Monthly Archives: October 2010

Exams, Planes, and Delays!


It would seem that I have accidentally taken a brief hiatus from my blogging duties! Allow me to explain my absence.

This week marked our first developmental biology exam. As it was a take-home essay, it is needless to say this consumed every moment of spare time available. Fortunately it seems I was not the only student who shirked their blogging duties as only one of seven students posted on time! Strength in numbers, right?

As my professor jetted off halfway around the world I relocated to a much warmer climate, Phoenix. There is no feeling like being in a prairie in the morning then landing in a desert to be greeted by an In-N-Out Double double: animal style.

But never fear! I believe I am still required an additional post to appease the almighty PZ (calling him almighty gets me an A, right?). So here’s a spoiler of the next post to come: primates and faulty cohesin.

On one last note, I was informed to inform you (to inform others) that this person is Not a doctor. Good job, Rhys Morgan. Keep slaying them.

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Circadian Rhythm and Synapse Activity in Zebrafish


The other day I found an article that seemed all too perfect. Development. Neurology. Zebrafish. For those of you who don’t know, these little fishies are not only PZ’s specialty but are also currently taking over our lab (You will be missed, fishies in tank #3).

In zebrafish, the sleep-wake cycle is regulated by hypocretin neurons (HCRT). These neurons also play a major role in mammals as well and if damaged can lead to narcolepsy. The researchers labeled these neurons in zebrafish with a presynaptic marker synaptophysin (SYP) attached to a fluorescent dye. Now the researchers can look at activity across the span of a day to visually quantify changes in baseline function or artificially produced by various conditions (e.g. sleep deprivation). So,  they irritated fish for several hours after normal sleeping time until the fish were nice and sleep deprived.

The sleep deprived fish showed homeostatic influences on the number of HCRT synapses. Why is this important? The fish showed that upon sleep deprivation more synapse terminals were created  to maintain cellular balance. Yet, simultaneously, the natural circadian rhythm began to decrease the number of synapses from the point of initial sleep deprivation. Homeostatic effects are estimated to be a mere 17% and this result appears only after six hours of deprivation. Essentially, as the day wears on the brain winds up more and more. The circadian rhythm counteracts this by gradually resetting the system back to baseline. A portion of this study showed that as the system tries to reset, sleep deprivation will weakly offset efficacy leading to impairment in memory retainment (and overall cranky fish).

*Professor, I would have gotten that question right but the course workload created homeostatic effects which led to faulty memory retainment!*


Just in time for Caturday


A brief update:
I’ve decided, after a slight revision to deter more B**bquake visits, to allow Mr. Mabus (athdead) to comment. I do this in hopes of finding at least a few lulz in the situation. If not, the ban hammer is always within reach. With that said, a new devo. post is in the works. And as always… KITTY!

While you’re distracted with the adorable baby lynx, I will apologize in advance for those of you who decide to disregard good sense and follow athdead’s revised link. Don’t click it. I’m serious. You won’t like it.


A Sincere Question


Among the comments I received today (and I thank you for them),  I discovered two that were sent to me in a spam-like fashion. These comments seemed to indicate some blather along the lines of the last atheist in Minnesota becoming an arbiter on mental health and redirects me to a “Boobquake” forum post. *Gasp* The End of Atheism you say?!

Now, here is my question. Should I allow his comments to pass beyond the filter? I have let every last person share their uncensored voice. Call me naïve, but I feel it is only fair to allow it for the time being until proven otherwise.

With that being said, athdead, I feel the need to remind you: I know who you are. You know what we are capable of. Also, next time don’t forget the d in  “a ead atheist.”  Mmmkay, Pumpkin?


Sexual Dimorphism in Drosophila


Last week, Current Biology released an article about structural differences between sexes in Drosophila melanogaster. It may not be about a human brain, but it’s still neurology and at least semi-related to developmental biology this time.

While the “model” organism displays distinct behavioral differences between sexes, the overall anatomy in regards to dimorphism has been essentially neglected. Previously, the only discernible difference was in the olfactory system. Male olfactory systems have a 25 – 60% larger volume than female flies. Coincidently the male pheromone cVA attracts females while repelling males (however no credible correlation can be made).

Ooooo pretty!

Pretty picture! This is one of many from a collage presented in the article and most interesting to myself as it visibly shows the gender difference in brain size. Magenta is larger in females and green is larger in males.

The article proceeds to explain the fine tunings of specific proteins (fruitless, sex lethal, and transformer) and their effect on dimorphism in a manner that is, quite frankly, far beyond my level of comprehension.

Overall, sexual dimorphism does exist in the Drosophila brain and may influence behavior as a result. A key example of this lies in the activation of fruM (the male version of the fruitless protein) in females and the resulting behavior of courting other females. Now that the anatomical groundwork has been laid the researchers are able to pursue behavioral consequences in future research.


Classroom Discussion!


By now many of you have probably read PZ’s post regarding the commenter’s personal information. With that in mind, I would like to add my own two cents on the subject.

I have been reading through the comments like any Pharyngulite should, and I noticed quite an uproar. Some people praised us. Some people scolded us. Some people lol’d. Personally, I favor only the last response. It would seem a few people made some rather hasty assumptions about myself and my fellow classmates.

Since I cannot speak on behalf of my peers, I shall only speak for myself. I am not evil. I would not post someone’s personal information on /b/ regardless of how “mean” they were. (We certainly joked about it though.) I am not a delicate snowflake. I enjoy each and every comment that I receive. I truly do! I seek neither your praise nor your scorn, but I will humbly accept both. If you feel my posts are complete garbage be sure to tell me. If you like them enough to recommend me to a med. school, by all means go for it!

As for our discussion in class, we reviewed our assignment. That’s all. Our assignment was to write a science blog. We encountered a problem with our assignment and brought it to the attention of our professor. He brought it to your attention. Now… the bit about the personal information may seem a bit extreme, but I assure you it was entirely in jest. There was never a viable threat of 4chan (/b/ is not your personal army). Besides, anyone who has ever lurked should know better.

Oh look a kitty! I hope this may be some form of restitution for any unintentional tone this post may have portrayed. I enjoy my viewers and would in no way, shape, or form want to dissuade you from visiting. On a parting note, I would like to thank everyone for their comments. I will address them as soon as I get the time.

–James


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