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September 10, 2006


Seriously, guys. I know I'm the hugest geek to ever walk the Planet, but you?!? I did not for a second predict that so, so many of you would want to know about the designs on the onesies. And in such detail! In fact, I predicted the total opposite - what if it's something gross? Did you think of that? :)

But I guess I'm very flattered that you'd like a glimpse into my neurobiology world, and I give a little explanation in the extended entry (click link at bottom).

As I've mentioned, my September started unpredictably and, to my great dismay, knitting time has been reduced. To add insult to injury, my parents are visiting this weekend. [Cue ominous music] Dum-dum-dum!!! [/music]

While I'm always happy to see them, I prefer to visit them at their house. When they come to my place, to be honest, I get a little worked up. There is cleaning to be done, and laundry so that they have some clean sheets and towels, and shopping so my dad can enjoy his favorite unsweetened Snapple, and maybe I should consider what the hell I'm going to do to entertain them. Because sitting on the couch and "chatting" is NOT my idea of fun.

All this to say that if a few days go by and you don't see a fresh post from me, it's not because I've fallen off the face of the Earth. No, no! It's because, without a doubt, I'm scouring the inside of my microwave, which I haven't thoroughly washed since the last time my parents visited (I'd tell you when that was, but I think I'll let your imagination run wild ;)).

So, I'll be back in full capacity in about a week. In the meantime, enjoy the neurobiology below!

Okay, this is for the curious.

The pink design in the upper left corner is a cartoon representation of a pre-synaptic terminal. This part of the neuron stores and releases synaptic vesicles (represented as white circles), which can be filled with neurotransmitters like glutamate or dopamine.

The yellow design in the upper right is a neuron. Neurons are specialized cells that make up the nervous system. They have a variety of functions. For example, while neuronal involvement in muscle movement is understood pretty well, the exact way neuronal activity leads to learning and memory is not nearly as clear. In the neuron depicted, the leftmost part is the cell body covered with dendrites (they receive chemical signals), and the rightmost part is the axonal projections, which send signals to neighboring cells or tissues.

The green design in the lower left is a cartoon representation of a neuronal network. The triangles represent neuronal bodies - the depicted cells happen to be excitatory hippocampal cells, which often have triangular cell bodies in real life. The thin lines are connections between the two cells and inputs from other cells: thinner axons ending in small circles (synapses) and thicker dendrites. The cool thing about this design is that I took it straight out of a paper published in my lab!

No one properly identified the purple design (and I don't blame you!). It is a coronal section of the brain through the hippocampus, the center of learning and memory. This particular cut, transverse to the length of the hippocampus, allows researchers to study excitatory connections in the brain with much ease.

Posted by Kathy on September 10, 2006 09:41 PM


Well, I got two...Very appropriate for the wee one!

I managed three...the hippocampus got me! Of course, I never was much for learning and can't remember how many stitches I've cast on if the project calls for more than 50 sts! Maybe I'm a little short of hippocami! :=)

Oh, I SO know what you mean about the parental visits! I made mine stay at a bed & breakfast (which luckily is right across the street from my house) last time. It worked out beautifully.

When my parents come to visit...dear god I can't even talk about it. I have four roommates so my house is NEVER clean and I have to plan a whole day to keep them entertained taking into account that they don't like to walk a lot and parking in the city is next to impossible. Good Luck!

If I'd bothered to dig out my neurobiology book I might have been able to recognize all four, but I didn't... But they're sooooo cool on the baby t-shirts, I want to do something like that to my crazy friends... But I don't know if cancer research will be quite as fasinating...


A life (well, relationship) saver. We stay in one when we visit the parents, and they stay in one when they visit us.

Much better all round.

Thank you for this informative post! It was driving me nuts that I only recognized two of the things...not that I do neurobio stuff, but I've at least encountered some of the material in my cog sci classes. In any case, those are probably the most adorable little onesies I've ever seen.

