In the United States during the 1950s and the 60s, hallucinogenic compounds were widely used recreationally, as well as in research and therapies for mental disorders. A ban on these compounds during the 1960s essentially halted much of the research on these compounds, despite objections from the scientific community, until the 1990s saw a revival on psychedelic research due to eased restrictions. Continue reading The psychedelic “reset” mechanism- and how it could treat depression
Diseases can manifest at different stages of life in various parts of the body. But what about the disorders that compromise early development in your brain, the organ that greatly influences your personality, who your friends would be, your sense of self and the general ability to make sense and comprehend the world around you. Neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) occur early in life and alter brain function. To understand these disorders, scientists use a variety of tools to unravel how they affect the brain. Continue reading Deciphering the developing brain
A bedtime story to tell there are no monsters hiding under your bed, an allegory about norms and morals, or a chat with your colleagues at the coffee machine on Monday morning about what you did last weekend – they all say something. They all give information. I’d like to introduce you to a form of narrative research, also in use by biomedical scientists, which I discovered during my internship. It uses stories to uncover new insights and hypotheses: participatory narrative inquiry (PNI). Continue reading Participatory Narrative Inquiry: Using stories to open up science
You can imagine a neuron in the brain’s cortex, or anywhere else in the body, as a city with incoming freight road networks. Neurons have quite a few inward-bound roads (dendrites) packed with freight that receive signals and converge near their city centers (the cell body), but there is always one exit highway (the axon).
To assess characteristic differences between neurons, researchers use neurophysiological measurements such as repetitive firing. It is like assessing how well a city’s infrastructure can handle high amounts of incoming traffic (stimuli) by measuring the speed of the outgoing traffic (APs). Continue reading Human vs. Mouse: Are Human Cells Smarter?
With the global prevalence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-Cov-2), coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has affected the lives of billions of people and caused millions of deaths worldwide. How to tame COVID-19 into submission remains quite challenging. But as the old saying goes: all roads lead to Rome, different diseases could share similar pathogenic processes. Continue reading COVID-19 treatment: What we can learn from Lupus
Imagine celebrating a huge party at your home. All your friends have attended and brought snacks and booze. After a fun and long night, most of your friends have left. You look around and realize that you are surrounded by empty beer bottles, crumbs of food and even some confetti that seems to have popped out of nowhere. You decide it’s better to tidy up now so that you can wake up in a clean house tomorrow. You and your remaining friends start cleaning right away. While scrubbing, you start wondering, would our brains do the same for us? Continue reading A Glymphatic System: Controversial but Conceivable
Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP) is a rare, genetic disorder where, slowly, but progressively extra bone formation develops outside the body’s skeleton. A flare-up of new bone formation can be triggered spontaneously or by everyday traumas to the body, such as from falling down stairs or bumping against the kitchen counter. Continue reading Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva: bone formation outside the skeleton
The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. This is not that surprising if you take into account that it requires more than 7 thousand liters of water and 2kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) to make a single pair of jeans2. To keep up with our increasing demand for clothing 120 million trees are logged yearly, 79 billion cubic meters of water is used and a significant volume of greenhouse gasses are emitted Continue reading Can biology save fashion?
What enables some species to regularly rise with the sun and rest with the stars? The biological mechanism for this is believed to be an evolutionary adaptation to the earth’s 24 hour rotation. It is defined as circadian rhythm and found universally in organisms from cyanobacteria to plants and fruit flies. Continue reading Rocking to the TikTok of your internal body clock
VU:Sci was approached by the Amsterdam Center for Entrepreneurship (ACE) because they are seeking Masters students with bright ideas that they may want to develop into a business. Here, we share the story of VU alumnus, Maarten de Reij’s journey to build his company, Cargoplot, through utilizing resources such as… Continue reading The Ocean of Opportunity: Entrepreneurship in Amsterdam
What happens when our evolutionary predisposition to be social actually makes us sick? This is the predicament we find ourselves in today, at a scale never seen before. Social distancing has been vital, but the current situation is inherently stressful and will affect our minds and bodies. But how? Continue reading How is the social brain coping with distancing?
We have all seen the pictures of the massive drop in air pollution above China, which is at least partly due to the COVID-19 induced lockdown. China is not alone, as many other countries that are under some form of lockdown have seen decreasing nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels. Blue skies are now shining above huge concrete skyscrapers and the world is in awe (1). Continue reading A Living House: Science Fiction or Plausible Future?
After almost two months of quarantine, we are slowly but surely finding our route out of the intelligent lockdown. But how has it been experienced by our VU master students? Although some of the measures in the Netherlands may have been relaxed, the VU policy is that we will remain off campus, and most likely out of the lab until the end of June. Continue reading Lab’s shut, Laptops open?
After a long night of partying, Ivan* found himself staring at his reflection in the mirror. Still somewhat intoxicated he didn’t fully comprehend what he saw, or rather, what he did not see: Where his own face should have been staring back at him, he saw a large black void, a sphere of darkness in the center of his visual field…. Continue reading High-sight: eyeing unanticipated effects of a ‘harmless’ drug
As part of a worldwide initiative called ReproducibiliTea, a new journal club has kicked off at the VU to discuss how the scientific community is moving towards more Open Science practice together.
ReproducibiliTea: how one pun began a movement
At a scientific reproducibility workshop in 2018, Oxford Psychology student, … Continue reading ReproducibiliTea: Blends and Flavors
“Whoa, this place is huge and there’s so much happening here,” I thought to myself as I entered AveXis, a start-up gene therapy company where I worked for a year and a half as a Bioprocess Engineer. On my first day, the enthusiastic atmosphere was contagious, surrounded by energetic colleagues scurrying around the office and the manufacturing floor. Moments later, my colleague burst through the office exclaiming: … Continue reading From Books to Bench & Back
When I was younger, my parents gave me an encyclopaedia for children (clearly I was already the biology nerd I am today). Eager to learn as much as I could, I started at page one and continued page by page until I finished the entire book. This is still my preferred way of reading any book, so when the “Encyclopedie van de evolutiebiologie” … Continue reading Encyclopedie van de evolutiebiologie (Nico van Straalen)
Dr. Jan Kooter started with cultivating plants and ended up studying genetics. What was his journey from a future in horticulture to his current position at Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam? Before the well-known VU lecturer, education coordinator and life scientist Jan Kooter retires, we decide to go back to his roots. Continue reading Unearthing the Roots of Life
Have you ever been reading a research paper, looked at the methods or data analysis sections, and felt they were rather incomplete? Has that made you feel like you cannot reproduce their conclusions without emailing the authors back and forth? Continue reading GitHub and the Flight to Good Coding Practices
As a life sciences student, I struggle to keep up with science news. With a lot of generalizing and provoking popular science like ‘All people who drink black coffee are psychopaths’-news, it is a challenge to find good science news on my level. Of course, there are plenty of journals I could sit down with and read, but this is not what I am looking for. Continue reading The Morning News for Science Students