, Jasanoff has started exploring how positive reinforcement influences behavior and decision making in animals. His work could also be applicable to fields outside of neuroscience, because intracellular signaling molecules such as calcium “are really ubiquitous — not just in neuronal signaling but signaling throughout the body, during development, immune-cell activity and so on,” says Jasanoff, who is an associate member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research and an associate professor of biological engineering, nuclear science and engineering, and brain and cognitive sciences. more

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