Suzana Herculano-Houzel

Animal behavior is patterned neuronal activity

In animals that have a nervous system, all motor, mental and visceral actions (and therefore behavior) are the product of neuronal activity. When neuronal activity in the relevant structures or pathways is disrupted or impeded – for example, with anesthetics -, that behavior stops. But this does not yet explain what is it about neuronal activity that…...

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I have dysfunctional days

Closed for inventory Somedays, I might as well wear a sign that says that. I’m inside my own head – and happily so, mind you. It’s just that pulling me outside of my own mind to engage with the external world seems to require an extra effort that.I may not have that day. I’m not […]

Is it Alzheimer’s or isn’t it?

Scientific meetings are often opportunities for researchers to exchange ideas and present to each other what they have just discovered or have begun to study but have not yet made public. That’s why a recent meeting on Alzheimer’s disease was so extraordinary. Two private institutions, the international Alzheimer’s Association and Hong Kong’s Croucher Foundation, brought […]

Less of a good thing might not be enough to have an effect

My grandma, a frustrated would-be-doctor who was married to one, used to announce very proudly her supposed wisdom of always taking less medication than the physician had prescribed. To her, that sounded cautious, and therefore wise. But grandma sadly did not get the medical education she had wanted, or she would know better. The reason…...

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Behavior with a nervous system becomes fast, flexible and complex

Two distribution systems allow large organisms to act as integrated wholes. One is the immunoendocrine system, which through the release of wide-acting substances in the circulatory system allows slow and lasting (stable) integration of bodily functions. The resulting integrated behaviors take seconds to minutes to occur, and last for hours to several days, as long as the substances released are still active. The other is…...

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I don’t know when to stop

Another transatlantic flight, another six hours of non-stop work. Tied to a chair, with no options but to go to the toilet or grab something gluten-free from the tray served as a meal, with no emails, internet, messages, students or dogs and cats around my desk wanting attention, I write very well. What else is […]

More of something good is not necessarily better

The leap of logic here should be obvious, but it is obviously not, for most people fall easily for this pitfall: the fact that a bit of something can be good does not at all mean that more of that will be even better. And yes, that applies to even the blandest, most harmless of…...

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Behaviour without a nervous system depends on diffusion

All actions, and therefore behaviors, require energy transfer. Behaviors happen as potential energy is dissipated, channeled through natural or man-made circuits, networks, or natural paths of least resistance. Ultimately, the source of energy is external to the system, and transferred to it in an original explosion (case of the solar system), through a power line or induction (appliances), or fuel (vehicles and…...

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Anxiety, constant bane of us autistics

I can tell you what it is. I can’t tell you why we have it. Yet, anxiety is a common feature of people on the autism spectrum. Anxiety is a physiological and mental state of readiness as the brain expects to have to deal with a problem – even if the problem for now only […]

Open up the mind

The ways of the human mind are a delightful, if occasionally thorny, subject. Several times, in the question period after lectures, on radio shows or in emails prompted by something I’ve written, I receive the criticism that science, and neuroscience in particular, by reducing the mind to a handful of matter removes the divine from […]

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