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By Meredith Wadman BethAnn McLaughlin has no time for James Watson, especially not when the 90-year-old geneticist is peering out from a photo on the wall of her guest room at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Banbury Center. “I don’t need him staring at me when I’m trying to go to sleep,” McLaughlin told a December 2018 gathering at the storied New York meeting center as she projected a photo of her redecorating job: She had hung a washcloth over the image of Watson, who co-discovered DNA’s structure, directed the lab for decades—and is well-known for racist and sexist statements. The washcloth image was part of McLaughlin’s unconventional presentation—by turns sobering, hilarious, passionate, and profane—to two dozen experts who had gathered to wrestle with how to end gender discrimination in the biosciences. McLaughlin, a 51-year-old neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) in Nashville, displayed the names of current members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) who have been sanctioned for sexual harassment. She urged other NAS members—several of whom sat in the room—to resign in protest, “as one does.” She chided institutions for passing along “harassholes” to other universities. “The only other places that do this are the Catholic Church and the military,” she said. In the past 9 months, McLaughlin has exploded into view as the public face of the #MeToo movement in science, wielding her irreverent, sometimes wickedly funny Twitter presence, @McLNeuro, as part cudgel, part cheerleader’s megaphone. In June 2018, she created a website,, where scores of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) have posted mostly anonymous, often harrowing tales of their own harassment. In just 2 days that month, she convinced the widely used website to remove its “red hot chili pepper” rating for “hotness.” And after launching an online petition, she succeeded last fall in spurring AAAS, which publishes Science, to adopt a policy allowing proven sexual harassers to be stripped of AAAS honors. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Aggression
Link ID: 25961 - Posted: 02.13.2019

Sara Reardon A form of the hallucinogenic party drug ketamine has cleared one of the final hurdles toward clinical use as an antidepressant. At a 12 February meeting at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Silver Spring, Maryland, an independent advisory panel voted 14-2 in favour of recommending a compound known as esketamine for use in treating depression. If the FDA approves the drug, it could buoy the chances of other ketamine-inspired treatments currently under development. But questions remain about esketamine’s overall effectiveness at lifting mood and its potential to be abused. Mental health researchers rejoiced at the news. “I’m still a little bit in shock,” says James Murrough, a psychiatrist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.If approved, esketamine would be the first truly novel antidepressant to enter the market in several decades. “If this comes to pass, we’ll have done what people have been quick to point out hasn’t been done since the original discovery of antidepressants.” The FDA is expected to make a decision on esketamine by 4 March. Researchers discovered ketamine’s antidepressant properties in the early 2000s. It’s unclear how ketamine, which is a mixture of two molecules that are mirror images of each other, works in the brain. But scientists do know that it acts extremely quickly to alleviate symptoms of depression — in a matter of hours as opposed to weeks — and in a very different way than other drugs approved to treat depression. © 2019 Springer Nature Publishing AG

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 25960 - Posted: 02.13.2019

By Pam Belluck For the first time, a national health panel has recommended a way to prevent depression during and after pregnancy. This condition, known as perinatal depression, affects up to one in seven women and is considered the most common complication of pregnancy. The panel, the United States Preventive Services Task Force, said two types of counseling can help keep symptoms at bay. Its recommendation means that under the Affordable Care Act, such counseling must be covered by insurance with no co-payment. Here’s a guide to what to look for and how to get help. What is perinatal depression and what are the signs that you or a loved one might be experiencing it? Perinatal depression can occur during pregnancy or any time within a year after childbirth. As defined by the panel, it can involve major or minor depressive symptoms that last for at least two weeks, including loss of energy or concentration, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, feelings of worthlessness or suicidal thoughts. It’s not the same as the “baby blues,” which is less severe and doesn’t last as long. The panel said “baby blues” can occur right after childbirth and can include crying, irritability, fatigue and anxiety, symptoms that usually disappear within 10 days. Many things can raise a woman’s risk of depression during and after pregnancy. Having a personal or family history of depression is a significant risk factor. Others include a range of experiences that can generate stress: recent divorce or relationship strain; being a victim of abuse or domestic violence; being a single mother or a teenager; having an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. Economic burdens increase the risk — about one in three low-income women develops depression during or after pregnancy. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 25959 - Posted: 02.13.2019

