Mysteries of the Brain

INTRODUCTION—For this special section, members of our news team identify and explore some of the brain's enduring mysteries. The scientific puzzles we chose for a closer examination here encompass medical science, evolutionary biology, cognitive science, and more—and leave many provocative questions to another time.
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How Are Memories Retrieved?

New work suggests that memory is far more fluid than neuroscientists thought, and that memory retrieval plays a crucial role in shaping memory over time.

Why Is Mental Illness So Hard to Treat?

The human brain is complex and difficult to study, which has impeded development of drug treatments for mental illnesses. But new tools and new ways of thinking could help the field gain traction.

Why Are Our Brains So Big?

The leading hypothesis for why humans have such large brains is that we live in large social groups, which requires considerable processing power. But which came first, the big groups or the big brains?

Why Are You and Your Brain Unique?

Recent work has provided clues about the neural basis of individual differences in behavior, cognition, and even personality, but there's still much we don't know.

Can We Make Our Brains More Plastic?

Neuroscientists have begun to understand a few of the factors that govern the flexibility of certain parts of the maturing brain, which may one day make it possible to rewire the adult brain.

Brain Teasers

The brain poses many more than just the five quandaries highlighted in this package. Science summarizes six more mysteries of the brain that any neuroscientist should be proud to tackle.
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Mysteries of the Cell

We live in the golden age of genetics, but the fundamental unit of biology is still arguably the cell. Scientists at the 2011 American Society for Cell Biology's annual meeting detailed their latest insights and data.