What’s your birth control doing to your brain?

Any woman starting on a birth control pill is warned about some of the physical and emotional effects of those additional hormones floating around in your bloodstream: weight gain. mood swings. acne. headaches. If you’ve followed along popular science reports, you may even have heard that being on the pill could change what kind of person…

Reading a horse’s mind and brain

I cannot say that I have ever given horse brains much thought. Monkey brains, rat brains, even sea slug brains have played a much greater role in our understanding of modern neuroscience. Horses do make at least one appearance in psychology, in the form of the cautionary tale of Clever Hans, who demonstrated that horses are at the very…

The animated default network

Some days I think I must live in the golden age of teaching, because I am spoiled for choice in most of my demonstrations. Pop over to YouTube, enter a few search terms, and find an incredible assortment of possible videos to show, many of which have surprisingly high production values. My most recent find…

A battle over the link between strep and OCD

Today I introduced a class of students to the notion that a strep infection could give a child obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The idea was first widely publicized in the memoir “Saving Sammy: Curing the Boy Who Caught OCD“, and briefly recapped in this clip from the Today Show: I am already on record as identifying this…

Meditation may not be for epileptics

In epilepsy, a seizure begins with just a few neurons that – for reasons that still elude medical professionals –  get overstimulated. That excess stimulation then gets passed through the synapses to other neurons, which become overstimulated in turn, and the spread of that intense chaotic activity produces the behavioral features of a seizure. These…

Smiles really might warm your heart (or brain)

Part 1 of 2 about the overlap between social and physical perception. Those heartwarming touches can give us a warm feeling inside, and help us warm up to someone we don’t know well. On the other hand, a cold-hearted person will leave us cold, and if you give people the cold shoulder too often your…

Rethinking the “little brain”

The surprise player in last week’s post about how meditation can increase your gray matter was the cerebellum. The cerebellum, from the Latin for “little brain”, is a structure that stands apart from the rest of the brain, an orb nestled at the top of the spinal cord. Like the other regions of the “hindbrain”, it…

Meditate to increase your gray matter

Most of my previous explorations of how meditation changes the brain have been based on what’s called functional MRI, which look at the activity in the brain in a given scenario: how meditators’ brain activity when they’re resting is different from non-meditators, or how deciding to be altruistic is correlated with more activity in regions like…