Your Personality May Determine How You Respond to Placebo Pills

The placebo effect is a puzzling phenomenon. Placebos (sugar pills or saline solutions secretly substituted for actual drugs) are commonly used in clinical trials to set a baseline against which to measure the effects of a drug. However, people in the placebo group will often show improvements alongside the treatment group. The fact that an inactive substance, such as a sugar pill, can lead to … Continue reading Your Personality May Determine How You Respond to Placebo Pills

Amygdala On My Mind

The amygdala is an area of the brain named for its almond shape (amygdala is Latin for almond). The amygdala is necessary for any biologically significant event, or anything related to survival, because of its involvement in decision-making, memory, and emotional responses, including both positive and negative. The amygdala is most commonly known for its role in aversive learning, in which a behavior is taught … Continue reading Amygdala On My Mind

The Mysterious Fear Learner: The locus coeruleus

by Mona Han figures by Mona Han and Daniel Utter In the 19th century, Pavlov, a Russian scientist, electrically shocked dogs’ feet while ringing a bell. He found that his dogs quickly learned to dread the sound of his bell. We now think that learning to fear an innocuous stimulus, like the bell, is what underlies Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD patients dread things associated … Continue reading The Mysterious Fear Learner: The locus coeruleus

Heat waves hurt your brain: the argument for window AC units

As our planet warms, the effects of heat on the human body will become important information. The human body is capable of dealing with heat, but reprieves are needed to allow our systems to rest, else our bodies become over-stressed. This reprieve often comes in the form of night, when temperatures typically  cool. During heat waves, nights remain toasty, and reprieves only exist for those … Continue reading Heat waves hurt your brain: the argument for window AC units

FDA Approves New Drug for Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disease that affects over 2 million people worldwide. In patients who suffer from MS, an abnormal immune response causes damage to a fatty substance called myelin. Like the coating around an electrical wire, myelin insulates nerve cells and facilitates neural communication. Symptoms of MS include muscle weakness, fatigue, and impaired speech. On March 28th 2017, the FDA approved Ocrevus, an … Continue reading FDA Approves New Drug for Multiple Sclerosis

One Neuron to Rule Them All?

  The brain is arguably the most complex organ in the human body and understanding its structure could help explain a fundamental mystery of human existence: consciousness. The brain is composed of billions of specialized cells called neurons, which communicate with each other via electrical and chemical signals. Neurons are responsible for processes ranging from vital life functions to the ability to walk, talk remember, … Continue reading One Neuron to Rule Them All?

Love, Actually: The science behind lust, attraction, and companionship

by Katherine Wu figures by Tito Adhikary In 1993, Haddaway asked the world, “What is Love?” I’m not sure if he ever got his answer – but today, you can have yours. Sort of. Scientists in fields ranging from anthropology to neuroscience have been asking this same question (albeit less eloquently) for decades. It turns out the science behind love is both simpler and more … Continue reading Love, Actually: The science behind lust, attraction, and companionship

New method successfully recovers lost short-term memories

For decades now, scientists have believed that working memory, a form of short term memory, can be accessed only through the sustained firing of neurons. Working memory is used constantly in our day to day lives — from remembering the name of someone you just met while carrying on a conversation, to mixing the right ingredients in a recipe – it allows us to access … Continue reading New method successfully recovers lost short-term memories