A year of neuroscience in Nature

TItle and abstract words for neuroscience papers published in Nature in 2011

Something light for the weekend: deconstruction of a year of neuroscience in Nature. This text cloud was created from the titles and abstracts of 83 neuroscience papers published in Nature in 2011. Click on the image to see a larger version. Frequency is represented by font size and common words such as “the” and “and” are excluded. Not too surprisingly, “neurons” came out on top (149 occurrences).  Read more

Light dissection of reward

Image courtesy of Naoshige Uchida

Out online in Nature today: a paper from Naoshige Uchida and colleagues about cell-type specific reward and punishment signals in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of mice. The VTA is a midbrain region heavily implicated in reward and addiction, and its outputs are thought to provide reward-related signals to other brain areas. One subpopulation of cells with the VTA, the dopaminergic neurons, have been the topic of intense study for their potential computational role in reward learning. Over a decade ago Wolfram Schultz and colleagues found that in monkeys, dopaminergic neurons fired for unexpected rewards, but were also suppressed if expected rewards were not received.  Read more

Natural or synthetic?

Neurons in visual cortex respond to all kinds of stimuli – spots, bars, gratings, noise, and photographs of supermodels. Are natural stimuli such as photographs better for figuring out how the visual system works than synthetic stimuli? The computation and systems focus features a pair of Perspectives taking separate sides of this debate. Gidon Felsen and Yang Dan present the benefits of natural stimuli , countered by Nicole Rust and Tony Movshon.  Read more