Terry Gross Growing up, neuroscientist Judith Grisel would take little sips of alcohol at family events, but it wasn't until she was 13 that she experienced being drunk for the first time. Everything changed. "It was so complete and so profound," she says. "I suddenly felt less anxious, less insecure, less inept to cope with the world. Suddenly I was full and OK in a way that I had never been." Grisel began chasing that feeling. Over the years, she struggled with alcohol, marijuana and cocaine. But along the way, she also became interested in the neuroscience of addiction. "I'm always interested in the mechanisms of things," she says. "And when I heard that I had a disease, I kind of felt naturally that that would have a biological basis, and I figured that I could study that biological basis and understand it and then maybe fix it." Now it has been 30 years without using drugs or alcohol for Grisel, a professor of psychology at Bucknell University, where she studies how addictive drugs work on the brain. Her new book is Never Enough: The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction. Interview Highlights On how drug and alcohol abuse affects the brains of young people The changes in behavior that happen during adolescence are so important and lasting because the brain is forming permanent structures. So whatever you experience as an adolescent is going to have a much more impactful influence on the rest of your life trajectory than it would, say, if you did this at another time in development when your brain wasn't so prone to changing. © 2019 npr

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25958 - Posted: 02.13.2019

By Zoe Dubno When I was 12, I became part of the very select group of people who have had a life-changing experience at a fondue restaurant. After repeatedly grabbing my brother’s green fondue fork and eating his steak from the broth pot, I found myself accused of elder-sibling entitlement. But my father, who is colorblind, said I had done nothing wrong; like me, he was unable to see any difference between my brother’s green fork and my orange one. The Ishihara color-vision test he administered on his computer later that night confirmed that I was among those few women with red-green colorblindness. He was excited that I saw “correctly” — which is to say, like him. Back then, the ability to understand his frame of reference was mostly limited to other people barred from becoming astronauts. Now there’s an app for it. Colorblindness can be sort of a fun affliction. Sometimes I see my own private colors, and objects lose their prescribed meanings. Someone’s fashionable, Instagram-friendly sand-colored apartment might become, just for me, a garish baby-food green. The English scientist John Dalton described something similar in “Extraordinary Facts Relating to the Vision of Colours” (1794), the first known scientific study of anomalous color vision: He would often earnestly ask people whether a flower was blue or pink “but was generally considered to be in jest.” I attended a liberal-arts college, so I know full well that philosophizing about the subjective experience of color is best done barefoot in a field while listening to Alice Coltrane music. Biologically, though, the mechanics are relatively straightforward. Humans are trichromats: We see color because three sets of cones inside the eye absorb light at different wavelengths, from red to blue. Colorblindness is, typically, a congenital weakness in one set or another. The cones in my eyes that are meant to detect long red wavelengths are abnormal; I may see red and orange, but they’re dim and green-tinted, their energy registering partly on the cones that detect medium-length green wavelengths. (For some colorblind people, the entire season of “autumn” must feel like an elaborate prank.) Those with no working cones in one group — dichromats — experience almost total blindness of that color. Red becomes black. Orange, now redless, becomes yellow. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Vision
Link ID: 25957 - Posted: 02.13.2019

By Gretchen Reynolds Jogging for 15 minutes a day, or walking or gardening for somewhat longer, could help protect people against developing depression, according to an innovative new study published last month in JAMA Psychiatry. The study involved hundreds of thousands of people and used a type of statistical analysis to establish, for the first time, that physical activity may help prevent depression, a finding with considerable relevance for any of us interested in maintaining or bolstering our mental health. Plenty of past studies have examined the connections between exercise, moods and psychological well-being, of course. And most have concluded that physically active people tend to be happier and less prone to anxiety and severe depression than people who seldom move much. But those past studies showed only that exercise and depression are linked, not that exercise actually causes a drop in depression risk. Most were longitudinal or cross-sectional, looking at people’s exercise habits over a certain period or at a single point of time and then determining whether there might be statistical relationships between the two. In other words, active people might be less likely to become depressed than inactive people. But it’s also possible that people who aren’t prone to depression may be more likely to exercise. Those types of studies may be tantalizing, but they can’t prove anything about cause and effect. To show causation, scientists rely on randomized experiments, during which they assign people to, for instance, exercise or not and then monitor the outcomes. Researchers have been using randomized trials to look at whether exercise can treat depression after people already have developed the condition, and the results have been encouraging. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 25956 - Posted: 02.13.2019

