August 20, 2020


We now know that many illnesses can cause long-term cognitive problems. People living with HIV, for example, can experience HIV-related cognitive decline. Cancer and chemotherapy treatments can lead to “chemobrain,” cognitive deficits that can last for years after the cancer is in remission. And, people who have surgery sometimes experience post-surgical cognitive issues.

Now, scientists are starting to think about what the long-term neurological effects of Covid-19 might be. Some patients report persistent neurological and cognitive issues after their initial viral symptoms dissipate —from memory problems to dizziness to nerve pain to “brain fog.” (Read more about that here.) Scientists also are looking at whether Covid-19 affects cognitive decline and dementia over the course of life. We won’t know for many years, of course, but here are one neuroscientist’s thoughts.

We are currently working with researchers applying for grants to measure the effectiveness of brain exercises in addressing similar cognitive symptoms in COVID-19 patients. We plan to keep you in the loop as this science develops.

Best regards,

Jeff Zimman
Posit Science

Empathy Under Orders
We’ve long known that people will sometimes commit terrible deeds when they’re told to do so by a superior—deeds they might never do on their own. Now scientists know why. In an MRI imaging study, researchers discovered that the areas of the brain related to empathy and guilt were less active when people were obeying orders, compared to when they chose to act themselves. Learn more.

Getting Motivated
Why are some people better at getting (and staying) motivated to accomplish their goals than others? Scientists already knew a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens is involved in motivated behavior, but a new study gives more information. In the study, researchers discovered that the balance of two chemicals in the brain—glutamate and glutamine—is important. This finding may lead to nutritional recommendations and other therapies to help boost motivation. Learn more.

Just for Fun: Cool Brain Trick
Do you like optical illlusions? Watch this four-minute video by scientist Andrew Steele to see how to trick the brain to see color in a black and white photo. Dr. Steele explains just what’s happening in the brain—and why. Check it out!

Self-Reflection – On Screen
These days, a lot of people are spending more time on Zoom and other video conferencing sites than ever before. It can be unnerving to watch yourself on screen so much. But why? After all, we learned as infants to understand and appreciate mirrors. How did we do that, and what’s different about live streaming? Find out.

New Research on Alcohol Dependence
Microglia are cells that act as the immune system for the brain, becoming inflamed and attacking when they detect a threat—but research suggests they also might be involved in alcohol dependence. Studies on both rodent and human brains have shown that the number of microglia in parts of the brain, as well as neuroinflammation, can reflect alcoholism and change alcohol dependence. Learn more.

Book of the Month
This Is Your Brain on Food: An Indispensable Guide to the Surprising Foods that Fight Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, and More (2020)
By Uma Naidoo, MD

Uma Maidoo is not just a Harvard-trained psychiatrist. She is also a certified nutritionist and chef. That means she has more knowledge than most people about how nutrition affects the brain. To learn what she has discovered through her research and experiences, and find brain-healthy recipes, check out her new book. Read more and find on Amazon.