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Where is Einstein's brain? Split Brain/Dreams? Glial cell numbers?
What is curare? Conjoined twins Penguin Sleep
Second hand marijuana smoke Muscles in the brain? Smell/Taste Loss
Otto Loewi? Dolphin brain Bee taste buds
Brain watts? Ears/Noses on skulls? Insects in chocolate?
Cat spinal nerves? Independent/dependent variable Cranial nerves/autonomic NS
Smell in dreams? Where is tetrodotoxin in fish? Giraffe necks
Island of Reil? Lobsters and pain Ventricles

D.B.: I was doing some research on where Einstein's Brain was located and had heard that it was in a basement in New Jersey. Is this true?

Answer: For a period of time, Einstein's brain WAS in the basement of a house in New Jersey. Here's the entire story.

Albert Einstein died at 1:15 am on April 18, 1955 at Princeton Hospital in New Jersey. Later that day, Princeton Hospital pathologist Dr. Thomas Harvey performed an autopsy on Einstein and removed Einstein's brain. Harvey cut the brain into 240 pieces. He was very protective of the brain and kept it in jars at his house. Over the years, Harvey gave several pieces of the brain to different researchers including Dr. Marian Diamond (UC Berkeley), Dr. Britt Anderson (University of Alabama) and Dr. Sandra Witelson (McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario). Harvey moved around the country and he always brought the brain with him. Eventually, Harvey moved back to New Jersey. In 1996, Harvey brought the remaining pieces of Einstein's brain to Dr. Elliot Krauss, chief pathologist at Princeton Hospital.

(Reference: Abraham, C., Possessing Genius: The Bizarre Odyssey of Einstein"s Brain, New York: St. Martin's Press, 2002.)

Also, see: What Became of Albert Einstein's Brain?

B.K. Do people who have had a "split brain" operation dream?

Answer: Yes, people with split brains (cut corpus callosum) DO dream. A report of dreaming in such people was published in 1977 by Greenwood, P., Wilson, D.H., and Gazzaniga, M.S. (Cortex, 13:311-316, 1977) called "Dream report following commissurotomy".

N.C.: What type of glial cell is more common: astrocytes or oligodendrocytes?

Answer: According to Principles of Neural Science by Kandel, Schwartz and Jessell (2000; page 20):

"Astrocytes, the most numerous of glial cells, owe their name to their irregular, roughly star-shaped cell bodies..."

S.G.: What is a curare and how does it work?

Answer: Curare is a poison that comes from various plants in South America. Curare causes paralysis and works at the neuromuscular junction by blocking nicotinic receptors for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

D.C.: Are you aware of any place on the Internet where I could get more info (and pictures) about the incredible surgery performed on the separation of the twins, joined at the skull?

Answer: Yes! There is a great site with many pictures.

Marco A.: How much time does a penguin spend sleeping?

Answer: When it is light outside for 24 hrs each day and in temperatures of approximately 0.8oC, Emperor penguins spend 45.1% of the entire 24 hour day asleep. In alternating day/night conditions and in temperatures between -14oC and -17oC, these penguins spend 41.3% of the entire 24 hour day asleep.

(Reference: Buchet C, Dewasmes G, Le Maho Y., An electrophysiological and behavioral study of sleep in emperor penguins under natural ambient conditions,Physiology and Behavior, 38(3):331-335, 1986.)

M.D.: Can a person get marijuana in their system from being in a car while other people are smoking? Have there been any studies about this?

Answer: Yes, the active ingredient of marijuana can show up in a person's system after being exposed to "second hand" marijuana smoke. However, the person must be exposed to a heavy concentration of smoke for this to happen. Here are some summaries of studies on this topic:

Derrick C.: Are there muscles in the brain?

Answer: No. There are no muscles in the brain. There are muscles in the head and face, but none in the brain itself.

C.H.: If someone who cannot hear is deaf, and someone who cannot see is blind, what is it called if people cannot smell or taste?

Answer: The inability to smell is called "anosmia." The complete inability to taste is called "ageusia" and the reduced ability to taste is called "hypogeusia." Ageusia is a rare disorder.

Martin S.: Was Otto Loewi from Germany?

Answer: Otto Loewi, who won the Nobel Prize for his work on chemical transmission of nerve impulses, was born in Germany. However, he worked in Austria and the United States. He also became an American citizen in 1941.

T.P.: How big is a dolphin brain?

Answer: A bottle-nose dolphin brain weighs between 1,500 and 1,600 grams. An average adult human brain weighs about 1,400 grams. See the Mammalian Brain Collection for some photographs of the dolphin brain.

R.F.: Do bees have taste buds?

Answer: The primary function of the bee tongue is for ingestion of liquids and exchange of food and pheromones between bees. However, electron microscope photographs of the bee tongue show "buds" suggestive of taste receptors (Erickson et al., 1986). Also, Seeley (1995) states that chemoreceptors on the mouthparts of bees provide a sense of taste. Bees also have taste receptors located on their feet and legs.

