Author archives: José Ramón Alonso

Image of José Ramón Alonso

José R. Alonso has a PhD in Neurobiology and is professor of Cell Biology at the University of Salamanca. He has been researcher and visiting professor at the University of Frankfurt/Main and the University of Kiel, in Germany, and the University of California, Davis and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, in the United States. He has authored more than 145 articles in peer-reviewed journals and written 20 books including university textbooks and popular science for both adults and children.

mTOR and rapamycin in autism spectrum disorders

mTOR and rapamycin in autism spectrum disorders

Neurobiology

By José Ramón Alonso

mTOR has nothing to do with Norse mythology, it stands for “mammalian target of rapamycin” or “target of rapamycin in mammalian cells”. mTOR is involved in important cellular processes, including growth, proliferation, motility, survival, protein synthesis, transcription and autophagy. The history of rapamycin is so suggestive that I cannot avoid mentioning it: in the 1960s […]

Increased density of synapses in autism spectrum disorders

Increased density of synapses in autism spectrum disorders

NeurobiologyNeuroscience

By José Ramón Alonso

At a synapse, the plasma membrane of the neuron transmitting the information (the presynaptic neuron) is in close proximity to the membrane of the target cell (postsynaptic) and the two are separated by a space known as the synaptic cleft. Both the presynaptic and postsynaptic sites contain extensive assemblies of molecular machinery that link the […]

Mutations in the non-coding genome contribute to autism

Mutations in the non-coding genome contribute to autism

GeneticsNeurobiology

By José Ramón Alonso

A significant portion of an organism’s genome is non-coding; that is, it does not carry information to make proteins. Part of the non-coding DNA is transcribed into functional non-coding RNA molecules (e.g., transfer RNA, ribosomal RNA and regulatory RNA). Other functions of non-coding DNA include transcriptional and translational regulation of protein coding sequences, nuclear scaffold […]

The ship of Theseus

The ship of Theseus

Psychology

By José Ramón Alonso

If we look back at our past, we are all aware of how much we have changed. The innocence of our childhood, the impulses of our adolescence, the vehemence and passion of our youth, the tranquillity of our mature life: some of us already know what we will be like when we grow up! Hopefully […]

Earworms revisited

Earworms revisited

NeurosciencePsychology

By José Ramón Alonso

An earworm is a melody that arises spontaneously in the mind, perhaps after having heard it only once, and gets “stuck” in the head for hours or days. It is also called brainworm, catchy music, repetition of musical images, involuntary musical imagery and stuck song syndrome. We may come to feel that the tune is […]

The imaginary friend

The imaginary friend

Psychology

By José Ramón Alonso

The imaginary friend is “an invisible character or personified object that takes part in children’s conversations or plays with them for a long period of time, at least several months”. The relationships are not identical; with personified objects the relationship is usually hierarchical, while with imaginary friends it is an egalitarian relationship. Peers tend to […]

Hungry for hugs

Hungry for hugs

Neurobiology

By José Ramón Alonso

COVID-19 worsens the already existing social difficulties for older adults and the disabled involved in long-term care services and supports; i.e., nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, and home and community-based services . A hug is a form of non-verbal communication. It can indicate familiarity, love, affection, friendship, brotherhood, or sympathy. We use it when we […]