Good luck with the parental visit!

This is so wild. I work in a Psychology rat lab that deals with Neuroscience. One of my PI's is pregnant. Can I steal your ideas and all your designs??? :)

Ahh...geekdom! I love the neuro-tshirts! When I was an undergrad, my favorite Organic professor was pregnant with her first child (she now has 4!)and I made her a Periodic Table quilt. It was so much fun-- there were a few of us gals in the BioChem program who were crafty and she got "reaction" and "mechanism" bibs and t's. She loved them! (he uber-geek biotech hubby loved them too!)

:) Kate

man oh man -- i hear you on the parental unit visits. mine are coming in 10 days. for 2 weeks. talk about stress.

like you, i'd much rather visit them at their house. i have huge territorial issues.

thanks for the explanation! i'm ashamed to say that i only got the neuron :(
good luck with the parental visit! when mine came last we took them to the butterfly museum in town... ahhh, butterflies. a sure hit! you can't help but be enchanted, no matter what kind of scary stress has gone before :)

you wash the inside of a microwave? huh.

I love it! Ditto the visits to my house...gotta clean a couple times a year...oh I better go clean my microwave...it has also been a while!

Microwaves have to be cleaned? Who'd a thought.

Love your scientific onesies!! Maybe I'll make a chemistry symbol t-shirt for my daughter using stencils.

Cool! Thanks for the explanation... it is an unexpected glimpse into your non-knitting world.

As for the parental visit... I always have this problem when my in-laws are in town (and usually end up sitting around doing nothing, eating out, going to the movies, or shopping). When I lived in Boston we took them to the Aquarium, Quincy Market, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

I've observed that people who study the brain tend to be very creative in the extra-curricular aspects of their lives, and you are no exception! The neuronal network is my favorite; it's a clean, fun, abstract design, and it's meaningful.

I don't have the sort of relationship with my family where we go to visit each other for any length of time. I recently had lunch with my mother and step-father so they could meet my boyfriend and that's been the longest visit we've had since Christmas, when I spent an entire day with my mother.

It's an awkward thing, I'm sure, having your parents as guests in your home, but I'm kind of jealous just the same.

Ah, thanks for the explanations. You are seriously geeky. :)

Thanks for explaining the pictures! I am in a Neuroscience course right now, so I felt like I should've been able to identify all of them, but only recognized the top two. Geeks unite!

Yay! Another knitting neurobiologist! If only I'd looked at your blog in time, I would've totally identified the hippocampus. (Why am I feeling so competitive?).
The onesies are all lovely and hilarious and geeky all at the same time.

So many geeky knitters. Wow. I wonder if it even geekier that most of us were hoping today's post would have the explanations of all the cute onesie's.

Ah...I really only identify hippocampi by the darker dentate gyrus...

Facinating! My best guesses had been that the pink one was of some mysterious potion in one of those glass thingys, the green one looked like a pipe contraption that was used to brew the mysterious potion, and I assumed the dark purple one was a stomach of some kind!! HA! THAT is a look into my unscientific mind. :)

And to me they're just cute designs. I'm the same way when company comes - so stressful. Good luck and I'm sure it will all be fine.

Awesome! I'll have to come up with some appropriately geeky physics symbols. I'm thinking baby Feynman diagrams...

I also feel like that about having my parents visit. Glad someone else does, too.

Thanks for telling us what the designs are. We had fun thinking up ones that would be specific to our lab.

Pretty sure I cleaned my microwave sometime back in 2001. Never fear - when you hear growling coming from whatever is growing in there, just turn the microwave on! That'll kill it. :)

Count me as another one who didn't know about freezer paper stencils before but is definately going to try some out now. I've been playing with fabric crayons on onesies for my little incubatee, but I love the cleaner look of the stencil.
As for the designs, I'm just glad I'm not the only total dork out there. I made a necklace for a graduating friend of mine of mini AMPA EPSCs. Yeah, so you're not alone in the geek department.
Maybe take your parents on a duck boat tour? Those are fun because you go on the streets and then on the water...

