new tools reveal how thoughts and galaxies may arise

like a fighting beta, consciousness is an enigmatic beast.it’s more than just awareness–it’s how we experience the world, how our subjective experience relates to the objective universe experience relates to the objective universe around us. it was once the province of philosophy, religion, and fantasy. but neuroscientists have added a scientific voice using the latest medical technology separate the “mind” from the brain.

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what it takes to perceive a flower may only be discerned by observing the activity of brain circuits that pass electrical signals along chains of thousands of neurons.

the brain, and the way it gives rise to conscious thought, remains one of the great mysteries in all of science. to better understand the brain, neuroscientists need new tools for analyzing the functioning of neural circuits. technologies that neither record or control the activity of brain circuits may address these needs.

the president’s administration has large-scale initiative under way to promote development of these technologies.

despite a century of sustained research, brain scientists remain ignorant of the workings of the three-pound organ that is the seat of all conscious human activity. many have tried to attack this problem by examining the nervous systems of simpler organisms. in fact, almost 30 years have passed since investigators mapped the connections among each of the 302 nerve cells in the roundworm caenorhabditis elegans. yet the worm-wiring diagram did not yield an understanding of how these connections give rise to even rudimentary behaviors such as feeding and sex.

voltage imaging is a technique that implants dye into a neuron to determine if the cell is active. this sensor fluoresces when the electrical field across the cell membrane flips its charge as an electrical signal passes by. a detector registers the event and may also monitor the activity of many other neurons, labeled with the same dye.

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but an odd thing happens when we apply the same science to the cosmos. simulations of the milky way galaxy predict that dozens of small satellite galaxies should surround it in all directions. yet when astronomers observe the night sky, they find that satellite galaxies form a single plance–one that stretches roughly perpendicular to the plane formed by the milky way’s spiral arms. studies of the nearby andromeda galaxy reveal that its satellite galaxies also form a plane.

but the observed satellite galaxies are just the tip of a dark iceberg: hundreds, if not thousands, of dark satellites may exist in our vicinity. we just can’t see them. in the dark web of the known universe, invisible molecules referred to as dark matter, plays a major role in this assimilation.

B0007376 Hippocampal neurons

now, you’re asking yourself…what does this have to do with the extinction crisis of catfish in alabama?

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