References: Erickson, Jr., E.H., Carlson, S.D. and Garment, M.B., A Scanning Electron Microscope Atlas of the Honey Bee, Iowa State University Press, 1986

Seeley, T.D., The Wisdom of the Hive: the Social Physiology of Honey Bee Colonies, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995

P.R.: Will you direct me to a source or advise me on the amount of WATTS of electricity generated by the brain?

Answer: I have seen figures for the energy consumption of the brain ranging from 10 to 25 Watts. The human body consumes about 100 Watts (Body, Physics of, in Macmillan Encyclopedia of Physics, New York: Macmillan, 1996). The brain uses about 20% of these resources. Therefore, the brain consumes about 20 Watts of energy.

A.B.: When a skull is preserved, why doesn't it have a nose and ears?

Answer: The outer ear and most of the nose are made of cartilage, not bone. Cartilage decomposes and is usually not preserved.

A.B.: Is it true that a certain amount of dried cockroach is allowed in making chocolate?

Answer: Not only cockroach, but many different types of insects and not just in chocolate!

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set limits " establish maximum levels of natural or unavoidable defects in foods for human use that present no health hazard." Such unavoidable defects include insect fragments in our food.

According to the FDA web site: The maximum level of defects in chocolate is an average of "60 or more insect fragments per 100 grams when six 100-gram subsamples are examined OR any one subsample contains 90 or more insect fragments."

If you don't mind getting "grossed out," you can also go to the FDA web site to find out how many insect eggs, rodent filth, and mold are allowed in other foods. However, I urge you to be prepared for what you will find out!!

K.D.: How many pairs of spinal nerves does a cat have?

Answer: The cat has 38 pairs of spinal nerves (8 cervical; 13 thoracic; 7 lumbar; 3 sacral and 7 caudal nerves.

Reference: Gilbert, S.G., Pictoral Anatomy of the Cat, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1975. Humans have only 31 pairs of spinal nerves (8 cervical; 12 thoracic; 5 lumbar; 5 sacral and 1 coccygeal nerve).

A.B.: Which cranial nerves are part of the autonomic nervous system?

Answer: The cell bodies of the parasympathetic nervous system are located in the spinal cord (sacral region) and in the medulla. In the medulla, the cranial nerves III (oculomotor nerve), VII (facial nerve), IX (glossopharyngeal nerve) and X (vagus nerve) form the preganglionic parasympathetic fibers.

A.K. I know that people can see and hear things during dreams, but can people smell things too?

Answer: It is rare, but some people do smell things during dreams.

D.R. What is the difference between an independent variable and a dependent variable?

Answer: The independent variable is the thing that the experimenter will change in an experiment. The dependent variable is the thing you will measure because you expect it to change. For example, in an experiment to determine if the color of food affects the sweetness of food: the independent variable is the color of food because the experimenter will be changing the color of food; the dependent variable might be a rating of how sweet the food tastes to a test subject.

F.A. What part of the pufferfish concentrates tetrodotoxin?

Answer: Tetrodotoxin (a neurotoxin) is concentrated in the liver, gonads, intestines and skin of the pufferfish.

I.B.: Do giraffes have the same number of neck bones as humans?

Answer: Yes. Both giraffes and humans have SEVEN cervical vertebrae.

S.B.: What is the island of Reil? I have not been able to find anything about it. How, when, and why did it get this name?

Answer: The island of Reil is another name for the insula, a large part of the cerebral cortex that is buried in the lateral sulcus of the brain. The word "insula" is Latin for "island." Johann Christian Reil (1759-1813) is the name of the person who described it in 1809.

B.S.: Do lobsters have a brain? Do lobsters feel pain like humans do?

Answer: Yes, a lobster does have a brain, but it is much different than a human's brain. The lobster "brain" is a collection of cells in the "cerebral ganglion." The cerebral ganglion is connected by a nerve cord to other ganglia located in the thorax and abdomen.

Lobsters also have sensory systems equipped to respond to various changes in their environment (e.g., light, pressure, chemicals, temperature). Lobsters, and other crustaceans, may respond to stimuli with behaviors such as withdrawal and escape. However, just because an animal responds to a stimulus that we think is painful does NOT mean the animal is experiencing pain. To illustrate this: a person who is anesthetized for surgery may still withdraw his or her hand when pinched. Although this person moved his or her hand, he or she did NOT feel any pain. This is caused by the flexion reflex that is a spinal cord reflex...the brain is not necessary for this response to occur.

The behavior of an animal may give us some clues about pain. In humans, an injury usually results in pain. However, many invertebrates go about their business (moving, feeding, mating, etc.) in a normal way after an injury. For example, some invertebrates can lose a limb without showing any change in behavior. To many scientists, this indicates that these animals do not feel pain like humans.

Finally, the part of the brain responsible for the conscious perception and emotional significance of pain, the cerebral cortex, is absent in the lobster. Therefore, in my opinion, it is very unlikely that lobsters experience pain in the same way as humans. Exactly "what" they "feel" is a question that remains unanswered.

More about the invertebrate nervous system.

Mike: What connects the third ventricle to the fourth ventricle?

Answer: The cerebral aqueduct (also called the aqueduct of Sylvius) connects the third and fourth ventricles.

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