I love the onesies!! I started out as a medical illustrator but switched into graphic design. What a great way to combine love for science, art and crafties!

I never knew so many knitters were geeks. I feel so much better. Now the gals that made the periodic table quilt - that's geeky, but fun!

There should be some type of geek knit-a-long...

I had no idea about this cool freezer paper craft. I LOVE the onesies. I read your original post but didn't read the how-to very carefully to see if it is definitely something I want to do. I was grocery shopping yesterday and found lots of freezer paper on the shelves. I almost bought some because I thought: now that Grumperina has blogged about it, the freezer paper craze must be on its way to Maine! (I resisted the urge to hoard the paper, but now that I know I can get the supplies, I'll have to read up on the particulars.
Have fun with the parents. My solution is to keep my mother out of my kitchen, wait on them hand and foot, and then they never have to look into the microwave.

The neuronal network facinates me...it looks almost identical to the notation we use in computer science to do logic gates. The concept is probably pretty similar. Lines for connections. Our triangles are buffers.

And I second the notion of a geek knit along!!

i sent your post to my SIL, who is a bio-physicist researching at McGill, and now she wants me to knit her a sweater with a hippocampus on it....so I'll be charting a hippocampus soon.

1. Ooooh... parents aren't so bad. And if I, as a high school student, can say that, then anyone can.. Maybe you should take them out... that way there'd be less to worry about at home.. Sitting at a table and "chatting" is always more fun outside the home... with the ambiance of a foxy waiter.. or swanky lights.. or wherever you take 'em! Good luck!
2. Hah! I got all of the onesies designs! But then again... I took Accel Bio...
*nervous laugh*

It will get worse...wait until the parental visit involves (imagined) 24 hour care, rented wheel chairs, portable toilets (called 3-in ones...i should NOT have to know this),and walkers, diets that do not involve chicken because someone once heard it tasted like snake, eggs, because snakes come from eggs, and copious amounts of candy, chips, cookies and doughnuts requiring special trips to the store. I am living the dream beginning THURSDAY. Good luck with yours. Oh i forgot. and NO KNITTING because knitting takes attention away from the parent.

Hippocampus? Funny, to me it looked like a blue turd. I knew it probably wasn't, but that's what it looked like.

What *do* you want to do with your parents, if not sitting and chatting? I am looking for ideas!

And there was me thinking a hippocampus was where horses went to college. (okay the old ones aren't the best, sorry!)

While looking for knitted leg warmers I came across this pattern:


I could swear that is you in the pictures. Either that or you have a twin out there!

Good luck with the parental invasion.


Thought you might like to see more NeuroFiberArt =)

I saw this: http://harbaugh.uoregon.edu/Brain/index.htm
(Museum of Scientifically Accurate Brain Art) on Boing Boing and thought you might be interested... It includes a knitted brain.

- Savida

Hi Kathy,

I'm thinking of starting a blog and need a digital camera. I was wondering if you, or anyone else, had any advice for me?

Thank you for your fabulous blog!


just saw your onesies on boingboing and thought, hey, that's grumperina's! you're about to get swarmed!

Hey you're on boing boing! How cool is that? But they don't care about all the knitting content you've posted, they just like the geeky onesies.

I love the shawl, gorgeous color as well as pattern. Here is a tip for the microwave scrubbing, take a big pyrex bowl and fill with water, heat that sucker up in the microwave and then the only thing you have to do is...wipe it clean. The goo and gunk will wipe off nicely. No more scrubbing! My older sister taught me that one. I used to scrub but not anymore! :)

How cool to see you on Boing Boing! These onesies are very clever. I might have to do some of the same for a friend of mine that I went to grad school in immunology with who is going to have a baby soon. Every kid needs a T cell receptor or an antibody molecule to wear :-)

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