Neuroscience, Mini Brains, and Your Health

“All the best models are the ones that you can improve in complexity to get closer and closer to the reality.”

The idea of a brain in a dish may sound like science fiction to some but scientists are becoming more and more adept at creating cortical organoids in the lab. The organoids are models of what is happening in utero as the brain forms. Being able to study this kind of human development not only opens new insights into neurological conditions but raises ethical questions.

Alysson Muotri, director of the UC San Diego Stem Cell Program, gives a look at how his lab is using these organoids to model specific conditions, treat disease, and explore fundamental brain mechanisms. Learn what the limitations, future projections, and ethical concerns are surrounding this exciting science.

Watch Re-constructing Brains in the Lab to Revolutionize Neuroscience – Exploring Ethics

Combating Climate Change in California

California has made huge strides in combating climate change, but there is still a long way to go. Back in 2006, state lawmakers passed AB 32, also known as the Global Warming Solutions Act. It set a goal of getting greenhouse gas emissions down to 1990 levels or lower by 2020. The state managed to reach that goal four years early. Robert Epstein, co-founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs, discussed the success of AB 32, and what needs to happen next, during a lecture at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy.

Epstein begins with a look at what worked. Some solutions you might expect, like renewable energy, increased efficiency and long-lasting political support. Other factors may come as a surprise. The economic downturn helped, because people use fewer resources when they have less money. We also got some assistance from mother nature, with heavy rains in 2016 that boosted hydroelectric power generation. But, even though California has made great achievements in lowering greenhouse gas emissions, the state must make even deeper cuts to avoid the worst effects of climate change. A new version of AB 32 aims to get emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

Epstein says California has much of the technology and policy in place to reach that 40% goal, but some aspects of the plan are unclear. He says we’re on pace to meet 50% renewable energy 10 years early, and have a solid track record when it comes to appliance and building standards. He thinks it’s likely we’ll figure out how to manage methane and increase energy storage. But, he sees big hurdles when it comes to reducing transportation emissions, cap and trade reductions, and management of both forests and land used for agriculture.

Despite those challenges, Epstein is optimistic California can rise to the occasion and be an example to the world of how to combat climate change. He even has some ideas on how to overcome each major obstacle, and how the oil industry might be able to help.

Watch California Accomplishments in Addressing Climate Change featuring Robert Epstein

The Tibetan Plateau

The Tibetan Plateau is home to unique, rare and endangered fauna and flora that has adapted to survival in this lofty, arid land. For thousands of years rivers originating here have nourished the civilizations stretching from Pakistan to China and throughout India and South Asia. Home to about one-third of the world’s population, this vast region is facing dramatic changes as the glaciers that both store and supply water shrink, and global warming brings new regimes and patterns in climatology.

What will these changes be? What are the mechanisms that cause them? How can so much of the world’s humanity adapt or prepare? And what will be the fate of the plants and animals that have for so long called this place home?

Explore how UCLA researchers are studying the causes and the effects these changes will bring to The Tibetan Plateau and all it touches.

Watch The Tibetan Plateau

Recommended for You

We use recommender system all the time. A website will recommend something to you based on what you’ve watched, listened to, bought or who you’ve friended on Facebook. These systems attempt to predict your preferences based on past interactions.

The systems range from simple statistical approaches like Amazon’s people who bought X also bought Y links, to complex Artificial Intelligence-based approaches that drive feed ranking on sites like Facebook.

Julian McAuley, UC San Diego Computer Science and Engineering, explores the modeling techniques behind personalized recommendation technology on the web and the different systems that we encounter.

He reminds us that we often find these recommendations a bit “creepy,” but that actually the recommender system has no human intelligence; it’s really a simple statistical process. They focus on short-term predictions but could they be adapted to make long-term predictions or estimate more subjective qualities? Would that be bad?

Watch How Do Websites Personalize Recommendations for Me? – Exploring Ethics

Drug Wars: A New Hope

Why do some people develop addictions and others don’t? Does that provide insight in how to mediate addictive responses and behaviors? Join The Scripps Research Institutes’ Olivier George as he talks about his research and shares insights into how the brain responds to a variety of drugs, both illicit and prescription – as well as alcohol and nicotine – and new directions in developing novel therapies to reduce compulsive drug use and abuse.

Watch Drug Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope – Finding New Therapies to Fight Drug Addiction with Olivier George – Saturday Science at Scripps Research