Author Archives: Xi Jiang

March 16

Mind the Gap: Spaced Learning and Dendritic Spines

A lifetime ago, in another country, I had a middle school English teacher nicknamed “Mrs. Again”. She was plump and wrinkled, with the kind of wide-cheeked, broad-nosed face one could find on folksy condiment bottle labels, but nobody ever made fun of her. She was terror incarnate, being the only teacher who gave daily dictation […]

September 15

I’m not crying; it’s just been raining on my face

Humans and turtles have many things in common: we both possess four limbs, two eyes, a shell around our most vulnerable secrets, and tears that are attractive to butterflies and bees [1,2]. Our salt-rich tears, it seems, are much more palatable (and nutritious) to insects than they are to ourselves. Julia butterflies drinking turtle tears […]

May 12

Sweet, Sweet Fructose

When a cat licks you (lucky you), have you ever considered licking back? (Some have.) If you have, and did, you would have noticed that cats do not taste sweet. Nevertheless, phrases such as “sweet kittens” and “sweet deals”, alongside terms like “sweetheart”, pervade the modern English language; “sweet”, like “nice”, “awesome”, and “cool”, has […]

February 11

Through the Nostril Gates to the Past

[En Español] My very first childhood memory, as much as I can tell, is one of sour feet. It happened during one of the mandatory nap sessions in kindergarten, where everyone slept on little mats barely above the floor. Being inexplicably awake on my side, unaware of the caretaker’s silent patrol behind me, I made […]

July 30

To Sleep, Perchance to Swim

Humans sleep, for hours or minutes, alone or in company, with or without dreams. As universal and important as sleep is for us, not all our animal kin share our daily indulgence in inactivity, despite the likely immunological and cognitive benefits/roles of human sleep (discussed in a previous NeuWriteSD post). Many species do, however, experience […]

April 02

Of Batteries and Brains: Self-Help with tDCS

A Gratuitous Freudian Introduction When the renowned (if controversial) psychoanalyst and crayfish neurobiologist Sigmund Freud exclaimed that “Man has, as it were, become a kind of prosthetic God” [1], he was concerned that fast technological progress, while enabling us to modify and control the world around us to a magnificent degree, also made us ill-adjusted […]

October 28

The Threatening Mask

Oh!—fruit loved of boyhood!—the old days recalling, When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling! When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin, Glaring out through the dark with a candle within! —John Greenleaf Whittier, The Pumpkin (1850) The stanza above captures both the joyful abundance of the fall and the terrible artistic […]