By Natalie Angier Most female flies take a low-rent approach to parenthood, depositing scores of seed-sized eggs in the trash or on pet scat to hatch, leaving the larvae to fend for themselves. Not so the female tsetse fly. She gestates her young internally, one at a time, and gives birth to them live. When each extravagantly pampered offspring pulls free of her uterus after nine days, fly mother and child are pretty much the same size. “It’s the equivalent of giving birth to an 18-year-old,” said Geoffrey Attardo, an entomologist who studies tsetse flies at the University of California, Davis. The newborn tsetse fly looks like a hand grenade and moves like a Slinky, and if you squeeze it too hard the source of its plumpness becomes clear — or rather a telltale white. The larva, it seems, is just a big bag of milk. “Rupture the gut,” Dr. Attardo said, “and the milk comes spilling out.” And milk it truly is — a nutritional, biochemical and immunological designer fluid that the mother fly’s body has spun from her blood meals and pumped into her uterus, where her developing young greedily gulped it down. Thus fattened on maternal largess, a tsetse fly larva can safely burrow underground and pupate for 30 days before emerging as a full-blown adult with a nasty bite and a notorious capacity to transmit a deadly disease called sleeping sickness. In a recent chemical and genetic analysis of tsetse fly milk, Dr. Attardo and his colleagues were startled to discover how similar it was to the product of the beloved gland that stamps us as mammals. “I was expecting something completely off the wall and different,” he said. “But there are frightening, fascinating overlaps with mammalian milk in the kinds of proteins we see.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 25955 - Posted: 02.12.2019

By Lisa Rapaport New mothers who have friends ready to step in and help them, tend to have toddlers who score better on cognitive tests than the babies of women with smaller social support networks, a U.S. study suggests. Strong social ties to friends and family have long been linked to better behavioral and physical health outcomes for adults. And plenty of previous research also indicates that infants’ and toddlers’ bonds with caregivers can have a lasting impact on children’s emotional, intellectual and social development. But less is known about how the caregivers’ own social connections might influence early childhood cognitive development. For the current study, researchers examined data on 1,082 mother-child pairs. They questioned women about their family structure, friendships and relationships in their communities and also looked at test results from cognitive assessments done when children were 2 years old. Overall, mothers had an average of 3.5 friends in their social support networks. The kids of mothers with more than that tended to have higher cognitive test scores than the kids of those who had fewer, suggesting “network conditions were significantly associated with early cognitive development in children,” the study authors wrote. © 1996-2019 The Washington Post

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 25954 - Posted: 02.12.2019

By Ricardo Muñoz More than 300 million individuals worldwide suffer from major depression. About 16 million of them are in the U.S., where 90 percent report difficulties with work, home or social activities related to their symptoms. While there are many effective treatments for depression, including medications and psychological therapies, the rate of depression is not going down, and treatment is not enough to reduce the burden. Recently, research has emerged indicating that about half of all cases of depression are preventable. Yet we’re not doing much to prevent it. In much the same way we vaccinate against other debilitating diseases, it is our moral obligation to begin concerted prevention efforts to reduce the number of new cases of depression in our communities. Depression is the number one cause of disability worldwide. It produces substantial suffering not only for the depressed individual, but also for those around them—when it leads to suicide, the impact on surviving loved ones is devastating. Depression is also related to a number of other health problems. Take smoking, for example, which is the leading cause of preventable death in the world, and how it is affected by depression. People who suffer from depression are more likely to start smoking, less likely to quit, and, if they quit, more likely to start again. This is the case with the use of alcohol and other drugs as well. Adolescent girls who have suffered at least one episode of major depression have a greater probability of having sexual relations as teenagers, having more than one sexual partner and having unintended pregnancies. © 2019 Scientific American

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 25953 - Posted: 02.12.2019

By C. Claiborne Ray Q. What keeps squirrels from gaining huge amounts of weight as they gorge on acorns and nuts each fall? A. In fact, many squirrels do achieve huge weight gain ahead of the privations of winter. Common gray squirrels may increase their weight by 25 percent in the harvest season. But not because they hibernate — they don’t. Winter foraging is hard, and gray squirrels tend to spend the winter months mostly in their nests. But they must make forays every few days to seek squirreled-away food and other nourishment. Among hibernating squirrels, much of the stored nourishment is needed to survive the cold season without foraging. A study of the Arctic ground squirrel found extreme weight gains during the active season: 42 percent among males and 63 percent among females. They slow their activity drastically before hibernating in order to maintain peak mass. While some do emerge from winter lighter, a significant share of their fat stores may remain. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Obesity; Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 25952 - Posted: 02.12.2019

