The same nerve receptor that responds to the green paste on your sushi plate is activated by car exhaust, the smoke of a wildfire, tear gas and other chemical irritants. iStockphoto hide caption

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Jonathan Keleher talks with a colleague, Rafael Wainhaus, at work. Keleher was born without a cerebellum, but his brain has developed work-arounds for solving problems of balance and abstract thought. Ellen Webber for NPR hide caption

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Prion protein can be infectious, spreading from cell to cell in the brain. Here four nerve cells in a mouse illustrate how infectious prion protein moves within cells along neurites — wire-like connections the nerve cells use for communicating with adjacent cells. Science Source hide caption

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Fingertips, David Linden explains, are filled with different sorts of sensors for detecting different types of touch, including one that notes texture and fine little bumps. Another type perks up at vibration. Laughing Stock/Corbis hide caption

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Research into how the human brain develops helps explain why teens have trouble controlling impulses. Leigh Wells/Ikon Images/Corbis hide caption

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Daniel Horowitz for NPR

By measuring activity in different parts of the brain, neuroscientsts can get a sense of how some people will respond to treatments. John Lund/Getty Images hide caption

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Bob Smithson, 79, can now hold his head upright and breathe on his own, thanks to a medication for myasthenia gravis. M. Scott Brauer for NPR hide caption

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By increasing the amount of serotonin in the spinal cord, an experimental drug helps nerve connections work better. Bee Smith/Ocean/Corbis hide caption

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Do you want to go to the park? Mango Doucleff, of San Francisco, responds to her favorite command by perking up her ears and tilting her head. Michaeleen Doucleff/NPR hide caption

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In sighted people, the part of the brain that recognizes faces is linked to the brain's visual system. But in blind people it seems wired to circuits that process sound. Tina Zellmer/Ikon Images/Corbis hide caption

itoggle caption Tina Zellmer/Ikon Images/Corbis

A tangle of protein (green) in this scanning electron micrograph of a brain cell of an Alzheimer's patient lies within the cytoplasm (blue) of the cell. The tangle consists of clumps of a toxic form of tau. Thomas J. Deerinck/Corbis hide caption

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A screen presents the winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine, U.S.-British scientist John O'Keefe and Norwegian husband and wife Edvard Moser and May-Britt Moser, for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain. TT News Agency/Reuters/Landov hide caption

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Dr. Allan Ropper speaks with residents and fellows as they do rounds at the neuroscience intensive care unit at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. M. Scott Brauer for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption M. Scott Brauer for NPR