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18 posts from December 2011

21 December 2011

A case for aging like a normal person (xojane.com - 15 December 2011)

XojaneWhy I'm avoiding Botox--and the notion that I have an expiration date.

Excerpt:

The first hint that people thought I had an "expiration date" (a visible, indelible mark on my person, saying how much time I had left to be a potential romantic partner or plain old-fashioned piece of ass) came a few days after my divorce was finalized.  
 
I was chatting with a friend when he congratulated me on my newly single status and, predictably, asked about my love life.  Well, what he actually said was that I better be collecting as many headboard notches as humanly possible.
 
I laughed, of course. But instead of playing along, I just went with the truth.  
 
“To be honest, I haven’t thought much about it,” I replied.  “There’s so much going on here right now that dating is pretty low on my list of priorities.”
(To read the rest of the essay, click here).

Finding the key to open the blood brain barrier (The Dana Foundation Website - 5 December 2011)

Dana_logoNeuroscientists are finding novel ways to open the blood brain barrier--to potentially deliver much-needed drugs to individuals with Alzheimer's or other neurodegenerative disorders.

Excerpt:

Potential drugs for neurodegenerative disorders such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and Alzheimer’s disease have been stymied by their inability to cross the blood brain barrier (BBB), a system of unique blood vessels that acts as a natural barricade between the brain and the rest of the body. This barrier, designed to block potentially harmful substances from reaching neural tissue, also holds back the very agents designed to target disease. But two new techniques, one using endogenous adenosine receptors and another using ultrasound, may offer doctors the ability to not only open the BBB but also control the length of time it remains open...

(To read the rest of the article, click here).

I had an orgasm in an MRI scanner (The Guardian's Notes and Theories Blog - 16 November 2011)

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Barry Komisaruk's orgasm research was a hot topic at this year's Society for Neuroscience conference.  The Guardian asked me to blog about how one has an orgasm in an fMRI.

Excerpt:

The first question, invariably, is, "Excuse me? You had a what where?" It's not a surprise, really. People may not be shocked if you tell them you managed a wank on, say, the train or even in a public restroom. But when you announce that you took part in an orgasm study and managed to reach climax in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner as it recorded the blood flow in your brain? Well, that's not something one hears every day...

(To read the rest of the post, click here).

NOTE:  This piece was included in a round-up of the Guardian's best science stories of 2011.

 

It happened to me: I donated an orgasm to science (xojane.com - 28 November 2011)

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XojaneWhat happens when you donate an orgasm to science and it goes viral on the web?  Well, let me tell you.

Excerpt:

After donating one of my orgasms to neuroscience, I watched a scan of my brain at the moment of ecstasy go viral on the Internet. And as a result, I find myself being simultaneously accused of being a sinner, an exhibitionist, a pervert and a tease.

It all started as a purely research endeavor.  As part of my background research into the neurobiology of sex for my book, "Dirty Minds: How Our Brains Influence Love, Sex and Relationships,"  I interviewed Barry Komisaruk, a lovely and brilliant professor at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. While many researchers avoid sex and love experiments like the plague due to lack of funding and scientific prestige, Komisaruk and his lab have been studying what happens in the brain during orgasm for decades. He's a true pioneer...

(To read the rest of the article, click here).

Updating Facebook status, to divorced (The New York Times At War Blog - 22 November 2011)

Atwar_postFor the New York Times' At War blog, I wrote a piece about military divorce.

Excerpt:

Soon after I married my Army officer husband, an acquaintance gave me a photocopied page of an old-school military spouse handbook as a lark. As part and parcel of being a “good” military spouse, it entreated new spouses to have at least two pairs of white gloves on hand at all times as well as a well-stocked stationery box. The first was deemed necessary to make the best possible impression on all the higher-ups a wife might meet as her husband made his ascent through the ranks.The second, of course, was recommended to help the new spouse stay connected with friends and family as she started her wonderful new adventure as a soldier’s rock and helpmeet...

(To read the rest of the post, click here).

 

 


What neuroscience can teach us about love (Happen - November 2011)

Hdr_logoTheo Pauline Nestor interviewed me for this Q&A about love and the brain. 

Excerpt:

When writer Kayt Sukel was perched to reenter the dating world, she was suddenly confronted with the fact that she could not answer what she thought of as the "relatively easy question" — namely, "what is love?"