By Jill U. Adams A lot of people out there don’t get enough sleep — more than 1 in 3 American adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re one of them, you probably know there are two main treatments for improving sleep: behavioral methods and medications. When you’re desperate for a good night’s sleep, medications sure do sound appealing. But there are caveats with them all — the prescription pills, the over-the-counter products and the herbal supplements. Before describing the medications in detail, I’ll remind you that the prevailing wisdom is that cognitive behavioral therapy, which involves changing habits and bedtime rituals, is the first-line treatment for insomnia. Sleep experts say CBT is more effective and longer lasting than medication for most people — but maybe you’re not most people. “There’s clearly a subset of patients who don’t improve with CBT,” says Andrew Krystal, who directs the sleep research program at the University of California at San Francisco. There’s also a problem with access, he says, as CBT requires effort. Even some of the seemingly simple online versions have fees attached. Another thing to consider before looking at medications is that sleep troubles often result from something else, such as sleep apnea or depression. Also, alcohol and caffeine intake can interfere with good sleep, as can certain medications, says Constance Dunlap, a D.C. psychiatrist in private practice. A doctor can help you rule out or address these issues. “I get a lot of information,” Dunlap says. © 1996-2019 The Washington Post

Keyword: Sleep; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25951 - Posted: 02.11.2019

By Richard A. Friedman Want to fall effortlessly into profound slumber and sleep like a baby? Everyone knows that infants can be lulled to sleep by gentle rocking. Well, now it seems that what works for babies works for adults, too. New research shows that a slow rocking motion not only improves sleep but also can help people consolidate memories overnight. And this, in turn, tells us something interesting about how much the brain is affected by what seem to be purely physical interventions. Scientists at the University of Geneva in Switzerland studied 18 healthy young adults while they slept in the lab for two nights. One night they slept in regular stationary beds; another night they slept in beds that gently rocked from side to side all night. The order of the rocking and stationary nights was randomized, so that each person served as his or her own control. The researchers found that rocking caused the subjects to fall asleep more quickly and increased their amount of slow-wave deep sleep, a phase of sleep that is associated with feeling refreshed and rested upon waking. They also experienced fewer periods of spontaneous arousal. This was true despite the fact that they were already good sleepers. Rocking did not affect the duration of rapid eye movement or dream sleep. The study also assessed memory consolidation by having the subjects study word pairs before going to bed. They were tested on their recall of these words in the evening and then again in the morning when they woke up. The subjects showed improved recall on the morning test after the rocking night compared with the stationary night, showing that rocking enhanced the accuracy of their memories. This study was, of course, quite small. But other studies have reported similar findings, though the size of the effect appears to depend on the frequency and type of rocking. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 25950 - Posted: 02.11.2019

By Marlene Cimons Tracey Thomsen Anderson, 57, a retired ad agency copywriter from Colorado Springs, sleeps nine or 10 hours every night, and has done so her entire life. “My ability to sleep through ridiculous circumstances was legendary as a kid — parties, fireworks, I slept through a car wreck once,” she says. “I can get by on eight for a day or two, but I feel like a zombie all day with anything less than nine.” This may sound like heaven to the consistently sleep-deprived, but it doesn’t always seem that way to her. “I sometimes feel like I am wasting time sleeping,” she says. “I did the math once. If I live to 85, and could have slept an average of one hour less per day, that adds up to something like 1,300 extra days of living over a lifetime. That’s 3½ years — what do you think you could do with an extra 3½ years?” Similarly, Kate (who asked that her last name not be used), a 52-year-old special-education teacher who lives in Upstate New York, would sleep 10 hours a night — if she could. But she rarely gets the chance. She wakes up every day at 5 a.m. so she can get to her job on time. “I try to be consistent about my bedtime, which is 9 p.m. most nights,” she says. “I know I should be in bed by 8 p.m., but I just have too much to do in my day.” They are among the estimated 2 percent of the population known as “long sleepers,” people who regularly sleep more in a 24 hour period than what is usual for others in their age group. Long sleepers often sleep as much as 10 to 12 hours a night, a consistent lifelong pattern which is normal for them, and unrelated to any medical conditions, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. © 1996-2019 The Washington Post

