Björn Brembs

51 posts · 70,508 views

I'm a neurobiologist working on operant learning in invertebrate animals at the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.

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  • November 25, 2015
  • 05:41 AM

Data Diving for Genomics Treasure

by Björn Brembs in

This is a post written jointly by Nelson Lau from Brandeis and me, Björn Brembs. In contrast to Nelson’s guest post, which focused on the open data aspect of our collaboration, this one describes the science behind our paper and […] ↓ Read the rest of this entry...... Read more »

Rahman R, Chirn GW, Kanodia A, Sytnikova YA, Brembs B, Bergman CM, & Lau NC. (2015) Unique transposon landscapes are pervasive across Drosophila melanogaster genomes. Nucleic acids research. PMID: 26578579  

Chirn, G., Rahman, R., Sytnikova, Y., Matts, J., Zeng, M., Gerlach, D., Yu, M., Berger, B., Naramura, M., Kile, B.... (2015) Conserved piRNA Expression from a Distinct Set of piRNA Cluster Loci in Eutherian Mammals. PLOS Genetics, 11(11). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1005652  

  • April 21, 2015
  • 09:36 AM

If only all science were this reproducible

by Björn Brembs in

For our course this year I was planning a standard neurogenetic experiment. I hadn’t ever done this experiment in a course, yet, just two weeks ago I tried it once myself, with an N=1. The students would get two groups […] ↓ Read the rest of this entry...... Read more »

Kaun, K., Riedl, C., Chakaborty-Chatterjee, M., Belay, A., Douglas, S., Gibbs, A., & Sokolowski, M. (2007) Natural variation in food acquisition mediated via a Drosophila cGMP-dependent protein kinase. Journal of Experimental Biology, 210(20), 3547-3558. DOI: 10.1242/​jeb.006924  

  • March 26, 2015
  • 08:50 AM

Watching a paradigm shift in neuroscience

by Björn Brembs in

When I finished my PhD 15 years ago, the neurosciences defined the main function of brains in terms of processing input to compute output: “brain function is ultimately best understood in terms of input/output transformations and how they are produced” […] ↓ Read the rest of this entry...... Read more »

  • September 15, 2014
  • 05:01 PM

Humanized FoxP2 and the timing of habits

by Björn Brembs in

Last week, Elizabeth Pennisi asked me to comment on the recent paper from Schreiweis et al. entitled “Humanized FoxP2 accelerates learning by enhancing transitions from declarative to procedural performance”. Since I don’t know how much, if anything, of my answers […] ↓ Read the rest of this entry...... Read more »

Schreiweis, C., Bornschein, U., Burguiere, E., Kerimoglu, C., Schreiter, S., Dannemann, M., Goyal, S., Rea, E., French, C., Puliyadi, R.... (2014) Humanized Foxp2 accelerates learning by enhancing transitions from declarative to procedural performance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1414542111  

  • June 26, 2014
  • 10:26 AM

Why use fruit flies to study a gene involved in language?

by Björn Brembs in

This is the story behind our work on the function of the FoxP gene in the fruit fly Drosophila (more background info). As so many good things, it started with beer. Troy Zars and I were having a beer on […] ↓ Read the rest of this entry...... Read more »

Mendoza, E., Colomb, J., Rybak, J., Pflüger, H., Zars, T., Scharff, C., & Brembs, B. (2014) Drosophila FoxP Mutants Are Deficient in Operant Self-Learning. PLoS ONE, 9(6). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0100648  

  • June 24, 2014
  • 10:04 AM

No need to only send your best work to Science Magazine

by Björn Brembs in

The data clearly show that publications in Cell, Nature or Science (CNS for short), on average, cannot be distinguished from other publications, be it by methodology, reproducibility or other measures of quality. Even their citation advantage, while statistically significant, is […] ↓ Read the rest of this entry...... Read more »

  • October 8, 2013
  • 05:27 AM

Almost 80 years on, progress on operant and classical conditioning

by Björn Brembs in

This year’s Winter Conference on Animal Learning and Behavior (WCALB) will be on one of my oldest and most central research projects, the commonalities and differences between operant and classical conditioning. I picked this project for my Diploma (Master’s) thesis […] ↓ Read the rest of this entry...... Read more »

B. F. Skinner. (1935) Two Types of Conditioned Reflex and a Pseudo Type. The Journal of General Psychology, 12(1), 66-77. DOI: 10.1080/00221309.1935.9920088  

