Kandel’s 11 open (and mostly vague) problems in the biology of memory

The Journal of Neuroscience published a series of articles commemorating the 40th anniversary of the society for neuroscience. In an attempt to follow the footsteps of mathematicians, nobel laureate Eric Kandel proposed 11 open problems for the future of understanding memory:
1. How does synaptic growth occur, and how is signaling across the synapse coordinated to induce and maintain growth?
2. What trans-synaptic signals coordinate the conversion of short- to intermediate- to long-term plasticity?
3. What can computational models contribute to understanding synaptic plasticity?
4. Will characterization of the molecular components of the presynaptic and postsynaptic cell compartments revolutionize our understanding of synaptic plasticity and growth?
5. What firing patterns do neurons actually use to initiate LTP at various synapses?
6. What is the function of neurogenesis in the hippocampus?
7. How does memory become stabilized outside the hippocampus?
8. How is memory recalled?
9. What are the role of small RNAs in synaptic plasticity and memory storage?
10. What is the molecular nature of the cognitive deficits in depression, schizophrenia, and non-Alzheimer’s age-related memory loss?
11. Does working memory in the prefrontal cortex involve reverbatory self-reexcitatory circuits or intrinsically sustained firing patterns?
Unlike the 23 problems confronting mathematics proposed by David Hilbert, the vagueness of most of Kandel’s open questions suggest an even grander question:  What is needed in the study of biological memory to allow us to propose more concrete and formal questions?
Eric R. Kandel (2009) The Biology of Memory: A Forty-Year Perspective. The Journal of Neuroscience 29(41):12748-12756.

The Journal of Neuroscience published a series of articles commemorating the 40th anniversary of the society for neuroscience.  In an attempt to follow the footsteps of mathematics, Eric Kandel proposed 11 open problems for the future of understanding the biology of memory:

1. How does synaptic growth occur, and how is signaling across the synapse coordinated to induce and maintain growth?

2. What trans-synaptic signals coordinate the conversion of short- to intermediate- to long-term plasticity?

3. What can computational models contribute to understanding synaptic plasticity?

4. Will characterization of the molecular components of the presynaptic and postsynaptic cell compartments revolutionize our understanding of synaptic plasticity and growth?

5. What firing patterns do neurons actually use to initiate LTP at various synapses?

6. What is the function of neurogenesis in the hippocampus?

7. How does memory become stabilized outside the hippocampus?

8. How is memory recalled?

9. What are the role of small RNAs in synaptic plasticity and memory storage?

10. What is the molecular nature of the cognitive deficits in depression, schizophrenia, and non-Alzheimer’s age-related memory loss?

11. Does working memory in the prefrontal cortex involve reverbatory self-reexcitatory circuits or intrinsically sustained firing patterns?

Unlike the 23 problems confronting mathematics proposed by David Hilbert, the vagueness of most of Kandel’s open questions suggest an even grander question:  What is needed in the study of biological memory to allow us to propose concrete, formal questions?

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Thesis, the economy, and writing

For the last couple of months I have been spending most time working on my thesis. It has been actually very enjoyable, for the most part. There have been some days where it has been somewhat painful. The quick update is that it is going well and that I still hope to submit very soon. As expected, there are many experiments, and tasks, and analysis that I would like to expand into. But I’m going to have to leave it for later. As Inman keeps reminding me, there is no such thing as a finished thesis…

Continue reading “Thesis, the economy, and writing”

c. elegans gets dugg

This video got digged as a part of an ‘art of science competition‘. I think it is really cool. These guys are known to do very interesting behaviors, including lots of learning. I could definitely see myself using these organisms and then generating artificial life models in parallel to explain their behavior.

Shown here is the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans crawling on an agar surface followed by a homemade tracking video microscope. C. elegans is a small (1mm in length), free living worm that is commonly found in the soil. C. elegans moves forward by wiggling sinusoidal waves down its body and changes direction by performing pirouettes, a choreographed sequence of turns and reversals. By studying these patterns of motion we hope to better understand the behavioral biology of C. elegans.

The Elements of Style

In an effort to improve my writing, I have been treating myself to evenings of practice under the tutelage of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style; as recommended by Randy. I will be writing down the rules (and possibly more than just the rules) here (a) to help me remember them as I write them down and (b) for quick access when the book is not around.

I. Elementary Rules of Usage

1. Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding ‘s.

2. In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term except the last.

3. Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas.

4. Place a comma before a conjunction introducing an independent clause.

5. Do not join independent clauses with a comma.

6. Do not break sentences in two.

Rules 3, 4, 5 and 6 cover the most important principles that govern punctuation.

7. Use a colon after an independent clause to introduce a list of particulars, an appositive, an amplification, or an illustrative quotation.

8. Use a dash to set off an abrupt break or interruption and to announce a long appositive or summary.

9. The number of the subject determines the number of the verb.

10. Use the proper case of pronoun.

11. A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject.

From this first section, the rule that I break the most is definitely No. 7. One of the wrong examples that they give is: “Your dedicated whitter requires: a knife, a piece of wood, and a back porch”. I do this all the time. The suggested way to improve the sentence is: “Your dedicated whittler requires three props: a knife, a piece of wood, and a back porch”.

The most unintuitive examples that I have seen so far come from rules 9 and 10. “One of the ablest scientist who has attacked this problem”. They say this is a ‘common blunde “One of the ablest scientist who have attacked this problem”.