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 25949 - Posted: 02.11.2019

By Ronnie Cohen At first, Lilly Grey Rudge objected to her classes starting later. Delaying the first-period bell nearly an hour until 8:45 a.m. meant that her mother could no longer drive her, and Lilly Grey would have to take two buses to Ballard High in Seattle. Now, more than two years since the change, the 16-year-old junior is a fan. “I’ve gained an hour of sleep,” she said. “I definitely feel a lot better. I find myself waking up around 7:30 without an alarm because it’s a natural time. It’s a great, great feeling.” Other Seattle high school students also are sleeping more — a median of 34 minutes a night more — since the school district pushed back the start of classes from 7:50 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. in fall 2016, a new study shows. Plus, when school began later, grades and attendance went up, and tardiness went down. After Franklin High in Seattle reset its starting bell, teacher A.J. Katzaroff’s first-period biology students’ median grades rose from a C to a B. “Kids were more awake, more present and more capable of engaging in intellectual work because they had the rest they needed,” she said. Cindy Jatul, a biology teacher at Seattle’s Roosevelt High, also saw the benefits of the later start time on her students. “Prior to the change, my first-period class would just make silly mistakes because they weren’t firing on all cylinders,” she said. “They were in this kind of fog. There were kids who were sleeping in class, their heads on the table.” © 1996-2019 The Washington Post

Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 25948 - Posted: 02.11.2019

By Agata Boxe Police officers investigating a crime may hesitate to interview drunk witnesses. But waiting until they sober up may not be the best strategy; people remember more while they are still inebriated than they do a week later, a new study finds. Malin Hildebrand Karlén, a senior psychology lecturer at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg, and her colleagues recruited 136 people and gave half of them vodka mixed with orange juice. The others drank only juice. In 15 minutes women in the alcohol group consumed 0.75 gram of alcohol per kilogram of body weight, and men drank 0.8 gram (that is equivalent to 3.75 glasses of wine for a 70-kilogram woman or four glasses for a man of the same weight, Hildebrand Karlén says). All participants then watched a short film depicting a verbal and physical altercation between a man and a woman. The researchers next asked half the people in each group to freely recall what they remembered from the film. The remaining participants were sent home and interviewed a week later. The investigators found that both the inebriated and sober people who were interviewed immediately demonstrated better recollection of the film events than their drunk or sober counterparts who were questioned later. The effect held even for people with blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08 or higher—the legal limit for driving in most of the U.S. (Intoxication levels varied because different people metabolize alcohol at different speeds.) The results suggest that intoxicated witnesses should be interviewed sooner rather than later, according to the study, which was published online last October in Psychology, Crime & Law. © 2019 Scientific American

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25947 - Posted: 02.11.2019

Adrian Woolfson Globally, the burden of depression and other mental-health conditions is on the rise. In North America and Europe alone, mental illness accounts for up to 40% of all years lost to disability. And molecular medicine, which has seen huge success in treating diseases such as cancer, has failed to stem the tide. Into that alarming context enters the thought-provoking Good Reasons for Bad Feelings, in which evolutionary psychiatrist Randolph Nesse offers insights that radically reframe psychiatric conditions. In his view, the roots of mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, lie in essential functions that evolved as building blocks of adaptive behavioural and cognitive function. Furthermore, like the legs of thoroughbred racehorses — selected for length, but tending towards weakness — some dysfunctional aspects of mental function might have originated with selection for unrelated traits, such as cognitive capacity. Intrinsic vulnerabilities in the human mind could be a trade-off for optimizing unrelated features. Similar ideas have surfaced before, in different contexts. Evolutionary biologists Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin, for example, critically examined the blind faith of ‘adaptationist’ evolutionary theorizing. Their classic 1979 paper ‘The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm’ challenged the idea that every aspect of an organism has been perfected by natural selection (S. J. Gould et al. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 205, 581–598; 1979). Instead, like the curved triangles of masonry between arches supporting domes in medieval and Renaissance architecture, some parts are contingent structural by-products. These might have no discernible adaptive advantage, or might even be maladaptive. Gould and Lewontin’s intuition has, to some extent, been vindicated by molecular genetics. Certain versions of the primitive immune-system protein complement 4A, for instance, evolved for reasons unrelated to mental function, and yet are associated with an increased risk of schizophrenia. © 2019 Springer Nature Publishing AG

