December 12

A Switch in the Brain for Compulsive Drinking

Most of us have drunk some form of alcohol in our lives. Many of us drink alcohol often. But we might know of only a few people who are pathologically addicted to alcohol. Are we, individually, differently prone to compulsive alcohol use? A recent paper, published in Science, attempts to answer this question using rodents. […]

December 05

When it gets dark, people get SAD (seasonal affective disorder)

Here in San Diego, we get a minimum of 9 hours and 59 minutes of sunlight, even in the dead of winter. Boston and Chicago get closer to 9 hours and Anchorage gets as low as 5.5 hours compared to Miami’s 10.5 hours. Does this dramatic difference in sunlight have any health effects? 1% of […]

November 29

Children on your mind… and in your brain

There is something uniquely strong about the bond between mother and child ­– you might say that a mother always has her children on her mind and in her heart. ­But did you know that a mother might quite literally have a bit of her children in her brain and heart? (And also her lungs, […]

November 22

The Brain on Gratitude

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, now is as good a time as any to stop and think about the concept of “gratitude.” The general consensus seems to be that gratitude is good for you, being consistently correlated with better physical, psychological, and social health. But for all its supposed benefits, there is still plenty […]

November 14

A Brain that Denies Climate Change

I recall walking with my uncle, on my way back home from school, on the streets of a mofussil cantonment town in Bengal, India. I remember enormous trees on the sides of the street that kissed each other above us. While we walked, he would tell me stories about these banyan trees. He would tell […]

November 07

Knowing when to hold and fold ’em: the explore/exploit dilemma

I’ve been staring at the menu for over 10 minutes. I can feel the server’s eyes boring holes into the back of my head, urging me to hurry up and pick something. Still I sit and ponder; should I get my old favorite, the California burrito? Or maybe I should try something new like a […]

October 31

I scream, you scream…

You’re walking down a dark, cobweb-swathed hallway with only the light from a few candles to guide your way. You note the torn and dirty oriental rug beneath your feet and the strange shadows that dart across the ceiling overhead. On the walls, you pass dusty, old-fashioned portraits of stiffly-posed families whose eyes seem to […]

October 24

Is Addiction a Disease?

  While it may not seem obvious, this question carries a great deal of emotional weight to sufferers of addiction, as well as their families and friends. The answer to one question – Is addiction a disease? – seems to hold the answer to yet another question: Are many of the hurtful things I’ve done […]

October 17

30,000 neuroscientists walk into a conference center

Each year, approximately 30,000 neuroscientists descend on one U.S. city for 5 days, flying in from all over the world to attend the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) conference. Some come to present posters, while some have been selected to give talks (which range in length from 10 minutes to an hour, and range in attendance […]

October 10

Why do neuroscientists study weird animals?: A primer on neuroethology

Why do neuroscientists study weird animals? And I don’t mean borderline weird; I mean the kind of extraordinary animals that can create electric fields and lift 100 times their body weight. The sort of animals that can camouflage despite being colorblind and can capture flying prey in fractions of a second. The kind of creatures […]