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Chet of Arabia (The Atlantic Monthly - March 2010)

COVER_bigger_atlWhy do I travel to exotic destinations with my son?  In "Chet of Arabia," I discuss traveling to Jordan with my three-year-old son during my husband's deployment to nearby Iraq.


We ENTER THE archeological park early in the morning, soon after it opens. As a solo mother with a preschooler, I choose to take the horse-drawn carriage through the Siq—the astonishing mountain-cut pathway to Petra...

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

21 December 2011

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

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


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.


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)


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.


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 ( - 28 November 2011)


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


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.


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. 


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.


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.


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.


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).