Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why the hippocampus is called this way

One thing that I keep hearing is that the hippocampus is called that way because, if dissected from the brain, it kind of resembles a Seahorse fish (genus "Hippocampus"). This statement is made by Wikipedia, for example. But the thing is - it does not really resemble it!

I mean, you can pretend they have something in common, and under a certain angle the hippocampus is indeed kind of bent, but you need to try really hard in order to "see" a seahorse in this structure. That's why when people say that, they usually chuckle a bit, and make a comment that "the morphologists in the previous centuries did probably have some good imagination".

At the same time, if you find the hippocampus at the coronal section of human brain, then, together with adjacent subiculum and entorhinal area, it does really look seahorse-shaped!

The difference here is that while the whole structure can be "bent" in a shape of the seahorse fish, no sane person (in my opinion at least) would try to describe it in "seahorse shape" terms, if not really prompted to do so. It's an "embrio-like thingy", or anything on earth, but the fish shape is certainly not the first thing to come on mind. While the section, with this gentle curve, does definitely look like a seahorse, with a poach and everything.

So my proposal is: to stop pretending it's about the whole structure. It's about the section. The morphologists of the past were quite OK; they weren't hallucinating.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Prezi: Hierarchy of systems in Neuroscience

Most (virtually all) presentations out there are prepared in PowerPoint, or similar (slide-by-slide) programs. Prezi ( is a program that was designed as a conceptual alternative to PowerPoint, where you don't actually have slides coming on the screen one after another, but rather have one giant blanket through which you can scroll and zoom in a pre-defined manner.

The good thing here is that it is novel (for most people). The bad thing is that scrolling and zooming quickly creates in the audience some kind of visually-driven sea-sickness. And also you can not really use interactive animation, which is, in my opinion, the strongest point of PowerPoint.

Nevertheless, to give it a try I decided to create a Prezi-ntation. You got zooming? OK, so I will zoom into the human brain, from the systems level, and down to the molecular structure of proteins that make up neural cells. Here's the result:

Unfortunately, as it turned out, zooming in Prezi is not infinite. While creating this presentation I quickly crashed into the zoom limitations, both lower and upper. So I had to give up on keeping things to scale, but even after I went out of scale, I still could not accommodate all scales in one sequence.

Well, I hope you may still find it useful =)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Slide: Careers in academic neuroscience (flowchart)

I created this slide for my summer students (high school kids), to give them an understanding of what one may expect from a career in academic neuroscience.

Red shapes are temporary, blue are permanent. All numbers are specific for the neuroscience field, and are based on some statistics for about last 5 years that I managed to google out. I show average years spent in each position, average salaries (this data mainly comes from, and average chances to get to the next level (statistics from opinion pieces about bleak perspectives of recent PhDs).

Also see some discussion here: