Image by Jashar Awan
Recently I came across an opinion piece in the New York Times that discusses the necessity of sleep. There is much to learn about the process of sleep, such as the importance of glial cells––like astrocytes. More than one-hundred years ago Santiago Ramóny Cajal proposed that astrocytes control sleep and waking states. His intuition was correct and today it is known that these glial cells play an important role in clearing toxins from the brain during sleep, avoiding build up of proteins and other byproducts. Now, the Nedergaard Lab suggests that the glymphatic system or “the brains equivalent of the lymphatic system” is crucial in the toxic clearing process. This can be described as an efficient “plumbing” system that allows fluid to drain out along veins in the brain, clearing up pathways between cells. In addition to clearing out toxins, astrocytes are important in myelination and neuroplasticity, yet the timing of when all these processes occur during the sleep cycle may not be entirely clear. Overall, the consensus appears to be that that long-term or chronic sleep deprivation puts one at greater risk for more cognitive related health problems because it is harder for the brain to heal itself quickly. Rather than strengthening existing neuron connections or creating new ones, the brain is still working on its filtering system and slowly.
A tumbling sequence, 1962.
The Albanian-America photographer Gjon Mili was trained as an engineer and self-taught as a photographer. This is a wonderful example of what happens when a scientist becomes an artist or vice versa.
The fractal geometry of a crystal of vitamin C. Photograph by Nathan Myhrvold/Modernist Cuisine LLC.
Brain circuit can tune anxiety
The Neuron study contributes significantly to scientists’ understanding of the roles of the amygdala and hippocampus in anxiety and offers directions for seeking new drug targets, says Joshua Gordon, an associate professor of psychiatry at Columbia University.
“The study specifies a particular connection in the brain as being important for anxiety. One could imagine, then, identifying components of the machinery of that connection — synaptic proteins or ion channels, for example — that are particularly important for amygdala-hippocampal connectivity. If such specific components could be identified, they would be potential targets for novel antianxiety drugs,” says Gordon, who was not part of the research team.
Christian Boltanski. Les habits de François C, 1971.
Evidence-based justice: Corrupted memory
In a career spanning four decades, Loftus, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, has done more than any other researcher to document the unreliability of memory in experimental settings. And she has used what she has learned to testify as an expert witness in hundreds of criminal cases — Pacely’s was her 101st — informing juries that memories are pliable and that eyewitness accounts are far from perfect recordings of actual events….
There are ways in which traumatic memories of real events can be recalled after being buried for years, he adds, but without hard evidence, it is impossible to distinguish false memories from real ones in court. It is, therefore, possible that some claims of childhood abuse go unvindicated because of Loftus’ testimony, and this is the cause of much of the hostility towards her.
Ross Cheit, a political scientist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, started the Recovered Memory Project in 1995 to document and respond to what he says has been a one-sided debate. There are now more than 100 corroborated cases of recovered memory on his website (http://blogs.brown.edu/recoveredmemory), he says, including some on which Loftus had consulted.
Are You a Smoker and Impulsive?
We observed a significant positive relationship between impulsivity scores and reported craving. A negative correlation was observed between the impulsivity score and activity in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC).
…This is the first study on this topic, and so, results will need to be replicated in both licit and illicit drug abusers.
Front. Psychiatry, 16 July 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00067
Science Journalism or Science Communication?
But the mass media, whatever that has become in 2013, remains the major conduit for scientific information when it really matters.
For example, blogs featured outstanding technical coverage of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown, but most of the world’s public learned about the disaster and how it could affect them through conventional media. And the relationship between politicians and the mass media often drives public policy.
Yes, the brain is not the mind. The mind is one of the things the brain does.
NY Times: Beyond the Brain
Carl Hart will be speaking about his book High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society this Wednesday in the Upper West Side. This event is worth going to for anyone in interested in the intersection of drug research with public policy.
Dr. Hart will share the captivating story of growing up in one of Miami’s toughest neighborhoods and reveals how it led him to pioneering work at Columbia University, where he became the first tenured black faculty in the sciences at Columbia. Though Hart is a popular lecturer with a joint appointment in the psychology and psychiatry departments at Columbia University, it’s his research – which involves administering methamphetamine, marijuana and other illegal drugs to human subjects – that has made him an increasingly prominent figure in academic circles. The study of drugs has traditionally relied on animal models — mice, dogs and sometimes monkeys. But Hart’s focus is part of an emerging insight: the best way to pinpoint the effect of a drug such as meth on humans is to study it in humans. His results have started to back this up, confirming that much of what we thought we knew about drugs of abuse may well be wrong. Hart is rewriting the theory of addiction and pointing the way to better treatments.