Parental care is essential for the survival of mammals, yet the mechanisms underlying its evolution remain largely unknown. Here we show that two sister species of mice, Peromyscus polionotus and Peromyscus maniculatus, have large and heritable differences in parental behavior. Using quantitative genetics, we identify 12 genomic regions that affect parental care, 8 of which have sex-specific effects, suggesting that parental care can evolve independently in males and females. Furthermore, some regions affect parental care broadly, whereas others affect specific behaviors, such as nest building. Of the genes linked to differences in nest-building behavior, vasopressin is differentially expressed in the hypothalamus of the two species, with increased levels associated with less nest building. Using pharmacology in Peromyscus and chemogenetics in Mus, we show that vasopressin inhibits nest building but not other parental behaviors. Together, our results indicate that variation in an ancient neuropeptide contributes to interspecific differences in parental care.
Exercise increases the size of the left region of the hippocampus, an area of the brain critical for memory, a new study reveals.
In a first of its kind international collaboration, researchers from Australia’s National Institute of Complementary Medicine at Western Sydney University and the Division of Psychology and Mental Health at the University of Manchester in the UK examined the effects of aerobic exercise on a region of the brain called the hippocampus, which is critical for memory and other brain functions.
Read also: Effect of aerobic exercise on hippocampal volume in humans
How do we make decisions? Or rather, how do our neurons make decisions for us? Do individual neurons have a strong say or are the voice in the neural collective?
One way to think about this question is to ask how many of my neurons you would have to observe to read my mind. If you can predict I am about to say the word “grandma” by watching one of my neurons then we could say our decisions can be attributed to single, perhaps “very vocal,” neurons. In neuroscience, such neurons are called “grandmother” neurons after it was proposed in the 1960’s that there may be single neurons that uniquely respond to complex and important percepts like a grandmother’s face.
Read also: Collective Computation in Neural Decision-Making
“It’s increasingly clear that exercise is as good for the brain as it is for the body, The Globe and Mail reported. “You’ll score better on cognitive tests immediately after a moderate workout, and the gains accumulate over weeks of regular exercise. The mechanism is thought to involve a rise in growth-promoting brain chemicals and neurotransmitters, but it’s not clear how much or what type of exercise is most effective.
“To investigate the optimal brain-boosting exercise dose, a University of Kansas study assigned older adults to walk for between zero and 225 minutes a week for 26 weeks. As little as 75 minutes a week was enough to improve scores on a battery of cognitive tests, and there were further gains all the way up to 225 minutes. The overall pattern was that those who made biggest improvements in aerobic fitness also saw the biggest boosts in cognitive scores. Get your body fit, in other words, and the brain will follow.”
Read also: For Your Brain’s Sake, Keep Moving
Innovations are generally unexpected, often spectacular changes in phenotypes
and ecological functions. The contributions to this theme issue are the latest conceptual, theoretical and experimental developments, addressing how ecology, environment, ontogeny, and evolution are central to understanding the complexity of the processes underlying innovations. Here, we set the stage by introducing and defining key terms relating to innovation and discuss their relevance to biological, cultural and technological change. Discovering how the generation and transmission of novel biological information, environmental interactions, and selective evolutionary processes contribute to innovation as an ecosystem will shed light on how the dominant features across life come to be, generalize to social, cultural and technological evolution, and have applications in the health sciences and sustainability.
Read also: Innovation, from cells to societies
The last decades of neuroscience research have produced immense progress in the methods available to understand brain structure and function. Social, cognitive, clinical, affective, economic, communication, and developmental neurosciences have begun to map the relationships between neuro-psychological processes and behavioral outcomes, yielding a new understanding of human behavior and promising interventions. However, a limitation of this fast moving research is that most findings are based on small samples of convenience. Furthermore, our understanding of individual differences may be distorted by unrepresentative samples, undermining findings regarding brain-behavior mechanisms. These limitations are issues that social demographers, epidemiologists, and other population scientists have tackled, with solutions that can be applied to neuroscience. By contrast, nearly all social science disciplines, including social demography, sociology, political science, economics, communication science, and psychology, make assumptions about processes that involve the brain, but have incorporated neural measures to differing, and often limited, degrees; many still treat the brain as a black box. In this article, we describe and promote a perspective–population neuroscience–that leverages interdisciplinary expertise to (i) emphasize the importance of sampling to more clearly define the relevant populations and sampling strategies needed when using neuroscience methods to address such questions; and (ii) deepen understanding of mechanisms within population science by providing insight regarding underlying neural mechanisms. Doing so will increase our confidence in the generalizability of the findings. We provide examples to illustrate the population neuroscience approach for specific types of research questions and discuss the potential for theoretical and applied advances from this approach across areas.