"It was probably naïve of me to think of it as something 'easy,'" Sukel says, "but I had gotten some notion — probably from novels and sappy movies — that I should have a better handle on that dratted L-word by the time I got married and started a family. And then when my marriage fell apart, I felt like it was time to frame love-related questions in a different way — to see if maybe neuroscience might offer me some better insight than what I could find on the self-help shelves." With that in mind, Sukel set out on a quest to learn what answers neuroscientists could yield up in regards to the hard questions about love, lust, and monogamy. The results of her search can be found in her newly released book, Dirty Minds: How Our Brains Influence Love, Sex, and Relationships (Free Press, 2012), a thorough and lively investigation into the latest research on love and the brain...

   
 
 

(To read the rest of the article, click here).

The Best American Travel Writing 2011 - Notable List

Safe_image.phpMy article, Chet of Arabia, was mentioned on page 255 of The Best American Travel Writing 2011 (Sloane Crosley) as one of 2010's most notable travel pieces.

 

For first time, researchers describe molecular mechanism for a 'gateway drug'—nicotine (The Dana Foundation Website - 22 November 2011)

Dana_logoNicotine has long been thought to be a "gateway drug."  For the first time, the biological underpinnings of that gateway mechanism have been explained.

Excerpt:

A few years ago, I attended an open Alcoholics Anonymous meeting to support a friend in recovery. During a brief break, it was impossible not to notice how many attendees rushed outside for a cigarette. Epidemiological studies have long linked smoking to other forms of addiction—but, to date, they have been unable to establish any direct biological connections. A study published in the Nov. 2 issue of Science Translational Medicine, however, has now demonstrated how nicotine may accelerate both the cellular and epigenetic processes underlying addiction, providing the first biological explanation of a “gateway” drug...

(To read the rest of the article, click here).

Reactive temperament in infancy linked to amygdala activity later in life (The Dana Foundation Website - 18 November 2011)

Dana_logoJerome Kagan's lab at Harvard University is finding that early temperament is linked to later activation differences in the amygdala.

Excerpt:

My great-grandmother once told me that babies keep only one trait throughout the course of their lifetime—their temperament. It would seem her folk wisdom was not far off the mark. A study  published in the Sept. 6 issue of Molecular Psychiatry, demonstrates that a male infant’s reaction to unexpected stimuli, a biological measure of temperament, can predict amygdala activity later in adulthood...

(To read the rest of the article, click here).

Brain Receptors - A Primer (The Dana Foundation Website - 4 November 2011)

Dana_logoNeural receptors play an important role in several neuropsychiatric disorders.  Here is a basic primer on how they work.

Excerpt:

Synaptic transmission begins when one brain cell releases a neurochemical into the synapse. The transmission, however, is not complete until that neurochemical binds with a receptor on the postsynaptic, or receiving, neuron. Researchers have learned that receptors are equally as important as the neurochemicals they receive in maintaining healthy neurobiology. In fact, studies have demonstrated that receptors play a critical role in mood, learning, and the formation of social bonds. Many receptors are current targets for drug development for treatment of psychiatric disorders...

(To read the rest of the primer, click here).

At-risk alcoholism phenotype shows measureable brain changes (The Dana Foundation Website - 28 October 2011)

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A new study may offer help in identifying those who are most at-risk for alcoholism.

Excerpt:

The National Institutes of Health estimate that nearly 18 million adults in the United States have an alcohol abuse disorder. Alcoholism is a disease that has great costs—to individuals, their families, and the public at large. While doctors are not currently able to predict who will become addicted to alcohol, research suggests that one’s level of sensitivity to it plays an important role. And a new study by scientists at the University of California, San Diego shows that this sensitivity changes how the brain processes information during a cognitive task—and may provide new information for prevention and education efforts...

(To read the rest of the article, click here).

Childhood trauma leaves lasting marks on the brain (The Dana Foundation Website - 24 October 2011)

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New evidence suggests that physical and emotional trauma can make lasting changes to the brain. 

Excerpt:

"Common wisdom" has long linked childhood traumas such as physical and sexual abuse to psychopathology later in life. Now, an ongoing longitudinal study called the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study is providing strong evidence to back up that notion. Based on its results, researchers have added childhood abuse as a factor of interest in other studies, such as the Army’s ambitious suicide research program, the Study To Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (STARRS) project. ACE research results have also provided a foundation for researchers to examine how childhood abuse can cause physical changes to the brain and its development, putting the abused at greater risk for depression, addiction, and suicide in adulthood...

(To read the rest of the article, click here).

 

Your brain and online dating (Happen Magazine - October 2011)

Hdr_logoWhat did I learn as I researched DIRTY MINDS that may help in the dating world?  I spilled some of the details to Happen, Match.com's magazine.

