This session took place on August 2, 2017 at Kids Ask Science Telegram group.

Discussion

58 Comments
  • Mango Education

    As a neuroscience grad, you study human brain! Human brain being the most awesome and sophisticated biological system we ever know of. How does it feel like when you study it?

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      Good evening everyone. Interesteing question actually. I got interested to study about brains during my bachelor’s and hence i pursued it as my masters. It is always super exciting to study about brains. I remember once holding a human brain in my hand during my masters practicals sessions. It was surreal to realize that it once belonged to someone and it controlled their very thought and action every day. So it is always fascinating to study brain and it effect on you and your actions.

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    How is information stored in our brain? Like home is it physically kept and interpreted into ‘memory’?

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      Information and memory are stored in our brain in ‘synapses’. These are basically connections between the neurons. Stronger and more the connections in a specific area in the brain, better the memory and processing power for that piece of information.

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    If, in the future we knew exactly how the brain functioned, could we use electric charges to ‘control people’s mind’!? And even ‘read minds’ by seeing brain activity?

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      I think electical treatments were in fact used for certain diseases. Yes, perhaps it may be possible to use electrical signals to alter memories or read minds. I think for that though, there is still a long way to go.

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      So I am a molecular neuroscient. That means I conduct a lot of experiments in the lab and do reading, think about new experiments and try to answer some research questions that I have related to my project topic.

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      It is true that most synaptic connections (networking) happends during childhood and persists till teenage. Then all development that happns afterword is ‘learning’ process and the brain adapts to it over time. 8 years of age might be a bit too early or too specific age to say.

          • Ketharini Senthilkumar
            Ketharini Senthilkumar

            Ah yes, thanks for narrowing down the question. Because you are surrounded my technology and you cannot avoid its effect on your brain. Watching too much TV does not damage brain development. Yes, of course it limits your exposure when you can be doing other things in the meanwhile. TV could also be a source of learning, so it is not altogether bad.

            With everything of course, excessive TV watching could harm your eyesight and in turn affect the processing power in your brain.

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    It is a different experience to be an Engineer out of AC Tech and then do research in Medical. How is the experience? Help us understand how the two areas blend..

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      The courses in my B.tech Biotechnology were topics that can be applied in medical sciences related research. Moreover, I see myself as a scientist than a medical researcher. So for me, my bachelor’s experience and my masters was a very logical flow of interests.

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    How do psychosomatic diseases, like phantom pregnancy, work? Or the opposite of it, the placebo effect?

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      To answer your first question, I don’t know much about psychosomatic diseases, but i am have heard of phanotm preganancy. These factors are usually enhanced by stress, anxiety and some hormones in your brain giving you false sensations.

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      About placebo effect, it is very much state of mind related. Your brain is tricked into thinking that you are being ‘treated’. This almost makes you less stressed, less depressed sometimes. More hormones that make you happier are released in your brain and you start believing youare getting better. You strat thinking positively and become ‘healthier’ After all, a sound mind is a sound body. 🙂

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      About Deja vu, it is french for ‘lived before through’. 1. It is definitely more than a glitch in the matrix. We have 3 different memory compartments in brain: short, medium and long memories. Normally when we are experiencing something for the 1st time we retained it in the short one and if it is something we want to keep with us we store it in the long ones. If it is useless information (like what we ate at yesterday breakfast) it is discarded. In déjà vu, the experience goes straight to the long compartment which makes us feel like this event have already happened.

      A study also once showed that perhaps deja vu is a way of the brain checking its memory and functioning properly. Also, déjà vu seems to be more common in young kids and older adults, perhaps when their memory and brain checking processes are still under-developed or declining.

        • Ketharini Senthilkumar
          Ketharini Senthilkumar

          Medium or scientifically (intermediate-term) memory usually last a bit longer than short-term memory. It takes some information from short-term and helps you retain information while doing a task.

          When you repeatedly do this task, the information slowly becomes long-term memory. This is by habit.

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    Kokilashree A Vickneswaran

    We often hear that every scientists like Einstein used only 5% of their brain, if so by evolution our brain size should be shrinking right? Is that happening?

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      hahah, this is a very commong myth about brains and the first myth that gets debunked when we start studying neuroscience.

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      Each part of the brain is responsible for different actions/functions. So if we only use 5%, we cannot do anything. We use full capacity of our brain, but perhaps only small portions of it for different circumstances. So, our brain is not shrinking. That is definitely what happens in Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases but definitely not in healthy brains! 🙂

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      The coolest discovery in Neuroscience for me recently has been optogenetics. It was even termed the method of the year in 2010. This is a video in case you are interested to see how it works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I64X7vHSHOE. How this method actually works, is that using some molecules in your brain, we can use laser light (yes, that’s right!) to manipulate some behaviour in animals (or perhaps in later years, maybe even in humans too).

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    Hi Ketharini. What decides the brain to store the information in short or long memory? I still remember something from my childhood which has no importance. But i try to remember something now which i know it is important. But i keep forgetting it.

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      Each part of the brain is responsible for different actions/functions. So if we only use 5%, we cannot do anything. We use full capacity of our brain, but perhaps only small portions of it for different circumstances. So, our brain is not shrinking. That is definitely what happens in Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases but definitely not in healthy brains! 🙂

  • Mango Education

    There are people with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy who underwent surgery to remove parts of their brains. With key parts removed, how does their brain could still function normally?

