Thanks to new techniques developed at Caltech, scientists can now see through tissues, organs, and even an entire body, offering new insights into the cell-by-cell makeup of organisms—and the promise of novel diagnostic medical applications.
Nearly all motile bacteria can sense and respond to their surroundings through a process called chemotaxis, which begins with proteins known as chemoreceptors. Now researchers at Caltech have built the first model that depicts precisely how chemoreceptors and the proteins around them are structured at the sensing tip of bacteria. Because chemotaxis plays a critical role in the first steps of bacterial infection, a better understanding of the process could pave the way for the development of new, more effective antibiotics.
Our bodies are full of tiny superheroes—antibodies that fight foreign invaders, cells that regenerate, and structures that ensure our systems run smoothly. One such structure is myelin, a material that forms a protective cape around the axons of our nerve cells so that they can send signals quickly and efficiently. But myelin becomes damaged in demyelinating diseases like multiple sclerosis, leaving neurons without their sheaths. Researchers from Caltech now believe they have found a way to help the brain replace damaged myelin.
A key feature of human and animal brains is that they are adaptive; they are able to change their structure and function based on input from the environment and on the potential associations, or consequences, of that input. To learn more about such neural adaptability, researchers at Caltech have explored the brains of insects and identified a mechanism by which the connections in their brain change to form new and specific memories of smells.
Our cognitive abilities and decision-making skills can be dramatically hindered in social settings where we feel that we are being ranked or assigned a status level, such as classrooms and work environments, according to new findings from a team of researchers from Caltech and four other institutions. The finding flies in the face of long-held ideas about intelligence and cognition that regard IQ as a stable, predictive measure of mental horsepower.
Although many mental illnesses are uniquely human, animals sometimes exhibit abnormal behaviors similar to those seen in humans with psychological disorders. Such behaviors are called endophenotypes. Now, Caltech researchers have found that mice lacking a gene that encodes a particular protein found in the synapses of the brain display a number of endophenotypes associated with schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders.
Many meat-eating animals have unique ways of hunting down a meal using their senses. To find a tasty treat, bats use echolocation, snakes rely on infrared vision, and owls take advantage of the concave feathers on their faces, the better to help them hear possible prey. Leeches have not just one but two distinct ways of detecting dinner, and, according to new findings from biologists at Caltech, their preferred method changes as they age.
Researchers from Caltech have isolated a very specific difference in how high-functioning people with autism think about other people, finding that—in actuality—they don’t tend to think about what others think of them at all.
Responding to faces is a critical tool for social interactions between humans. Without the ability to read faces and their expressions, it would be hard to tell friends from strangers upon first glance, let alone a sad person from a happy one. Now, neuroscientists from Caltech, with the help of collaborators at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, have discovered a novel response to human faces by looking at recordings from brain cells in neurosurgical patients.
When making decisions based on multiple interdependent factors—such as what combination of stocks and bonds to invest in—humans look at how the factors correlate with each other, according to a new study by researchers from Caltech and University College London.
As we take in the world around us, learn, and form memories, the synapses between neurons in our brains are constantly being modified. Some get stronger, while others are allowed to shrink or get weaker. The network of enzyme-regulated chemical reactions that control these modifications is complex, to say the least. Now Mary Kennedy, the Allen and Lenabelle Davis Professor of Biology at Caltech, has come up with a way to tease apart the elusive details of that network.