Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bit by Bit: The Darwinian Basis of Life

All known examples of life belong to the same biology, but there is increasing enthusiasm among astronomers, astrobiologists, and synthetic biologists that other forms of life may soon be discovered or synthesized. This enthusiasm should be tempered by the fact that the probability for life to originate is not known. As a guiding principle in parsing potential examples of alternative life, one should ask: How many heritable “bits” of information are involved, and where did they come from? A genetic system that contains more bits than the number that were required to initiate its operation might reasonably be considered a new form of life.
Joyce GF (2012) Bit by Bit: The Darwinian Basis of Life. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Rats Recall Past to Make Daily Decisions

 UCSF scientists have identified patterns of brain activity in the rat brain that play a role in the formation and recall of memories and decision-making. The discovery, which builds on the team's previous findings, offers a path for studying learning, decision-making and post-traumatic stress syndrome.  In the journal Science this week (online May 3, 2012), the UCSF researchers demonstrated that the brain activity is critical for memory formation and recall. Moreover, they showed that the brain patterns through which the rats see rapid replays of past experiences are fundamental to their ability to make decisions. Disturbing those particular brain patterns impaired the animals' ability to learn rules based on memories of things that had happened in the past.
Science Daily, May 3, 2012

Shantanu P. Jadhav, Caleb Kemere, P. Walter German and Loren M. Frank.
Awake Hippocampal Sharp-Wave Ripples Support Spatial Memory.
Science, May 4, 2012 DOI: 10.1126/science.1217230