J. Konorski, & S. Miller. (1937) On Two Types of Conditioned Reflex. The Journal of General Psychology, 16(1), 264-272. DOI: 10.1080/00221309.1937.9917950  

J. Konorski, & S. Miller. (1937) Further Remarks on two Types of Conditioned Reflex. The Journal of General Psychology, 17(1), 405-407. DOI: 10.1080/00221309.1937.9918010  

  • September 10, 2013
  • 05:39 AM

The cost of the rejection-resubmission cycle

by Björn Brembs in

Rejection is one of the unpleasant but inevitable components of life. There are positive components to rejection: they build character, they force you to deal with negativity and sometimes they force you to change your life to avoid future rejections. […] ↓ Read the rest of this entry...... Read more »

  • May 30, 2013
  • 05:18 AM

Dissecting a fly’s course control system

by Björn Brembs in

Until 1986, it was thought that so-called optomotor responses, i.e., the tendency of all animals and humans to follow moving visual stimuli with their eyes or their bodies were a prerequisite for gaze or trajectory stabilization: whenever the scenery in […] ↓ Read the rest of this entry...... Read more »

Bahl, A., Ammer, G., Schilling, T., & Borst, A. (2013) Object tracking in motion-blind flies. Nature Neuroscience, 16(6), 730-738. DOI: 10.1038/nn.3386  

  • January 25, 2013
  • 08:20 AM

Are we incentivizing hype in science? A case study

by Björn Brembs in

There is a lively discussion going on right now in various forums on the incentives for scientists to publish their work in this venue or another. Some of these discussions cite our manuscript on the pernicious consequences of journal rank, others don't. In our manuscript, we speculate that the scientific community may be facing a deluge of fraud and misconduct, because of the incentives to publish in high-ranking journals, a central point of contention in the discussions lnked to above. An exam........ Read more »

Wasserman, S., Salomon, A., & Frye, M. (2013) Drosophila Tracks Carbon Dioxide in Flight. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.12.038  

  • December 28, 2012
  • 08:40 AM

Human learning systems interact much like fly learning systems

by Björn Brembs in

When we discovered a novel learning system in the fruitfly Drosophila (Brembs & Plendl, 2008) and then found out how it interacted with the one learning system which is described in all relevant textbooks (Brembs 2009), we weren't quite sure how general these findings would be for other animals and humans. In the subsequent years, genetically similar processes were discovered in the marine snail Aplysia, songbirds and mice, so we started to be quite confident that we had discovered something........ Read more »

Shmuelof, L., Huang, V., Haith, A., Delnicki, R., Mazzoni, P., & Krakauer, J. (2012) Overcoming Motor "Forgetting" Through Reinforcement Of Learned Actions. Journal of Neuroscience, 32(42), 14617-14621. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2184-12.2012  

  • December 26, 2011
  • 06:26 PM

Impact factor predicts unreliability of research papers

by Björn Brembs in

Last week, we've already seen that the most prominent way of ranking scholarly journals, Thomson Reuters' Impact Factor (IF), isn't a very good measure for predicting how many citations your scientific paper will attract. Instead, there is evidence that IF is much better at predicting the chance that your paper might get retracted.Now, I've just been sent a paper (subscription required) which provides evidence that the reliability of some research papers correlates negatively with journal IF. In........ Read more »

Munafò, M., Stothart, G., & Flint, J. (2009) Bias in genetic association studies and impact factor. Molecular Psychiatry, 14(2), 119-120. DOI: 10.1038/mp.2008.77  

  • December 14, 2011
  • 06:37 AM

Science without journals: More evidence that journal rank is a poor predictor of citations

by Björn Brembs in

In response to my last post, Dwight Kravitz from the NIH alerted me to his paper on a similar topic: Toward a new model of scientific publishing: discussion and a proposal. His paper contains some very interesting data, such as this analysis of citations and journal rank:The left-skewed form of the data is of course nothing new, but their analysis of how predictive journal rank is for actual citations opens a new aspect, I think:Our evaluation reveals that far from a perfect filter, the distr........ Read more »

  • November 22, 2011
  • 10:58 AM

What does determinism have in common with gods, the flying spaghetti monster and pink, invisible unicorns?

