A quick overview of the polymerase chain reaction

The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a laboratory method that allows researchers to produce a significant amount of specific DNA using trace amounts of source DNA, which can be obtained from a variety of organisms and tissues (Garibyan & Avashia, 2013). When discovered in the 1980s, the technique – which can produce billions of copies …

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Measuring brain function: how do fMRI scanners work?

In 1977, Dr. Raymond Damadian performed the first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan on a live human patient (Edelman, 2014). MRI is a non-invasive medical imaging technique producing detailed pictures of anatomical structures and physiological processes inside the body (McRobbie et al., 2017). MRI scans are considered safer than CT scans and PET scans as …

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Schizophrenia and dendritic spines

Pyramidal neurons are the primary type of cells in the cerebral cortex; they are made of a cell body called soma, a single axon, an apical dendrite, multiple basal dendrites, and dendritic spines (Megias et al., 2001). Dendritic spines are small neuronal protrusions rising from a neuron’s dendrites; they typically receive excitatory input from one …

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The role of the frontal association cortex

The cerebral cortex can be divided into three main parts: the sensory areas, the motor areas, and the association areas. The association cortex is a complex distributed network, receiving information from the primary and secondary sensory and motor areas, as well as the brainstem and the thalamus, processing it, and sending it across multiple pathways …

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Schizophrenia and dopamine

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder causing a range of psychological symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, disordered thinking, and abnormal motor behaviour, and which is considered by many as a neurodevelopmental disorder (Murray & Lewis, 1987; Weinberger, 2003). It affects 0.5–1% of the worldwide population, with a common onset in late adolescence to early adulthood (Perälä …

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How drugs impact the neurotransmitter life cycle

Neurons interact with each other through electrical events called action potentials and the release of chemical signals called neurotransmitters (Lodish et al., 2000). The neurotransmitter life cycle can be broken down into six component processes: synthesis, storage, release, receptor interaction, reuptake, and degradation (Beckstead, 1996). Each of these steps can be impacted by drugs in …

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The origins of the monoamine hypothesis of depression

Depression is a mental disorder characterised by clinical symptoms including low mood, rumination, functional impairment, retardation, and somatic syndromes such as sleep disturbances and loss of appetite (Lorr et al., 1967). Antidepressants were serendipitously discovered in the 1950s, when Iproniazid, a drug originally prescribed as a treatment for tuberculosis, was shown to induce increased vitality …

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Your brain on cortisol

In humans, stress can be defined as an actual or anticipated disruption of homeostasis in an individual (Ulrich-Lai & Herman, 2009). The brain plays a central role in the experience of stressful events and the regulation of stress: it adapts to stress both functionally and structurally, and dictates how individuals cope with stress (McEwen & …

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