the Human Brain from 1 to 86 billions

skull1 – Apart from some obvious exceptions, the average person has one brain. It’s located inside the skull and represents the center of the nervous system. The brain exerts a centralized control over the other organs of the body. Brain death is the irreversible end of brain activity; it is used as a legal indicator of death in many jurisdictions.

hemispheres2 – The human brain has two hemispheres that function differently. This means that each hemisphere, left or right, controls different functions. Language, math and logic are mainly controlled by the left hemisphere, while creativity, spatial abilities, visual imagery and music depend on the right one. A funny thing is that the right side of the brain controls muscles on the left side of the body, and vice versa. Therefore, damage to one side of the brain will affect the opposite side of the body.

3 – Three pounds is the average weight of the human brain. Switching to more common units, we have about 1.3 kg of mass in about 1130 cubic centimetres (cm3, or cc). Take the quantity of water contained in one bottle of 1 liter plus one coffee cup and you’ll have the same volume.

lobes4 – Each cerebral hemisphere is divided into four lobes. Their identification is made by considering sulci and gyri, respectively the grooves and the bumps that can be seen on the brain surface. The Frontal Lobe is located in front of the central sulcus and is concerned with reasoning, planning, parts of speech and movement (motor cortex), emotions, and problem-solving. Behind the central sulcus there is the Parietal Lobe, that treates the perception of stimuli such as touch, pressure, temperature and pain. Below the lateral fissure we have the Temporal Lobedevoted to perception and recognition of auditory stimuli (hearing) and memory (hippocampus). At the back of the brain, behind the parietal and temporal lobes, there is the Occipital Lobe, mainly concerned with many aspects of vision.

5 – Somebody started arguing that the human brain makes us see ourselves five times more beautiful than we actually are. If you accidentally read that somewhere, it’s junk science. This is not scientific at all, but it may be interesting to have a look at this video.

six6 – The first six months of life are really important for brain development. During the first six months of life, babies gradually gain information about the world around them. After depending mainly on their caregivers, babies grow and develop faster in the first year than any other year. There is a host of techniques to boost babies’ cognitive development during their first 3-6 months of life (an example here), mainly by reading and talking to them, making them interact with toys and people, proposing them different situations in order to enhance their senses, and so on.

7 – seven items is the typical capacity of the so-called “brain’s working memory”. As explained on this website, countless psychological experiments have shown that, on average, the longest sequence a normal person can recall on the fly contains about seven seven dwarfsitems. Typical scenarios: recalling a phone number, or the items from a mental grocery list (that’s why we write it down!), or all the names of the seven dwarfs (one of the hardest things in life…). Comparing the human brain to a computer, the working memory is somehow the RAM, while the long-term memory is the hard drive. The complex brain activity imposes the limit of seven items to the working memory, which provides continuity from one thought to the next and allows quick conversations and computations. The very complex biochemical machine we have inside our head continuously manages a stunning number of interneuronal communications, at each time instant. Mathematical models can estimate the huge network of firing neurons, thus estimating the working memory’s capacity… that is, on average, only seven items!

Unfortunately, we don’t have time (and space), here, to get to 86 billions, that is the number of neurons in the human brain (according to the latest plausible estimate). One billion is 109, or 1 000 000 000, or a thousand millions (103×106). And yes, we have 86 times this quantity of neurons in our three pound magic box!

other source: this amazing website

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European Robotics Week 2013

(almost) one year later

European Robotics Week 2013: 25 November / 1 December 2013

ERW2013

The European Robotics Week offers one week of various robotics related activities across Europe for the general public, highlighting growing importance of robotics in a wide variety of application areas. The Week aims at inspiring technology education in students of all ages to pursue careers in STEM-related fields, i.e. science, technology, engineering and math.

There is a lot going on in Europe during the European Robotics Week: school visits with lectures on robotics, guided tours for pupils, open labs, exhibitions, challenges, robots in action on public squares…. The participating companies, universities and research centres come up with interesting programs to bring their robots and organisations to the attention of the public educating them on how robotics impacts society, both now and in ERW logothe future.

It’s time to show the general public what robotics is all about and what important role robots play in Europe!

Events are organised locally (by scientists, labs, teachers, schools, robotics engineers, robot makers etc.), but centrally listed and co-promoted. euRobotics AISBL, The European association for a Public-Private Partnership in robotics, serves as the central coordinator. The events are supported through national coordinators who are promoting the idea among their national networks and communities.

