The Neuroscience of Bob Dylan's Genius

At first glance, the moment of insight can seem like an impenetrable enigma. We are stuck and then we’re not, and we have no idea what happened in between. It’s as if the cortex is sharing one of its secrets. The question, of course, is how these insights happen.

The Forgetting Pill Erases Painful Memories Forever

This new model of memory isn’t just a theory—neuroscientists actually have a molecular explanation of how and why memories change. In fact, their definition of memory has broadened to encompass not only the cliché cinematic scenes from childhood but also the persisting mental loops of illnesses like PTSD and addiction—and even pain disorders like neuropathy. Unlike most brain research, the field of memory has actually developed simpler explanations. Whenever the brain wants to retain something, it relies on just a handful of chemicals. Even more startling, an equally small family of compounds could turn out to be a universal eraser of history, a pill that we could take whenever we wanted to forget anything. And researchers have found one of these compounds.

The Fragile Teenage Brain

If the sport of football ever dies, it will die from the outside in. It won’t be undone by a labor lockout or a broken business model — football owners know how to make money. Instead, the death will start with those furthest from the paychecks, the unpaid high school athletes playing on Friday nights. It will begin with nervous parents reading about brain trauma, with doctors warning about the physics of soft tissue smashing into hard bone, with coaches forced to bench stars for an entire season because of a single concussion.

Cracking the Scratch Lottery Code

Mohan Srivastava had been hooked by a different sort of lure—that spooky voice, whispering to him about a flaw in the game. At first, he tried to brush it aside. “Like everyone else, I assumed that the lottery was unbreakable,” he says. “There’s no way there could be a flaw, and there’s no way I just happened to discover the flaw on my walk home.” And yet, his inner voice refused to pipe down. “I remember telling myself that the Ontario Lottery is a multibillion-dollar-a- year business,” he says. “They must know what they’re doing, right?”

(Via Long Reads)

The Truth Wears Off

If replication is what separates the rigor of science from the squishiness of pseudoscience, where do we put all these rigorously validated findings that can no longer be proved? Which results should we believe? Francis Bacon, the early-modern philosopher and pioneer of the scientific method, once declared that experiments were essential, because they allowed us to “put nature to the question.” But it appears that nature often gives us different answers.

Why Making Dinner Is a Good Idea

It turns out that the Ikea effect also applies to food, at least in mice. The experiment was simple: Mice were trained to push levers to get one of two rewards. If they pressed lever A, they got a delicious drop of sugar water. If they pressed lever B, they got a different tasting drop of sugar water. (This reward was made with polycose, not sucrose.)

Depression’s Upside

The mystery of depression is not that it exists — the mind, like the flesh, is prone to malfunction. Instead, the paradox of depression has long been its prevalence. While most mental illnesses are extremely rare — schizophrenia, for example, is seen in less than 1 percent of the population — depression is everywhere, as inescapable as the common cold.

(via longform.org)

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