by Björn Brembs in

I usually don't blog about physics. Actually, I don't think I ever have, which is not surprising given that I'm not a physicist. This unusual post was prompted by an ongoing series of encounters with people asking me how I can be so sure that the universe is indeterministic. I'm explicitly writing this as an interested layperson, even though I took elementary quantum mechanics as special subject in high school and was supervised during my PhD by Martin Heisenberg, the youngest son of Werner Heis........ Read more »

  • November 4, 2011
  • 06:28 AM

Is FoxP a coin with autism on one side and schizophrenia on the other?

by Björn Brembs in

The FOXP2 gene is well-known for its involvement in language disorders. We are just getting ready to publish our discovery that a relative of this gene in the fruit fly Drosophila, dFoxP, is necessary for a learning mechanism that resembles language learning in a lot of ways, operant self-learning. This discovery traces one of the evolutionary roots of language back to the 'Urbilaterian', the last common ancestor of invertebrates and vertebrates, more than half a billion years before the first w........ Read more »

Crespi, B., Stead, P., & Elliot, M. (2009) Comparative genomics of autism and schizophrenia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(suppl_1), 1736-1741. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0906080106  

  • October 31, 2011
  • 09:29 AM

'The neurobiology of self-learning' - the birth of a new field in neuroscience?

by Björn Brembs in

It's been a while since I've last been so excited about a new finding by someone else And until today, this paper from last week even flew completely under my radar. I had seen the title and decided it's not relevant. A collaborator of mine sent it to me after she found it searching for a current affiliation of a former postdoc of hers - which was how she realized how pertinent this work was to our research and sent it to me (which says something about the way scientists are able to stay on to........ Read more »

Rochefort, C., Arabo, A., Andre, M., Poucet, B., Save, E., & Rondi-Reig, L. (2011) Cerebellum Shapes Hippocampal Spatial Code. Science, 334(6054), 385-389. DOI: 10.1126/science.1207403  

  • September 27, 2011
  • 09:38 AM

In which creationism threatens patients

by Björn Brembs in

Republican presidential hopeful and Texas governor Rick Perry is pushing hard in support for unapproved stem-cell therapies in Texas and allegedly had such a therapy performed on himself. In this case not coincidentally, Perry is also a self-professed creationist. There are many reasons why stem-cell therapies might be dangerous, the two recently reported deaths are among the so far unidentified causes. One other, recently discovered potential risk of stem-cell therapies involves mutation and se........ Read more »

Hussein, S., Batada, N., Vuoristo, S., Ching, R., Autio, R., Närvä, E., Ng, S., Sourour, M., Hämäläinen, R., Olsson, C.... (2011) Copy number variation and selection during reprogramming to pluripotency. Nature, 471(7336), 58-62. DOI: 10.1038/nature09871  

  • September 13, 2011
  • 09:38 AM

Programming Free Will: creative robots

by Björn Brembs in

I wasn't planning to comment on Kerri Smith's piece on Free Will (probably paywalled) in the last issue of Nature magazine. However, this morning I read a paper on Free Will in robots (or rather 'agents'), which urged me to suggest some updates to the sadly (otherwise Ms. Smith is producing outstanding work, especially her podcasts!) outdated discussion in the Nature article.Her article starts out with a modern variation of Libet's famous experiments. These experiments can be caricatured like th........ Read more »

  • August 18, 2011
  • 04:59 AM

Retractions correlate better with 'Impact Factor' than citations

by Björn Brembs in

Thomson Reuters' Impact Factor (IF) is supposed to provide a measure for how often the average publication in a scientific journal is cited and thus a quantitative basis for ranking journals. However, there are (at least) three major problems with the IF:The IF is negotiable and doesn't reflect actual citation counts (source)The IF cannot be reproduced, even if it reflected actual citations (source)The IF is not statistically sound, even if it were reproducible and reflected actual citations (so........ Read more »

  • July 18, 2011
  • 04:42 AM

Assessing ancient traumatic brain injury

by Björn Brembs in

Last month, a group of researchers led by Marcel Kamp in Düsseldorf. Germany, rose to fame by studying traumatic brain injury brought about by acts of violence like this:The group analyzed over 700 injuries recorded in the 34 Asterix comic books and published their results in the official journal of the European Association of Neurosurgical Societies, known as Acta Neurochirurgica. For some odd reason, I only was made aware of this groundbreaking study now. Well worth reading!Kamp, M., Slott........ Read more »

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