The world is made of matter, but between those particles are empty spaces, which paradoxically account for the majority of our perceived, concrete universe.
“This table feels hard,” said Assistant Professor Rishidev Chaudhuri, who sat in his office at the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience. “That’s something that emerges at the collective population level.”
How individual particles come together to spontaneously create new structures is a question pondered by many physicists. The concept underlying that question—collective behavior—also intrigues neuroscientists.
In the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury and other neurodegenerative disorders, insoluble fibers composed of a protein called tau build up inside of neurons, eventually creating a tangled mess characteristic of these diseases.
Puzzles always fascinated UC Davis Center for Neuroscience Director Kimberley McAllister. They’re initially what attracted her to science.
Raised in rural northern Virginia, McAllister enjoyed exploring the woods with her sister and dogs. She developed an avid interest in botany and ornithology, intrigued by the complexities of the natural world. She wanted to figure out answers to nature’s mysteries. Eventually, McAllister’s ambition drew her to one of the most complex puzzles in the universe: the human brain.
To function daily, your body gleans energy from three food-derived macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats and proteins. How you divvy up those macronutrients in your diet is a matter of personal preference.
But what if you could train your brain to prefer one macronutrient over the other?
Ask most people about the neurochemical origins of depression and you’ll likely hear how low serotonin levels are the cause. But today’s scientists know depression’s roots are more tangled and complex. One area of interest to them is the brain’s prefrontal cortex, a region responsible for motivational and goal-directed behavior. For those with depression, this region’s neurons are unhealthy, their connections, called synapses, withering like rotten roots.