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…...

This content is for Textual Educational Content and Combo Subscription members only.

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…...

This content is for Textual Educational Content and Combo Subscription members only.

Behavior is any observable action

We usually equate nervous systems with behaviors, but as it turns out, a nervous system – that is, an ensemble of organs and tissues made of excitable cells that carry signals rapidly across the body – is actually not necessary for behavior. If behavior is defined simply as sets of observable actions in a given context, then plants have behaviors, like orienting to sunlight; so do single-cell…...

This content is for Textual Educational Content and Combo Subscription members only.

Life 101: What happens when you are done growing up? You grow sideways. Yeah, you get fat.

Young people tend to be lean. Even chubby kids turn lean as they enter their growth spurt. And then… age happens, apparently, for one of the most visible signs of age is fat accumulation. But is it age, or is it something else? The Neuroscientist On Call thinks it is something else, and actually something…...

This content is for Textual Educational Content and Combo Subscription members only.

Life 101: Larger bodies are made of more cells, not larger cells

If life is self-organizing work at the expense of metabolism, then the cell is the membrane-bound unit of life: it is the building block that contains all the enzymes that promote the chains of reactions that transfer energy and matter that constitute metabolism. Bodies are made of cells that stick together to one another and…...

This content is for Textual Educational Content and Combo Subscription members only.

Adoptive mothers work too!

Last week I wrote about the marks that institutionalizing babies leaves on their brains years later, even when they are adopted in infancy: slower development, reaching a brain volume 10% smaller than that of children of the same age who have always been raised by their own families. On the one hand, this and other […]

When playing loses its fun

Jonathan Schaeffer, a computer games expert at the University of Alberta in Canada, has just proved, after 18 years of mathematical calculations, that the game of checkers is doomed to a draw. From any of the 19 possible starting moves, no one wins if none of the opponents makes a mistake: winning at checkers is […]

The problem with saying no

The intention is the best possible: to prevent them from being run over, destroying the house, taking what isn’t theirs, falling off the wall or killing the cat. You say “don’t put your hand there!” – but your child does anyway. Why is it so difficult to get a child to obey no?   Asterix […]

Adolescence is a brain thing

Pick a book about the brain at random and you’ll probably read that most of the brain’s transformations take place during the first three years of life – or, with good grace, the first ten. After that… chaos: with the brain supposedly ready, adolescence would be that phase of life where everything would be fine […]

pt_BRPortuguês do Brasil