Friday, June 08, 2007

It Feels Like The First Time

Feels like the very first time
It feels like the first time
It feels like the very first time

--Foreigner, Feels Like The First Time

...or maybe the 59 thousandth time.

Is anyone else getting tired of articles that use the phrase, "for the first time" for publicity's (or publication in Sci-Nat) sake? For example, take this [unintentionally ironic] press release on déjà-vu:
Research deciphers 'déjà-vu' brain mechanics
Deborah Halber, News Office Correspondent
June 7, 2007

Neuroscientists at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT report in the June 7 early online edition of Science that they have identified for the first time a neuronal mechanism that helps us rapidly distinguish similar, yet distinct, places. The discovery helps explain the sensation of déjà vu.
Or this story:
For the first time, a brain mechanism has been identified that helps us distinguish similar, yet distinct, places. This discovery helps researchers explain the sensation of déjà vu and could lead to treatments for memory-related disorders. It may also help scientists with finding more effective treatments for the confusion and disorientation that afflict senior citizens who have trouble distinguishing between separate but similar places and experiences.
And really, do dentate gyrus-NMDA-receptor (NR1) knockout mice explain déjà vu? I don't think so... But here's the abstract, anyway.
Thomas J. McHugh, Matthew W. Jones, Jennifer J. Quinn, Nina Balthasar, Roberto Coppari, Joel K. Elmquist, Bradford B. Lowell, Michael S. Fanselow, Matthew A. Wilson, Susumu Tonegawa. Dentate Gyrus NMDA Receptors Mediate Rapid Pattern Separation in the Hippocampal Network. Science, published online June 7, 2007.

Forming distinct representations of multiple contexts, places and episodes is a crucial function of the hippocampus. The dentate gyrus subregion has been suggested to fulfill this role. We have tested this hypothesis by generating and analyzing a mouse strain that lacks the gene encoding the essential subunit of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, NR1, specifically in dentate gyrus granule cells. The mutant mice performed normally in contextual fear conditioning, but were impaired in the ability to distinguish two similar contexts. A significant reduction in the context-specific modulation of firing rate was observed in the CA3 pyramidal cells when the mutant mice were transferred from one context to another. These results provide evidence that NMDA receptors in the granule cells of the dentate gyrus play a crucial role in the process of pattern separation.
I don't have access to the pdf, so I can't say too much more, except...

Fill my eyes with that double vision, no disguise for that double vision
Ooh, when it gets through to me, its always new to me
My double vision gets the best of me

--Foreigner, Double Vision

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At June 08, 2007 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Die, neurocritic, die!

How dare you inject Foreigner into my consciousness. The suffering will last for hours, maybe days.

Moreover, I might learn to associate your web page with nausea, although it's unclear whether dentate gyrus neurons would be sufficient for this. (Somebody should study this, so that the resulting Nature News and Views piece could comment "for the first time, researchers have identified neural circuits responsible for Conditioned Blog Aversion (CBA)".

At June 08, 2007 2:51 PM, Blogger The Neurocritic said...

Huh, so perhaps even just imagining a Foreigner song would be sufficient to activate the area postrema in highly sensitive individuals...

At June 11, 2007 11:21 AM, Blogger Lizzie said...

Yeah thank you for this. It was a very cool paper, but this deja vu press is bothersome. The hypothesis for how overlapping place cell networks may contribute to "deja vu" existed before the paper, and continues to exist, completely untouched. The paper was really showing that plasticity in the dentate may contribute to the generation of these place cell maps.

At June 12, 2007 6:14 PM, Blogger The Neurocritic said...

Ah yes, Madam, Come here often? is a nice summary of the paper by McHugh et al.


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