Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Studying Oversized Brain Cells for Links to Exceptional Memory

Lucy Hanrahan                                                                                              4/7/15
Core Bio C ODD                                                                                 Current Event

 Zimmer, Carl. "Studying Oversize Brain Cells for Links to Exceptional Memory." The New   
York Times. The New York Times, 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 07 Apr. 2015.

In 2010, a women named Tamar Geferi was able to work with a special group of people know as “Super Agers” to find what people still think may link to the cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases having to do with memory loss.  These Super Agers, all in there 80s, were tested on their memories and remembered much of the memories and ideas that they also remembered in there 50s. They also agreed to have their brains studied once they passed away so that studies could continue. The parts of their brains scientist were studying were brain cells known as Von Economo neurons. These “Super Agers” had five times as many of these neurons as most people. Many of these people have unfortunately passed, and after studying their brains scientist still can’t figure out why they had so many of these cells. However, there is a direct link to memory and the economo cells. The economo cells were discovered in 1881, but not researched in detail until the 1920s. It wasn’t until 2005 that these cells were named. Unlike most neurons, the economo cells are long and thin and have branches that go across the brain. Other scientist who also studied these neurons including, John M Allman, believe that they represent a fast relay. Scientists agree that the neurons will have to be studied for many more decades but time is ticking, especially with memory diseases are becoming more prevalent.
            This article is very important to society today. Almost over 5 million Americans over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s or symptoms of Alzheimer’s. If there was a way to duplicate the economo cells there may be a cure for many people. However, the cell is pretty new in the scientific field and scientists feel that they need much more evidence to make sure the cell is directly associated with memory loss. They also need evidence as to how people gain these cells.  Without a complete study memory loss diseases cannot be cured.
            Alzheimer’s disease is a disease that has always interested me and also scared me because it has such a strong effect on people’s lives. People with Alzheimer’s can’t remember the simplest things, for example they don’t remember that they have kids. Carl Zimmer’s article thoroughly explains the economo cells and how they affect the brain. However, the studies are limited. Many different scientists have studied the cells but not enough experiments have been done which is unfortunate because if there was a direct correlation between Alzheimer’s and the economo cells, there may be a cure for Alzheimer’s. This article was very clear and well organized and definitely interested me and makes me want to follow up and see new improved experiments.  


  1. Lucy did a great job with her report and added in some very critical points. This article is definitely a very important topic of discussion. Lucy made this clear when she wrote her relevance paragraph. In this paragraph, she stated how Alzheimer’s affects the country and she uses statistics to further her point. With these statistics she provides a better understanding for the reader, and brings them closer to the disease because the reader is being presented with facts that show the reality to the situation. Lucy also added her connection to Alzheimer’s and how the idea of it has frightened her. The reader can make a personal connection from this and if not, it raises more awareness towards the disease.
    I was stunned at the fact that 5 million people over the age of 65 in America are affected by Alzheimer’s. This statistic was frightening and scientist should definitely continue research on the connection between economo cells and Alzheimer’s disease. At this point, I began to be confused why the study is taking so long to get started. If the economo cells were founded in the 1800’s, why have scientists not furthered their studies? Personally, I find it to be unbelievable because the answer to Alzheimer’s could be right at the world’s fingertips.
    Lucy’s report was very well done and the topic was very interesting to learn about. At some points in the summary I began to get a little confused. If she had added to the end of the first paragraph a sentence to summarize herself, my understanding would have been a lot clearer. Overall, Lucy did a very good job!!!

  2. Lucy’s review for the article she read was well-written, and there were several things that were well presented.One thing I felt was well presented was that in her review, she was able to thoroughly back her argument that economo could potentially hold the cure for Alzheimer's with many different facts and statistics, making a compelling argument. A second aspect of Lucy’s review I felt was well presented was how she was able to incorporate complex ideas from scientists into her article and making them simpler so that everyone could understand them. A final thing I felt Lucy presented well was that she was able to show how scary this disease is, and how if we don’t work towards a cure quickly, it could affect any single one of us.
    One thing I learned after reading this review is that over 5 million American citizens are infected with Alzheimer's. This is incredibly scary, as 5 million people make up an extremely significant percentage of the American population. After learning this, I feel that it is pivotal to find a cure for this disease as soon as possible. A second thing I learned after reading this review is that while Alzheimer's and other memory loss diseases have been around for a long time, we are still not that close to finding a cure. With the economo cell barely researched, I feel that it would be necessary to divert resources into further studies of the cell, where we may be able to find a cure before it is too late for the millions of people infected with Alzheimer's and other memory loss diseases.
    One thing I felt Lucy could improve upon was that she did not include a quote in her review. This detracts from her review because while she may have many facts in her view, it is not backed by a quote from an expert in the field. To change this, all Lucy has to do is simply take a quote from the article she is reviewing, and add it into her review, instantly gaining her more credibility.