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      Yes, that’s true. A part of your brain gets removed during surgical resection to render patients seizure-free. Usually, a small portion of cortex and hippocampus get removed. Both these regions are very important for cognitive processing and memory, emotions, perception. The good thing is that there have not been many side-effects of the surgery in terms of mental disabilities. Moreover, our cortex and hippocampus are bilateral. So we have two halves of the structure in each hemisphere in our brain. Most of the times, only one half of the structures are operated on during the surgery. The other half is still intact and can take over the job of the resection portion.

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      This is a question we ask ourselves too. We don’t really know why. Perhaps this was an evolutionarily selected outcome. Electrical signals are usually fast, pentrative, can move across mediums. This was perhaps a way to ensure that we respond to external stimuli as fast as possible!

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      They are incomparable! We vastly undermine the ability of our brains, in terms of storage space and processing speed. I honestly don’t think we can ever get on par with our brains 🙂

  • Mango Education

    If we could remove the Amygdala from a person’s brain surgically, would it make them a fearless warrior? Or in other words, can we build super-soldiers susceptible to little or no fear by surgically playing with their brains?

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      Firstly, I hope this never happens, we do not want an army or such soldiers 🙂 To answer your question, there have been some studies in animals where portions or even full amygdala has been removed and the animals were studied for their behaviour. What needs to be understood is that amygdala not only controls fear, but is also a major organ involved in fear, maternal love and is highly influence by many hormones. It can perhaps make you fearless but can also make you less empathic, more loving, more angry, etc

  • Mango Education

    Imbalance in neurochemicals causes mood swings and depression. How severe is it among the children of this generation? For an average Indian kid, what physical factors could help keep depression at normal scales?

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      I do not know the exact demographics of depression among children. But what is being observed is that there are many reported cases of depression these days, so there is an idea that depression is high among the youth! But generally, young children and teenagers are highly prone to depression as their brains are highly moldable at this stage. For an average Indian kid (or any kid to be honest), the best physical factors to keep depression and foul mood at bay is exercise, sports, good company, good parenting and solid counseling, if needed.

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      Anisha hahaha! I wish I could help you there 😛 I am hardly much of a gamer. But from what I know, it is perhaps good in a way that it makes your decision making faster, more alert and even gives a better sense of direction in real life (I am really bad in even right/left directions. I have heard that playing video games might help :p)

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      I can add a little bit info to Ketharini’s answer here! Playing FPS games are known to increase your situational awareness! Minecraft might help your creativity!

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      Too much tension usually means you are stressed out. Our brain releases hormones like cortisol under stress. Cortisol has an effect on our heart, liver, lungs, muscles, etc. It keeps you on an ‘alert’ mode. So too much tension equals too much stress, which in turn means more cortisol levels and hence a prolonged ‘alert’ mode, which is always harmful to your body. In long ter, it could damage your memory, ability to make decisions,etc.

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        roshini pradeep

        Is there any ways to reduce effect of tension on brain. Does sleep apnea lead to memory loss in long run

        • Ketharini Senthilkumar
          Ketharini Senthilkumar

          Sleep apnea or any sleep deprivation for that matter leads to poorer brain functioning. Sleep is the time our brain actually sorts out all information we learned during the day. So less sleep mean less information processing and in the long run, yes can lead to memory loss.

        • Ketharini Senthilkumar
          Ketharini Senthilkumar

          There are certainly some medication to relieve stress. But perhaps even meditation (if you are like it), or talking to someone, some destressing activities can help you feel less tense. Because it is also your emotions highly influencing your brain functions and capabilities.

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    Kokilashree A Vickneswaran

    Ketharini madam, Shivesh here What are dreams from a Neuroscience perspective? How do they work? For some seem to be from past or some seem to come true in future

    Some I remember, some I don’t. Some are long like movies

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      Kokilashree A Dreams from what I know extension of some subconscious thoughts that you have. Usually, you dream about things you last thought of or saw before you sleep. Or if certain actions or people had an impact on you. Dreams could also be your brain processing things when you were awake. And ahah, the dreams coming true is usually coincidence. At least, I don’t have any scientific explanation for that 🙂

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    Radhika Balaji

    My daughter is 4 years old and she is a record maker under ‘India book of records ‘ also for her memory power -youngest to identify 210 FLAGS of the world.

    My question is how can I train her – in what ways she can use her memory power – which education can help her

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      Firstly, kudos to your daughter! That’s an enviable memory power 🙂 Just perhaps stimulate her reading, learning abilities. Monotonous activities can also kill memory power.

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        Radhika Balaji

        Thanks and she did it at the age of 2 and now she learns lot in school. But I want to which field of studies will keep her memory power engaged- in order to avoid gadget addiction.

        • Ketharini Senthilkumar
          Ketharini Senthilkumar

          Avoiding gadgets is not going to be that easy, unfortunately. And I am not sure how to answer your question. Each field will test her memory differently. If she has an exceptional memory already, I don’t think it will decline in any one field. The key is constantly stimulate yourself with new situations and also perhaps do some activities that will recall the memories.

    • Ketharini Senthilkumar
      Ketharini Senthilkumar

      haha. Top 3: Pride & Prejudice, The Kite Runner and Their Eyes were watching God.

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