Thought pebbles in another week in neuroscience … 

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Just when I start thinking I am getting the gist of the general principles of brain organisation, a colleague will throw  a curve ball.

Over the last week I learned from Katie Warnaby (Oxford, FMRIB) that activity in the anterior insula correlates with the waxing and waning of awareness during anaesthesia. Is it possible that this is a key brain area gating our conscious percepts and that we have missed this all along? Well, the anterior insula is one of those promiscuous areas, showing up in all sorts of experiments. Oh yes, and very well connected too, with links to the old limbic regions as well as to the usual frontal control culprits.

If that weren’t enough of a disturbance to my usual way of thinking about distributed brain functions, yesterday Ole Paulsen (Cambridge, PDN) told me that with optogenetics they’ve shown that only the hippocampus in the left hemisphere of mice shows LTP. What!? Exactly. It’s publishedand I’d missed it. Now that leaves human hippocampal asymmetries (at least those recognised so far) in the dust! Do I believe it? Well, as Ole’s postdoc Susanna Barrett Mierau said: “I believe anything that is published by Ole.

Who knows what will be coming up next week. Can’t wait!

Kia Nobre

1st December 2015