Excerpt:

Kayt Sukel is the author of Dirty Minds: How Our Brains Influence Love, Sex, and Relationships (Free Press, 2012). Here are a few things she learned about the neurobiology of attraction as she researched and wrote her book — and how they might apply to your online dating life.

Read through a dozen online dating profiles and I guarantee that you'll come across words like "chemistry," "spark," and "connection." There's good reason for this: as I researched the neurobiology of attraction for Dirty Minds, I quickly learned that chemistry is far more than just a dating profile cliché. Chemistry is real — and it's important. It just may not be exactly what you think it is...

(To read the rest of the article, click here).

 

Viral treatment may offer hope to brain tumor treatments (The Dana Foundation Website - 18 October 2011)

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Scientists and clinicians at the Methodist Neurological Institute in Houston, Texas are re-engineering the herpes virus in order to treat a deadly form of brain tumor.

Excerpt:

People diagnosed with a particularly insidious form of brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme, typically undergo invasive surgery to remove the malignant tumor, followed by intense courses of radiation and chemotherapy. Some find the treatment regimen is as debilitating as the cancer itself. Today, however, researchers at the Methodist Neurological Institute in Houston, Texas, and Massachusetts General Hospital are testing alternative treatments involving the herpes virus, immunosuppression and nanotechnology in hopes of providing both better outcomes—and quality of life—for people with this deadly form of brain cancer...

(To read the rest of the article, click here).

Genes, patients and psychiatric disorders (The Dana Foundation Website - 29 September 2011)

Dana_logoA Q&A with Huda Y. Zoghbi, winner of the 2011 Gruber Prize for Neuroscience. 

Excerpt:

Dr. Huda Y. Zoghbi, a professor in the departments of pediatrics, molecular and human genetics, and neurology at the Baylor College of Medicine, took home the 2011 Gruber Prize for Neuroscience for her pioneering work examining the genetic underpinnings of neuropsychiatric disorders. She speaks with the Dana Foundation about balancing clinical work with basic science, what we can learn from the study of rare disorders and her vision of the future study of genetics and neuropsychiatric disease...

(To read the rest of the article, click here).

New Army risk and resilience project searches for signs of potential suicide (The Dana Foundation Website - 8 September 2011)

Dana_logoAn ambitious new research project led by the U.S. Army and the National Institute of Mental Health hopes to find predictors of suicide for members of the military--and beyond.

Excerpt:

In the late 1940s, the National Heart Institute (now called the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) launched the Framingham Heart Study, a longitudinal research project to investigate the biological precursors of cardiovascular disease. This study, still going strong, has informed much of what we know about the underlying risks of heart disease and stroke, as well as what we can do to best prevent and treat it. Now the U.S. Army, partnered with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), is embarking on the Army Study To Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (STARRS), an ambitious series of research studies they hope will one day be considered the Framingham Heart Study of suicide and mental health. Its goal: To find reliable biomarkers for compromised mental health...

(To read the rest of the article, click here).

Is the neuroscientific study of pain lagging? (The Dana Foundation Website - 30 August 2011)

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A remark at the One Mind for Research summit inspires the question, "Is the neuroscientific study of pain lagging?"

Excerpt:

Earlier this year, scientists, politicians and other healthcare advocates came together to share their hopes for the next decade of neuroscience research at the One Mind for Research (OMR) Summit in Boston. At a session highlighting the neurobiological consequences of war, Clifford J. Woolf, a pain researcher at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston, stated, “We have made enormous progress in promoting survival…but, in fact, an area that has really lagged behind relates to the pain associated with combat injury.”

(To read the rest of the article, click here).

Galapagos with Gap Adventures - Travel Savvy Mom (August 2011)

LogowithtitleAs part of a 9-part series for Travel Savvy Mom, I chronicled a 10-day Galapagos Islands adventure with Gap Adventures. 

Excerpt:

They say any journey begins with a single step.  Ours starts with a non-stop plane journey–and a queasy feeling that I’m forgetting something really important.

Ever since Gap Adventures invited Chet and I to give their Galapagos Family Adventure a go, I’ve been wondering what exactly we need.  Though we’ve traveled extensively, I’m not sure what Gap’s “adventure” travel means.  Nor do I know how to define what a “comfort” level may be.  And while I follow Gap’s packing list to the letter, I have a nagging suspicion I’m forgetting something important.  I spend the day packing and second guessing and then re-packing again.  Once I manage to meet the list and pack a single duffel bag for both of us under 37 lbs., I call myself done and hope for the best...

(To read the rest of the series, click here).