Illustration by Benjamin Arthur for NPR

The mammalian gut is host to a wide variety of microbiota that are key to healthy metabolism. Beginning from early periods in mammalian life, these protozoa, archaea, eukaryotes, viruses, and bacteria colonize the mammalian gut, forming a symbiotic relationship that lasts through the organism’s life cycle.

With the advent of genetic tools, computational power, and sequencing technologies, researchers have been able to dive deeper into understanding individual microbial communities. Through collaborative efforts, projects such as the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) and the Human Gastrointestinal Bacteria Genome Collection (HGG) have developed reference genomes cataloging microbial communities of healthy individuals across different…


Source: Unsplash

Skulls full of electricity

We’re not always aware of it, but there is a 3-pound sack of flesh sitting in our heads, responsible for every thought and action, all of the time. Those 3 pounds are full of activity — neurons firing electrical impulses from end to end, helping everything from our conscious thoughts and unconscious reflexes manifest.

You might not think about it, but you’re awfully lucky to have those 3 pounds in there. There’s a lot we know brains can do, but still so much more that we don’t yet know about. …


Today, the total number of Americans with mental illnesses sums to around 44 million; that’s nearly one in five Americans suffering from mental health problems (1). These unfortunate statistics bring into question the topic of diagnosis. How are mental health disorders detected, categorized, and treated? This article will seek to explore these topics. Specifically the history, current applications, criticisms, and implications of the various frameworks that are currently being used to identify, study, and treat mental health conditions.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)


Are aliens among us? Some marine biologists may be able to convince you that indeed there are. The precocious underwater group of marine creatures known as cephalopods sparks interest and intrigue in every marine field due to their unique and beautiful features. Cephalopods (which include the octopus, squid, cuttlefish, and nautilus) belong to the Mollusca phylum and possess a large head, bulbous eyes, and sprightly tentacles. The reason these animals seem so celestial to biologists comes from both the evolutionary history of the cephalopod and the baffling complex cognitive abilities that have resulted from their unique evolution. Who would have…


Editor’s note: This article was originally written in the final weeks of our Spring 2020 semester. At the time of publishing, UC Berkeley is operating fully online, with students scattered across the globe, glued to our laptops for classes, internships, and social lives. In the US, this summer was one of reckoning, with the pandemic, mass protests for racial justice, wildfires, and an unprecedented economic crisis, all of which have brought the nation to its knees. Reading this article again, I can’t help but think about how deeply my own outlook on the world, this field, and my own self…


Some people can work anywhere. Sitting next to chatty coworkers or peers? Not a problem. Working in an office building right next to a busy railroad station? Bring it on.

But for most people, the environment and the surroundings have a significant impact on how focused they are on the task at hand and how efficient their work session ends up being. Environmental cues play a huge role in productivity. …


If you want to become smarter and more focused, you might try meditation, ample sleep, and intensive study. Other people, particularly and increasingly college students, are substituting the first two recommendations with amphetamines. And they are studying harder than ever… maybe. It seems as though society doesn’t know the actual effects of amphetamines like Adderall and Ritalin, but instead assumes they are akin to Bradley Cooper’s experience in Limitless. Here is some of what we know about the ways amphetamines work on the molecular, psychophysical, and social level.

What are amphetamines and how do they work?

The short answer is…


What’s going through your mind when you watch a commercial on TV, or see an advertisement on a billboard? According to neuromarketing, the answer is much more than meets the eye.

Neuromarketing emerged as a promising venture for advertisers when researchers began demonstrating that marketing techniques triggered tangible impacts on brain behavior. A 2004 study at Emory University was one of the first to demonstrate these impacts. Using an fMRI machine, researchers measured subjects’ responses to drinking Coca-Cola and Pepsi. When the drinks weren’t identified by name or visual branding, neurological responses were shown to be fairly stable. …


Since time immemorial, humans have been puzzled by the problems of behavior, cognition, and the perpetual suffering that is the human condition. Time and again, we have turned to models of the mind to explain these phenomena. Plato was one of the first to try and explain the human mind through models. He proposed that the human psyche was akin to a chariot, there are a driver and two horses. One horse represents our moral impulses and righteous instincts, while the other pulls the cart towards irrational passions and appetites. The charioteer must guide the two horses with intellect. …


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a neuroimaging technique gaining greater momentum and use by professionals since its invention in 1990. Today, not only have researchers used this way of imaging to link psychological and neural mechanisms, but also in clinical work; fields such as neuro-psychiatry and surgery have quoted a high value for fMRI’s role in understanding neurobehavioral disorders and presurgical mapping. As advances of its application in the science of brain and behavior are made, it is critical to note the foundation in which fMRI is posited on, and the increasing demands for research circling back to the…

Neurotech@Berkeley

We write on psychology, ethics, neuroscience, and the newest in neural engineering. @UC Berkeley

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