Breath of Clarity

TED Talk- Carl Schoonover

In the TED talk, Carl Schoonover explained how we could see what’s inside the brain, rather than just looking at its overall structure. Similar to a computer a brain is a complicated piece and in order to understand the way it functions, it’s important to crack it open and look at the wiring inside. New chemical stains for brain tissue were developed to give us our first glimpse of brain wiring. Modern neuroscience was launched by the Golgi stain. Instead of staining all of the cells inside the tissue, it only stains about one percent, which clears the forest and reveals the trees inside. If everything were labeled, nothing would’ve been visible. So, it shows what is there. The neuron (nerve cell) is the transistor of the brain. Neurons form circuits with one another to act like a computer. Today, when scientists want to visualize neurons, they light them up from the inside, rather than darkening them using green fluorescent protein comes from a jellyfish. The gene is delivered to a cell and gets a cell to glow many different colors. Sometimes, scientists need to explore molecular components of neurons, rather than the entire cell. The most popular uses antibodies. They can recognize specific molecules inside of the brain and sub-structures of the cell to identify individually. These are totally natural products, and only much later did scientists recognize them as tools.

The aspect of Schoonover’s presentation that amazed me most was the metaphor that it suggested that in order to analyze a big piece of complicated hardware, one needs to look deep into a small section and apply conclusions made to the whole. In order to be a successful psychologist, one needs to start by finding the right aspects of the subject to focus on, or in this case accent. It is easier to expand knowledge than to start big and simplify.