Why Do We Sleep?

While we can more or less abstain from some basic biological urges—for food, drink, and sex—we can’t do the same for sleep. At some point, no matter how much espresso we drink, we just crash. And every animal that’s been studied, from the fruit fly to the frog, also exhibits some sort of sleep-like behavior. But why do we—and the rest of the animal kingdom—sleep in the first place?

David Anderson, Christof Koch Named Allen Distinguished Investigators

Two Caltech researchers—David Anderson and Christof Koch—have been named by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation among the inaugural group of Allen Distinguished Investigators. The foundation's new program aims to advance important research in neuroscience and cellular engineering.

Caltech Scientists Describe the Delicate Balance in the Brain that Controls Fear

A research team led by scientists at Caltech has taken an important step toward understanding the neural circuitry of fear. In a paper published in this week's issue of the journal Nature, they describe a microcircuit in the amygdala that controls, or "gates," the outflow of fear from that region of the brain.

Controlling Individual Cortical Nerve Cells by Human Thought

Caltech neuroscientist Christof Koch, postdoc Moran Cerf, and their colleagues have found that individuals can exert conscious control over single neurons in the brain—despite the neurons' location in a brain region previously thought inaccessible to conscious control—and manipulate the behavior of an image on a computer screen.

Two Caltech Scientists Named Among 2010 NIH Director's New Innovator Awardees

As part of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) initiative to stimulate highly innovative research and support promising new scientific investigators, two scientists from Caltech were named among the 2010 class of the NIH Director's New Innovator Award recipients.

Addicted to Nicotine

The first pull on a cigarette should send you into convulsions. But instead, smoking can mellow you out and sharpen your mind. The series of unfortunate events by which nicotine works its magic in your brain is now becoming clear.

 

Fruit Flies Use Horizontal Landmarks for Altitude Control, Says Caltech Research Team

Flies follow horizontal edges to regulate altitude, says a team of researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). This finding contradicts a previous model, which posited that insects adjust their height by visually measuring the motion beneath them as they fly.

 

Two Caltech Scientists Receive 2010 NIH Director's Pioneer Awards

Two scientists from Caltech have been recognized by the National Institutes of Health for their innovative and high-impact biomedical research programs. Michael Roukes, professor of physics, applied physics, and bioengineering, and co-director of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute, and Pamela Bjorkman, Caltech's Max Delbrück Professor of Biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, now join the 81 Pioneers who have been selected since the program's inception in 2004.

 

Caltech Biologists Discover MicroRNAs that Control Function of Blood Stem Cells

One key to fighting diseases such as leukemia and anemia is gaining an understanding of the genes and molecules that control the function of hematopoietic—or blood—stem cells, which provide the body with a constant supply of red and white blood cells and platelets. Biologists at Caltech have taken a large step toward that end, with the discovery of a novel group of molecules that are found in high concentrations within hematopoietic stem cells and appear to regulate their production.

Gain and Loss in Optimistic Versus Pessimistic Brains

Our belief as to whether we will likely succeed or fail at a given task—and the consequences of winning or losing—directly affects the levels of neural effort put forth in movement-planning circuits in the human cortex, according to a new brain-imaging study by Caltech neuroscientists. 

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