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Shelly Fan

Shelly Xuelai Fan is a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, where she studies ways to make old brains young again. In addition to research, she's also an avid science writer with an insatiable obsession with biotech, AI and all things neuro. She spends her spare time kayaking, bike camping and getting lost in the woods.

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From This Author


Breakthrough Stem Cell Study Offers New Clues to Reversing Aging

What causes the body to age? The Greek Philosopher Aristotle thought it was the heart—a “hot, dry” organ at the seat of intelligence, motion and sensation. Fast-forward a few centuries, and the brain has overthrown the...

Why Neuroscience Is the Key to Innovation in AI

The future of AI lies in neuroscience. So says Google DeepMind’s founder Demis Hassabis in a review paper published last week in the prestigious journal Neuron. Hassabis is no stranger to both fields. Armed with a...

Machine Reasoning Gets a Boost With This Simple New Algorithm

There’s a classic scene in almost every police procedural: a weathered detective stands staring at a collection of photos pinned to a wall. Thin, red yarn traces the connections between the different players. Something’s...

‘Biological Teleportation’ Edges Closer With Craig Venter’s Digital-to-Biological Converter

The year is 2030. In a high-security containment lab, scientists gathered around a towering machine, eagerly awaiting the first look at a newly discovered bacterium on Mars. With a series of beeps, the machine—a digital-to-biological...

Is There a Multidimensional Mathematical World Hidden in the Brain’s Computation?

Two thousand years ago, the ancient Greeks looked into the night sky and saw geometric shapes emerge among the stars: a hunter, a lion, a water vase. In a way, they used these constellations to...

Forget Police Sketches: Researchers Perfectly Reconstruct Faces by Reading Brainwaves

Picture this: you’re sitting in a police interrogation room, struggling to describe the face of a criminal to a sketch artist. You pause, wrinkling your brow, trying to remember the distance between his eyes...

Here Are the Microsurgeons That Will Soon Roam Our Bodies

On a crisp fall evening in 2006, Dr. Sylvain Martel held his breath as a technician slipped an anesthetized pig into a whirling fMRI machine. His eyes stared intently at a computer screen, which...

Limitless Lab-Grown Blood Is ‘Tantalizingly Close’ After 20 Years

Blood stem cells are things of wonder: hidden inside each single cell is the power to reconstitute an entire blood system, like a sort of biological big bang. Yet with great power comes greater vulnerability....

How to Build a Mind? This Theory May Guide Us Toward an Answer

How do intelligent minds learn? Consider a toddler navigating her day, bombarded by a kaleidoscope of experiences. How does her mind discover what’s normal happenstance and begin building a model of the world? How does...

New AI Mimics Any Voice in a Matter of Minutes

The story starts out like a bad joke: Obama, Clinton and Trump walk into a bar, where they applauded a new startup based in Montreal, Canada called Lyrebird. Skeptical? Here’s a recording. https://soundcloud.com/user-535691776/dialog Sound clip credit: Lyrebird If...

Bizarre Mini Brains Offer a Fascinating New Look at the Brain

Brain balls sound like something straight out of a Tim Burton movie: starting as stem cells harvested from patients, they eventually develop into masses of living neurons, jumbled together in misshapen blobs. Just like the...

These Cells Are Engineered to Be Controlled by a Smartphone

To Dr. Mark Gomelsky, a professor at the University of Wyoming, genetically engineered therapeutic cells are like troops on a mission. The first act is training. Using genetic editing tools such as CRISPR, scientists can...

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