Keyword: Depression; Schizophrenia
Link ID: 25946 - Posted: 02.11.2019

By Emily Sohn Snoring is the top reason that patients come to see Jennifer Hsia, a sleep surgeon at University of Minnesota Health in Minneapolis. Most of the time, they come in not because they are worried about their health, but because their partner has been complaining about the noise. “It’s very rare that I have someone come in and say, ‘I think I have sleep apnea,’ ” she says. “It’s more, ‘I’m snoring quite badly and my bed partner wants me to do something about it.’ ” Even if the person you sleep with doesn’t care, it’s worth seeing a doctor if you snore, experts say. Although there may be nothing to worry about, accumulating evidence suggests a link between snoring and cardiovascular disease. Snoring can also be a sign of sleep apnea, a more serious disorder that causes people to periodically stop breathing in their sleep. “All people that have sleep apnea snore, but not all people who snore have sleep apnea,” says Ricardo Osorio, a sleep expert and neuroscientist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. Getting evaluated is the only way to know for sure. “If the snoring is bad and you have witnessed apneas and there is some suspicion of daytime sleepiness or poor performance at work or risk of car accident because you’re sleeping at the wheel, go to a sleep doctor,” he says. “Generally, the only thing that can happen when you go to a sleep physician is that you can improve the quality of your life a little bit.” Data is scarce about how common snoring is, Hsia says. But studies from around the world suggest that up to half of people do it. © 1996-2019 The Washington

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 25945 - Posted: 02.09.2019

By Rachel Hartigan Shea When Steve Ramirez was in college, he was fascinated by all kinds of subjects—from Shakespeare to piano, astronauts to medicine. That made choosing a major difficult, so he decided to “cheat,” as he puts it. He would study “the thing that achieved everything that’s ever been achieved”: the brain. After he joined a lab researching the neuroscience of memory, he learned that every experience leaves physical traces throughout the brain. Those are memories, and they can be examined or even altered. “That idea enchanted me,” he says. Now Ramirez leads his own lab at Boston University, and he’s figured out how to suppress bad memories by activating good ones. He and his team genetically engineer brain cells associated with memory in mice to respond to light. Then they create a bad memory—a mild electric shock—and watch the activated cells light up. Deactivating those cells would make the bad memory inaccessible or allow it to be overwritten by a good memory, such as social time with other mice. Ramirez does not propose using this sort of “genetic trickery” to manipulate memories in humans. Instead, his discoveries about memory could inform how patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or depression are treated. “We want to understand how the brain works; we want to understand how memory works,” he says. “It’s like, the more we know how a car works, the better equipped we are to figure out what happens when it breaks down.”

Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 25944 - Posted: 02.09.2019

Laura Sanders A conscious brain hums with elaborate, interwoven signals, a study finds. Scientists uncovered that new signature of consciousness by analyzing brain activity of healthy people and of people who were not aware of their surroundings. The result, published online February 6 in Science Advances, makes headway on a tough problem: how to accurately measure awareness in patients who can’t communicate. Other methods for measuring consciousness have been proposed, but because of its size and design, the new study was able to find a particularly strong signal. Conducted by an international team of researchers spanning four countries, the effort “produced clear, reliable results that are directly relevant to the clinical neuroscience of consciousness,” says cognitive neuroscientist Michael Pitts of Reed College in Portland, Ore. Consciousness — and how the brain creates it — is a squishy concept. It slips away when we sleep, and can be distorted by drugs or lost in accidents. Though scientists have proposed many biological explanations for how our brains create consciousness, a full definition still eludes scientists. By finding a clear brain signature of awareness, the new work “bring us closer to understanding what consciousness is,” says study coauthor Jacobo Sitt of INSERM in Paris. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2019.

Keyword: Consciousness; Brain imaging
Link ID: 25943 - Posted: 02.09.2019

By Kate Johnson The doctor ordered a “push” on my sedative, and I succumbed to the sweet blackness. But then something went wrong, and I was awake too soon, flailing and crying, the medical team scrambling to maneuver the tube that had been placed down my throat in what should have been a straightforward gastroscopy. I put up a violent struggle on the table: gagging and choking, trying to scream, fighting to pull the medical device out of my esophagus. “Hold her arms!” I heard someone yell. I felt hot tears, and pure terror … and then more blackness. This was the third time I had woken up under the twilight anesthesia known as “conscious sedation.” “You’ll be awake, but you won’t remember” is something thousands of patients are told every day, because the sedatives that doctors use to prepare us for these kinds of procedures come with a convenient side effect: amnesia. I had been given midazolam, a benzodiazepine known for its superior amnestic effects. I should have forgotten. But I didn’t. Instead, the fight-or-flight panic that had ensued was seared into my memory. A terrifying sense of doom enveloped me in the following days, as I kept reliving a routine medical test that my brain had registered, not unreasonably, as a physical assault. What went wrong? My previous two awakenings under conscious sedation had not filled me with the same terror as this one. They had not even struck me as unusual, since I’d been told I would not be entirely asleep. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Consciousness; Sleep
Link ID: 25942 - Posted: 02.08.2019