This is What a Fish Thought Looks Like

It’s an old cartoon trope that a light bulb will appear over a character’s head when they’re struck by a brilliant idea, but that kind of tangible indication of mental activity only exists in animated illustration—at least, it did until Japanese researchers Akira Muto, Koichi Kawakami, and Junichi Nakai pioneered new technology enabling them to observe neural activity occurring in the zebrafish brain in real time, as described in a recent article published in Current Biology.

In its embryonic and larval stages, the zebrafish's body remains transparent, making it an ideal candidate for the fluorescence imaging study undertaken by scientists at Japan’s National Institute for Genetics. That unique property allows researchers to observe the body's underlying structures directly, either with the naked eye or under magnification. By developing a chemical marker that can be inserted directly into the relevant neurons of interest and detected by a fluorescent probe, the scientists enabled a close study of the activity occurring within the zebrafish brain at the level of a single cell. They introduced a new version of GCaMP, a genetically encoded calcium indicator that glows green in the presence of calcium, signaling a quantifiable increase in brain activity. As areas of the fish’s brain lit up in response to a moving stimulus, the researchers were able to keep track of neural firing at any given moment, tracing the path of the fish’s thought as it occurred.

In order to make sure they would be able to monitor the correct parts of the working zebrafish brain, the scientists first identified the relevant neurons that became active in response to a moving object and created a model of how they anticipated the neurons would react to other patterns of movement. They then tempted their subject by releasing single-celled paramecia, a common zebrafish food source, into its environment. The expected neurons glowed in accordance with the researchers’ forecast, thereby validating their predictive model.

Observing the hunger responses of a 2-inch minnow is a far cry from unlocking the secrets of human cognition, but the developments with the zebrafish indicate potential for an expansion into research on other animals' neural patterns, including humans. Co-author Kawakami optimistically predicts that “in the future, we can interpret an animal’s behavior, including learning and memory, fear, joy, or anger, based on the activity of particular combinations of neurons.” Even if we never get there, maybe we’ll finally prove, on a neurochemical level, that goldfish shouldn’t get such a bad rap for their terrible memories.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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A Wily Fox With a Passion for Fashion Stole More Than 100 Shoes From a Berlin Neighborhood

The smirk.
The smirk.
Brett Jordan, Unsplash

In Berlin, Germany, a fox has embarked on a crime spree that puts Dora the Explorer’s Swiper completely to shame.

CNN-News18 reports that residents of Zehlendorf, a locality in southeastern Berlin, spent weeks scratching their heads as shoes continued to disappear from their stoops and patios overnight. After posting about the mystery on a neighborhood watch site and reading accounts from various bewildered barefooters, a local named Christian Meyer began to think the thief might be a fox.

He was right. Meyer caught sight of the roguish robber with a mouthful of flip-flop and followed him to a field, where he found more than 100 stolen shoes. The fox appears to have an affinity for Crocs, but the cache also contained sandals, sneakers, a pair of rubber boots, and one black ballet flat, among other footwear. Unfortunately, according to BBC News, Meyer’s own vanished running shoe was nowhere to be seen.

Foxes are known for their playfulness, and it’s not uncommon for one to trot off with an item left unattended in a yard. Birmingham & Black Country Wildlife explains that foxes are drawn to “things that smell good,” which, to a fox, includes dog toys, balls, gardening gloves, and worn shoes. And if your former cat’s backyard gravesite is suddenly empty one day, you can probably blame a fox for that, too; they bury their own food to eat later, so a deceased pet is basically a free meal.

The fate of Zehlendorf’s furriest burglar remains unclear, but The Cut’s Amanda Arnold has a radical idea: that the residents simply let the fox keep what is obviously a well-curated collection.

[h/t CNN-News18]