Author Archives: Catie Profaci

June 21

Apply now for ComSciCon-SD 2018!

In many ways, science is like a foreign language. While the technical words that scientists use often mean very little to those not daily immersed in science, science is–at its heart–a logical process of asking questions and searching for answers. This journey of asking and answering does not require any extraordinary intelligence. It instead necessitates […]

June 14

Does imagination make us human?

Do you take your coffee with milk? Would you like a slice of pizza? Oh hold on, that pizza will have to wait—someone is calling on the plastic phone on the kitchen wall. Who? Obviously my best friend Phoebe from down the street. Uh oh, now the coffee is cold. I’ll put on a fresh […]

April 26

Lymph, glymph, sleep, & sickness

  Consider the word “lymph.” What comes to mind? To me, “lymph” sounds like a viscous liquid that might ooze out of the orifices of some terrifying wounded creature. Or perhaps your mind jumps to the term “lymph nodes”, conjuring images of little knobs in your neck bulging with infection, sometimes growing so large that […]

January 11

A Tribute to Ben Barres

I was thoroughly star-struck. Ben did not exactly look like a celebrity in his usual cargo shorts (in October in Chicago!) and sneakers, but the impact of his science and his tireless fight for gender equality in academia had made him a hero to me and thousands of others.

December 21

Can a corpse have an orgasm?

Can a corpse have an orgasm?   It’s not entirely unlikely [1]. The clue comes from patients with spinal cord injuries. Let’s start with the spinal cord, and we’ll come back to dead bodies in a bit.   Traffic Jam The spinal cord–a long thin bundle of nervous tissue running from the base of the […]

August 31

Psychosurgery: from ice picks to electrodes

If you were to hazard a guess at the date of the first neurosurgery, what would you say? An image from [1] showing evidence of brain surgery in a Stone Age skull I’m going to bet that “the Stone Age” didn’t occur to you as a legitimate answer, but a skeleton dated to roughly 5000 B.C. […]

June 22

Psychopathy, qu’est-ce que c’est

Psychopathy, qu’est-ce que c’est A thought experiment Imagine that you are a respected scientist trying to better understand psychopathy.  What might be different in the brain of a psychopath?  As you look through brain scan after brain scan of psychopathic individuals—many of them convicted killers—you see a pattern.  In brain regions important for impulse control, […]

June 08

Apply now for ComSciCon at UCSD!

Applications for ComSciCon-SD close in one week (on June 15th)!  Apply today. A scientist and a non-scientist walk into a bar.  As the night proceeds, the non-scientist asks the scientist the oft-dreaded question: “So, what do you do?  What is your research about?”  What likely follows is a confused and confusing garble of jargon and […]

April 06

AN update: disease in a dish

While the phrase “stem cells” used to spark bitter controversy, scientists can now take a harmless skin biopsy from a human patient and transform those (skin) cells into a bunch of stem cells capable of becoming many different types of cells in the body, including brain cells.

March 02

Pain: Can’t live with it, can’t live without it

Imagine what life would be like with no pain.  No headaches or sore throats.  You would never experience the anguish of a papercut or a stubbed toe or a sprained ankle.  No stomach cramps or muscle soreness.  Childbirth or getting kicked in the balls?  Piece of cake.  Thrown from a moving car?  Don’t feel a […]