August 20, 2019

Here in the northern hemisphere, August is a time for vacation, when many people travel to new places. What’s going on in the brain when you travel? I sat down with my co-founder Dr. Michael Merzenich to ask him whether travel is good for the brain or not, and why. Learn all about it in the video below!

Best regards,

Jeff Zimman
Posit Science

Starring Role for Long-Term Memory
Scientists have long thought that neurons were the stars in the brain. But star-shaped cells called astrocytes—long thought to play a supporting role to neurons—turn out to be major players in long-term memory. New research shows that when these cells aren’t functioning properly, it can cause deficits in long-term memory, a finding that may have implications for disorders that impact memory. Learn more.

Dogs Tap Into Mother Love
Oxytocin is a brain chemical that is all about bonding. When a mother spends time with a baby, oxytocin flows in the brain, creating a strong emotional bond between the mother and child. Research suggests that this chemical release isn’t limited to children—gazing into your dog’s eyes might tap into the same system to create a special bond. Find out how—and why.

Shrink Your Brain (in a Good Way) with Meditation and Yoga
New research shows that practicing meditation and yoga can affect the size of certain brain structures. In particular, the right amygdala—which is associated with fear and negative emotions—tended to be smaller. Learn more.

Shrink Your Brain (in a Bad Way) with High Blood Pressure
A study conducted at University College London has found that high blood pressure in your 40s can have a long-lasting impact on the brain. In the study, those with higher blood pressure in their 40s had smaller brains, on average, by age 70. The hippocampus, a brain region critical for memory, was especially affected. Learn more.

Alzheimer’s and Sleep
A new study from UCSF shows that Alzheimer’s disease destroys cells in regions of the brain that help to keep up awake. That likely explains why people who go on to have Alzheimer’s often exhibit daytime sleepiness well before diagnosis. Learn more.

Book of the Month
The Case Against Reality: Why Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes (2019)
By Donald Hoffman
In The Case Against Reality, cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman argues that what we perceive is not an accurate portrayal of objective reality; it is, instead, just our personal interface with the real world. This interface is the product of natural selection, and it evolved mostly to help us move through the world safely and usefully enough to pass our genes on to the next generation. It’s a fascinating read that may change how you look at the world around you—a world you do not truly see. Learn more or buy on Amazon.