Author Archives: Melissa Troyer

December 29

The Language of Arrival

Lots of sci-fi movies might begin with funny-shaped vessels landing on earth, but very few of them end with a (female!) linguist helping to save humanity by learning to speak the language of their inhabitants. As an only occasional viewer of science fiction movies, I was pleasantly surprised by the limited number of explosions and […]

September 08

Car Talk

For many Americans—and southern Californians in particular—a good chunk of our lives occurs in the confines of a car above a tangle of highways (or side streets). Time spent in traffic is the pits, so it’s no small wonder that drivers might dabble in multi-tasking.  Driving itself involves a coordination of many tasks, both perceptual […]

April 28

Zika and the Brain

[En español] If you have been able to capture a glimpse of any news OTHER than the ongoing disaster which is the American 2016 Presidential Election, you may have caught wind of another wave of (more global) disaster: newly uncovered effects of the Zika virus. Zika first came into the spotlight when it was linked […]

November 19

Learning Language by Eavesdropping

Though kids seem to learn language without effort, scientists continue to puzzle over how children go from scream-y, pre-linguistic squooshballs to slightly-less-scream-y toddlers who can string a few words together (including “no!”) to older children who speak more or less like adults do. Researchers have learned a lot about how kids learn to talk—they know […]

May 07

Subtle sexism: Stereotypes and how they shape us

Gender stereotypes are pervasive. Though Disney has recently come out with some kick-ass princesses (my personal favorites are the icy Elsa and fiery Anna, who don’t need a prince to save them in Frozen), enter any major toy store and you can still find row upon row of pink paraphernalia and sparkly tiaras. Trying to […]

February 12

A science of falling in love?

“To fall in love with anyone, do this!” proclaimed the headline of a recent article from the New York Times’ Modern Love column. As a skeptic in everything (and what cognitive scientist wouldn’t be skeptical of such a statement?), it seemed shocking to discover that the secret to falling in love, according to the article, […]

December 04

Hearing voices: Social context influences psychosis

“People are always selling the idea that people with mental illness are suffering. I think madness can be an escape. If things are not so good, you maybe want to imagine something better.” These are the words of John Nash, Jr., the Nobel Laureate who inspired the book and the movie A Beautiful Mind and […]

October 02

Lithium: Wonder Drug? Part I

I’m so happy ’cause today I’ve found my friends They’re in my head What comes to mind when you hear the word lithium? A drug used to manage life-threatening mood disorders? A potentially deadly toxin? A chemical found in trace amounts in many compounds in nature? (Or maybe just the Nirvana song?) Any of these […]

August 28

Creativity and mood: the ups and downs of bipolar disorder

They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night. –Edgar Allen Poe [1] If the emotions are sometimes so strong that one works without knowing one works, when sometimes the strokes come with a continuity and a coherence like words in a speech or a letter, […]

June 12

Pattern separation gone awry: the dentate gyrus and schizophrenia

[Image Source: Sebastian Seung via http://connectomethebook.com/.] Since the discovery of patient H.M. in the 1950s (see this post from October 2013), scientists have known that the hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped structure located in the medial temporal lobe, is crucial for the successful formation of new memories. The mammalian hippocampus is characterized by several distinct regions, each with […]