The European Robotics Week is powered by euRobotics

Disney explains Menstruation

cartoonI know it’s considered a quite delicate discussion topic, but menstruation is something which I think it’s interesting to be informed about. And what’s better than a cartoon to approach medical subjects? 🙂

At the end of this post you can find a very nice youtube video. It explains the story of menstruation and it’s produced by Disney. At the beginning I was a bit skeptical, but why not… it lasts 10 minutes, if you don’t like it just switch back to your music playlists.

hypophysisEverything starts with the Pituitary gland, better known as Hypophysis, which is a small 0.5 grams endocrine gland positioned at the base of the brain. Endocrine means that its product, hormones, is directly “pumped” into the blood (rather than by means of a duct, as in the case of exocrine glands). The Hypophysis secretes nine hormones that regulate homeostasis, that is a host of human body processes able to keep stable equilibrium conditions. Among these nine hormones, two of them are more directly responsible for menstruation: the Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and the Luteinizing hormone (LH). Both of them are involved in the process of ovulation, FSH acts first and LH comes later. Their action, together with other hormones and many other physiological parameters, establishes the duration of the menstrual cycle. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long.

I won’t give here more details, everything is well explained by the following video. As a general guideline, we all should be fairly regular within ourselves. Period.

other source: this website

Nobel al Bosone, applausi e champagne

Tonelli: “Che gioia”. Gianotti: “Pelle d’oca”

dal sito di Repubblica

Scienziati e ricercatori tutti insieme nel palazzo 40 del Cern a Ginevra, dove è stata osservata da progetti guidati da italiani la particella mancante. Festa anche all’Infn di Roma. Ferroni: “Il riconoscimento non sarebbe arrivato senza l’evidenza di nostri esperimenti”.

higgs bosonCi sono anche il Cern  –  e tanta Italia  –  nella motivazione del Premio Nobel alla scoperta del bosone di Higgs. Dei 10mila scienziati che lavorano al Consiglio Europeo per la Ricerca Nucleare, un migliaio sono italiani, coordinati dall’Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (Infn). Ebbene, per seguire in diretta la proclamazione del premio si erano tutti radunati nell’edificio 40, dove lavorano centinaia di giovanissimi scienziati, quello che ospita Atlas e Cms, ovvero i due esperimenti che hanno osservato il bosone. Qui, al momento dell’annuncio, hanno stappato bottiglie di champagne mettendosi idealmente alle spalle la rivalità degli ultimi anni. Di “gioia immensa, per noi e per le centinaia di ragazzi che hanno lavorato a questo esperimento” ha parlato Guido Tonelli, il fisico dell’Infn e del Cern che ha guidato l’esperimento Cms, uno dei due grandi “occhi” che hanno fotografato il bosone di Higgs. “Ho la pelle d’oca”, ha aggiunto Fabiola Gianotti, che ha coordinato fino a pochi mesi fa l’esperimento gemello e rivale di Cms, cioè Atlas.

higgsAgli scienziati che da vent’anni lavorano a Ginevra per confermare con gli esperimenti la teoria del bosone di Higgs il fisico inglese aveva sempre dimostrato gratitudine, nelle sue visite ai mastodontici esperimenti, installati a 100 metri sottoterra e alti come un palazzo di quattro piani. Al Cern la gioia è esplosa soprattutto nell’edificio 40, quello che ospita sia Atlas che Cms e dove lavorano centinaia di giovanissimi scienziati. “Ci auguriamo tanti altri momenti di gioia e di scoperta come questo” ha detto il presidente dell’Infn, l’isstituto nazionale di fisica nucleare, Fernando Ferroni, stappando lo spumante nella sede di Roma.

nobelGrande soddisfazione ed entusiasmo perché nella motivazione dell’Accademia di Svezia sono stati citati proprio Cms e Atlas, i due esperimenti condotti al Cern e guidati dall’Infn. “La ricerca sperimentale è stata di fatto premiata perché senza questi due esperimenti fatti all’interno di Lhc, La teoria di Brut-Englert e Higgs sarebbe rimasta un pezzo di carta senza l’evidenza sperimentale e il premio Nobel non sarebbe arrivato. A capo di questi due esperimenti al momento della scoperta ci sono due fisici italiani. E questo per noi è motivo di soddisfazione al di là della medaglia”. “Questo premio Nobel parla moltissimo italiano”, ha continuato  Ferroni. “Parla di 20 anni di ricerca italiana e di centinaia e centinaia di scienziati italiani che hanno lavorato sulle teorie di Higgs e di Englert. Questo Nobel parla anche di centinaia di studenti italiani pagati dall’Infn che hanno lavorato al Cern e che ora se ne andranno all’estero”, ha concluso.