Czech scientist Jan Evangelista Purkinje’s drawings of the shapes made from pushing on his closed eye

Purkinje's drawings

Czech scientist Jan Evangelista Purknye's (1787-1869) drawings of the shapes made from pushing on his closed eye. He was a proponent of self-experimentation who tested over fifty dangerous drugs on himself, and took to his eye pushing research with abandon: “When I close my eyes, they begin to shine, just like the dots and lines,” he wrote. “It all ends with a dark rhombus with blunt corners, surrounded by a dull shine resembling a phosphorescent light. A total darkness follows.”

Czech scientist Jan Evangelista Purknye‘s (1787-1869) made drawings of the shapes “seen” from pushing on his closed eye. He was a proponent of self-experimentation who tested over fifty dangerous drugs on himself, and took to his eye pushing research with abandon: “When I close my eyes, they begin to shine, just like the dots and lines,” he wrote. “It all ends with a dark rhombus with blunt corners, surrounded by a dull shine resembling a phosphorescent light. A total darkness follows.”


Purkinje’s Vision: The Dawning of Neuroscience,  by Nicholas Wade and Josef Brozek, is an exploration of the scientist’s work on visual phenomena. It is available through Taylor & Francis eBookstore.

Purkinje's Vision cover

Mo Costandi on science writing: a good story conveys wonderment

Mo CostanziFrom the Guardian UK:

Our series to accompany the 2013 Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize asks top science writers about their craft. Today, we talk to neuroscience writer and blogger Mo Costandi.

What’s a good science story?

Something that makes me think, “Wow, that’s amazing!”. That is, stories about exciting new research that reveals some new insight into nature. The natural world is a wonderful, complex thing, and scientists try to divine its little secrets. A good story should not just explain the science simply and clearly, but also convey this wonderment.

What do you need to know to write well about science?

How to tell a good story. That requires a good grasp of language, some understanding of the science you’re writing about, and an ability to “translate” technical information into plain English and write about it compellingly.

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Tiny Injectable LEDs Manipulate the Brain With Light

LED fitting through the eye of a needle
LED fitting through the eye of a needle
Image: John Rogers, University of Illinois/Beckman Institute

Tiny, glowing probes packed with LEDs and sensors are scientists’ newest tool for measuring and manipulating the brain and other living tissues. They’re flexible, they can operate wirelessly, and yes, they’re small enough to fit through the eye of a needle.

This kind of device could potentially improve researchers’ ability to influence neural activity in live animals and measure a variety of physiological and biochemical processes, says applied physicist and neuroscientist Mark Schnitzer of Stanford University, who was not involved in the work. Such bio-compatible electronics also offer new possibilities for manipulating living tissue based on rapid feedback from sensors embedded in the tissue.

One obvious application in brain research is for optogenetics experiments, which involve genetically modifying neurons to make them fire in response to light. In recent years neuroscientists have used these methods to examine the neural circuits involved in everything from drug addiction, to depression, to Parkinson’s disease. But getting light to areas deep inside the brain is tricky.

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